The Community Benefits Committee Ordinance outlines a process for distributing developer contributions earmarked for community benefits that are generated from large-scale real estate projects. The proposed ordinance ensures that there is a transparent and inclusive framework for:
- Considering how large-scale developments impact a community;
- Identifying and ranking community’s needs, and
- Distributing community benefit contributions in a manner that addresses those needs.
The ordinance creates a Community Benefits Committee, which will manage the needs assessment process with a City-wide scope and develop an approach for distributing funds to worthy projects and initiatives that address pressing needs. The Community Benefits Committee would distribute funds using an open and transparent process similar to what the Community Preservation Committee uses to distribute CPA funds. In a manner similar to the CPA process, the Somerville Board of Aldermen would ultimately approve all funding decisions.
The Ordinance also establishes a process for recognizing self-organizing, democratic and representative Neighborhood Councils, which would become the voice of a neighborhood. Neighborhood Councils would collaborate with the Committee and advise them on local needs and funding priorities. It’s envisioned that neighborhood councils formed throughout the city would feed the Committee unique and valuable local input.
Recently, the City signed a development covenant with US2, the Union Square master developer, to ensure that mitigation funds are available to support community needs that may arise due to the impact of development.The Community Benefits Committee Ordinance was drafted to ensure that there is neighborhood input in how those funds are spent. It is envisioned that this approach would be in place to distribute future contributions made by other large-scale development projects in Union Square or other areas of Somerville.