After its president resigned earlier this year to take a job consulting on a development in the area, the Fields Corner Civic Association has become inactive, leaving many questions about how to fill the vacuum when it comes to community action and decision-making.
The civic association held its last meeting in September at the Dorchester House on Dorchester Ave. At that meeting, the group heard updates on local non-profits and was briefed on the on-going road project that is renovating the intersections along Dorchester’s main thoroughfare. Listed on the agenda for that final meeting was the election of new officers for the coming year. No one was willing to become the association’s president, however, and the group has been idle ever since.
“You always need somebody to step up to the plate,” said Michael Pratt, the current president of the Meetinghouse Hill Civic Association, a neighbor of the Fields Corner group’s territory. Pratt said that Meetinghouse Hill is no different when it comes to recruitment for officers and that group needs to constantly get the word out in order to find community-minded participants to keep groups going.
“You need a core group of people, then you need to ask other people to step up and help out,” Pratt said.
Ira Schlosser, director of planning and community affairs at Dorchester House, said that it is always difficult when a civic association becomes less active due to a lack of participation.
“It’s certainly not a good thing,” said Schlosser, adding that groups like Dot House traditionally turn to city officials for guidance when a civic group is no longer there to provide services.
“In the past when these types of things have happened, they have called a community meeting,” to sort out details, Schlosser said.
Civic associations play a large role in Dorchester, as they are typically one of the first stops a developer or property owner goes to for zoning changes or building license applications. Without the civic association structure, the burden falls on City Hall to sort out if the community approves or disapproves of an applicant.
“In the case of Field’s Corner, which has a newly defunct civic association, my office would usually coordinate with the mayor’s Dorchester coordinator to facilitate an abutters meeting so that the zoning issue may be vetted in the community, and we get a feel for whether the community is either in support or opposition,” Dorchester district City Councilor Maureen Feeney told the Reporter in a written statement.
The job of Dorchester coordinator in the mayor’s office is currently being split amongst several people since Lauren Smyth, a St. Brendan’s native, left earlier this month to begin training as a cadet in the Boston Police academy.
The September meeting was Hiep Chu’s last as president, as he resigned shortly after to take a position as a paid consultant for the developer behind the effort to renovate the former Lucky Strike bowling alley at Park and Adams streets. Chu left his role with the association to prevent a conflict of interest with his new employer.
Since no new officers were elected to keep the civic association going, the group became inactive and will remain that way until new leadership is found.
Chu said that the Lucky Strike project is going forward after receiving community approval at a meeting held in November. According to Chu, city and state officials recommended that the developer convene a community meeting in order gain public approval, a task that would normally fall to the local civic group. “People do want to see the project go forward,” Chu said. The officials thought it would be fairer to have the developer hold a meeting on its own rather than to hold an official city-run forum, Chu said.
“Usually we will help in securing a venue, while the onus is on the developer to flyer the community to make them aware of the meeting. Despite the lack of a formal civic association, Fields Corner still has many active members, and with everyone working together, we can assure that zoning cases do not fall through the cracks,” Feeney said in the statement.
The Fields Corner Civic Association was founded over 20 years ago by Tom and Jim Gannon, brothers who remain active in the community. Tom Gannon served as president of the group for over 15 years before handing it off to Chu.
Chu said that he is not aware of any new development that has begun in the area since his resignation.
“I do hope that in the near future, the winter will go by and someone new will go forward” to run the organization, Chu said.