West Roxbury's Stephen Smith chatted with Patch about the Neighborhood Council, the Red Sox and one of his favorite events - the annual Rosie's Place fundraiser (happening tomorrow in West Roxbury).
Patch: You've been on the West Roxbury Neighborhood Council since 1991 - how has the Council changed since that time?
Smith: I don’t know if the Council has changed much since 1991 as our role in terms of hearing issues that come up in West Roxbury still remains the same as it did when I came on to the Council in 1991
Patch: Do you think it's become more active, less active or stayed the same?
Smith: I think the level of activity fluctuates as we deal with zoning variances. Things have slowed down in that area which is just reflective of the housing economy. As a result the zoning variances we’ve seen the past couple of years have had to do with people making changes to their houses instead of new development.
Patch: What do you think have been the biggest issues the Council has dealt with while you've been on the Council?
Smith: I came on to the Council right at the time of Home Depot wanting to come to West Roxbury. There was strong opinions on both sides for and against it. The Council voted to support the Home Depot proposal 10-8. The other big issue was the 99 Restaurant proposal. This was also a highly charged issue. The Council supported it but the final say had to come from the Boston Licensing Board which denied it 2-1. The lot at the corner of Gardner Street and VFW Parkway still remains empty all these years later which disappoints me because I thought it was a good proposal.
Patch: Were there issues that you didn't think would interest the public but did, or vice versa? If so, what?
Smith: Zoning issues can always surprise you both ways. The zoning committee gets a copy of the variances people are requesting in advance of the meeting and sometimes you’ll see a lightly attended meeting and other times you’ll see a heavily attended meeting. It has less to do with the zoning and more to with concerns about parking in a neighborhood or other issues related to that residence. I remember Roxbury Latin was looking at a single windmill on their property which they said was for their science classes and was surprised to see how many came out to oppose it.
Patch: Did you know this month marks the one-year anniversary of the Unofficial Mayor contest - reflect on that time last year, and how has your life changed since the contest?
Smith: A year already, time flies by. The Unofficial Mayor West Roxbury was a great event in West Roxbury which allowed us to single out some remarkable people in this community and it was truly an honor just to be included in the group. I felt like an actor being nominated against Daniel Day Lewis. You know you are not going to beat Richard Gormley so just enjoy the reflected glory. I’d like to borrow the Lord Mayor’s top hat from time to time if he’ll let me. If the Lord Mayor ever feels TD is slacking off as Deputy Mayor I’m ready and will to take over.
Patch: What's your favorite West Roxbury event?
Smith: Favorite West Roxbury Event, there is quite a few…I’ll give a shameless plug to the West Roxbury Friends of Rosie’s Place Annual Dinner coming up on the 23rd (tomorrow night).
I particularly enjoy as he has done a number of times, how Mayor Menino looks out at the room just before he pulls the winning raffle tickets saying, "Smith, Don’t worry. You are not going to win.' And then I do. Of course, the Corrib Road Race, and one of these days if I can get out of volunteering at a water station I might actually do it but it is fun seeing people I know taking part in it. The Memorial Day Observance at Gardens of Gethsemane is always incredible. John Tobin, now Matt O’Malley’s Fall Fiesta…name the season and there is a West Roxbury event like the Shamrock Shootout.
Patch: You're a big Red Sox fan, predictions for this year?
Smith: As long as the Red Sox finish ahead of the Yankees so I can torment a certain editor of the Patch I’ll be happy.