Conservation Law Foundation Intervenes in Long Wharf Legal Case and Supports “North End Ten’s” Open Space Efforts

The Conservation Law Foundation has intervened in the Long Wharf legal battle to keep the open space as a park instead of a private restaurant under State law. On behalf of four environmental groups, CLF filed an amicus brief in support of the “North End Ten” versus the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Department of Environmental Protection. Adding to the previously filed support by the Sierra Club, the CLF filing is an important development adding the voice of the environmental protection community to the case and its potential precedent setting implications.

The four organizations (Conservation Law Foundation, Nature Conservancy, Mass. Association of Conservation Commissions and Trustees of Reservations) endorsing this brief are some of the most prominent voices of the conservation community in Massachusetts and represent a broad cross-section of conservation, land preservation, and environmental protection public interest organizations. These organizations have a combined membership of approximately 136,000 and have been working in Massachusetts for decades.

The case revolves around efforts by the BRA and DEP to license “Doc’s Long Wharf,” a private restaurant and bar at the end of Long Wharf.

The North End Ten want to keep the open space as the park that it is today. They argue that the land is protected under state law, Article 97, requiring a two-thirds “roll-call” vote of the Legislature to effect a disposition or change in the use of the land.

A brief excerpt of the CLF amicus brief is highlighted below.

The decision in this matter could have profound and damaging effects on protected open spaces and parks throughout the Commonwealth. Like the Long Wharf Park at issue here, many of the Commonwealth’s public spaces were created through urban renewal processes, including two other important public open spaces in the vicinity of Long Wharf Park: Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park and City Hall Plaza, properties that would no longer have Article 97 protection if the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) logic prevails. Numerous other park, forest, and open space properties that were acquired on behalf of the people of Massachusetts prior to ratification of Article 97 of the Amendments of the Massachusetts Constitution, would become subject to conversion or disposition without any of Article 97’s procedural protections under the BRA’s proposed approach. It is thus essential for the Court to uphold the Superior Court’s decision on the applicability of Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution to Long Wharf Park.

The nature of the urban parkland and open space that the BRA created here, that the City has maintained here, and that the public has utilized and enjoyed consistently with those public purposes for decades cannot seriously be questioned. The BRA changed its use and effectively disposed of it, both when it executed a lease for this public space with the proposed restaurant operator for an indefinite term and when it applied for the improperly granted Chapter 91 license, all without the public legislative process required by Article 97. The Superior Court’s judgment should be affirmed.

Read the full CLF amicus brief (pdf).

Oral arguments are scheduled in front of the Supreme Judicial Court on November 5, 2012. See the SJC Case Docket.

View more coverage on the Long Wharf case.