Government Real Estate

State Regulator Weighs In On Lewis Wharf Hotel Proposal

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs issued a 24-page certificate regarding the Environmental Notification Form (ENF) filed by JW Capital Partners LLC, the developer proposing the hotel project at Lewis Wharf. The EEA has outlined a scope of information that is now required to be submitted by the proponent in a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). [View previous posts on the proposed Lewis Wharf hotel project.]

MEPA Secretary Matthew Beacon said he received over 100 comment letters, mostly from nearby residents expressing concerns with the project. He further highlighted the broad opposition by elected officials representing the North End, including Senator Petruccelli, Representative Michlewitz and City Councillors LaMattina, Murphy, Pressley and Wu.

Clarifying MEPA’s role, the Secretary writes:

Commenters question its ability to be permitted as well as its advisability. Many commenters have urged me to deny the project. … MEPA will provide a valuable forum for review of the project and public input; however, MEPA does not approve or deny a project (emphasis added). It is an environmental review process through which the Proponent will identify potential environmental impacts, consider alternatives to avoid impacts, and propose mitigation measures.

The EEA noted that the hotel project is a nonwater-dependent use project under Chapter 91 and “will be required to conform to a set of standards to conserve the capacity of the site to promote water-dependent uses. Nonwater-dependent uses are typically prohibited from new pile-supported structures, but this project may be permittable because it will replace an existing authorized pile field.”

According to the EEA, “potential environmental impacts associated with the project include land alteration, creation of impervious surfaces, nonwater-dependent use of filled and flowed tidelands, relocation of a water-dependent use (the Boston Sailing Club), traffic generation, water use, wastewater generation and greenhouse gas emissions.” The EEA also details the necessary jurisdiction and permitting associated with those requirements.

The regulator further requires the DEIR to include an alternatives analysis under the 1991 Harborpark Municipal Harbor Park plan and Chapter 91. Interestingly, the EEA asks for the developer to consider reconfiguring the project to have the buildings over the parking lot and the public park on the water side.

It should consider an alternative that shifts the buildings to the landward area of the site while providing open and green spaces along the waterfront to buffer the impacts of storms as well as enhance public access along the waterfront.

The ENF certificate is shown below in its entirety and can also be downloaded here (pdf).