Conservation Law Foundation Discusses Challenge to Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan[Video]

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Peter Shelley of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) provided an update on the non-profit’s legal challenge to the Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan. After the State approved the Municipal Harbor Plan last year, CLF and abutting Harbor Towers, filed separate lawsuits to challenge the plan’s legality.

After reviewing the history and intended MHP scope, Shelley and CLF are highlighting three specific concerns. The first is on absolute heights and how close to the water these taller buildings are allowed. Historically, a 55 foot limit has been considered appropriate for waterfront properties, according to Shelley. The second is how much open space is required. State regulation Chapter 91 requires 50% open space for new developments. And the third is whether monetary payments should be allowed offset variations to the requirements.

In the Downtown Waterfront MHP, city officials, led by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) received nearly all the flexibility they were seeking from the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) for two new tower developments at the Harbor Garage and Hook Lobster sites.

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Despite intense opposition from neighboring residents, especially at Harbor Towers, State officials paved the way for a 600′ tower at the Harbor Garage site owned by the Chiofaro Company and Prudential. The approval is more than three times of the height currently allowed by the Ch. 91 waterfront standard. The plan also consummates the private deal struck with the New England Aquarium in exchange for $10 million for the proposed Blueway at Central Wharf.

The next legal hearing is May 2nd as the court will address the State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits. Questions start at 29:30 in the above video.

Many of the principles discussed are further covered in the Conservation Law Foundation’s online version of its “People’s Guide to the Waterfront Protection Act (Chapter 91)“.

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