The North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) has submitted a letter to the State House, supporting the proposed legislation by Rep. Aaron Michlewitz to prevent potential action from the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) that could revert existing ground floor residences back to their original commercial use status under a Chapter 91 license process.
Supported by the Commercial Wharf condo association (CWECA), the bill would essentially grandfather “the granite building on Commercial Wharf into a mixed-use condominium facility that permits the first and second floors of the condominium building to be used interchangeably as facilities of private tenancy for residential or office/commercial use and the remainder of the building to be used as residences, together with all ancillary uses including private parking as established under the Urban Renewal Plan … and the public purpose is hereby recognized, as proper under Chapter 91 of the Massachusetts General Laws.”
Discussion at the NEWRA meeting was unanimously supportive of the rights for existing residents at Commercial Wharf to have their units secured for residential use. Attendee Ford Cavallari raised a potential conflict at NEWRA because its current president, Cheryl Delgreco, is also a CW resident and board member. NEWRA executives clarified that Ms. Delgreco would not be signing the letter and said this was a “special case” for a specific property. Past president, Mary McGee, said “we are a residents organization and it is our mission to advocate on behalf of our fellow neighborhood residents.”
The proposed legislation remains in committee and its prospects unclear, according to its sponsor, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz. At a recent hearing, several residents of Commercial Wharf testified in favor of the legislation expressing their concerns about forcing out deeded residents from the property. CWECA blames the abutting Boston Yacht Haven for initially seeking the DEP ruling as a way to “gain leverage over Commercial Wharf.” Boston Harbor Now and the Conservation Law Foundation, both private non-profits that advocate for the harbor’s public use, testified against the bill at the hearing. The groups expressed concerns that the Chapter 91 exemption would set a bad precedent and weaken DEP’s authority to enforce public access on the waterfront.
While the legislation and related lawsuits are pending, Tavistock has introduced its own proposal to redevelop Joe’s, the burned commercial buildings and south Harborwalk at Commercial Wharf. The condo association intends to release its own plan for a Harborwalk in the coming weeks, which we plan to share here on NorthEndWaterfront.com. (Update: The CWECA Harborwalk proposal has been filed. See this post.)