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Yes to diverse waterfronts and commuter convenience, no to sprawl: CLF in Massachusetts is ... (From The States).

Battling Sprawl

Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod are growing fast, and CLF is trying to ensure that the growth is prudent. That's why we're opposing construction of CanalSide Commons, a large retail/residential/hotel complex in Bourne that would generate twice as much traffic as the already stressed Bourne Rotary can accommodate. Not only that, the developer could try to eventually expand the project -- without regard to regional standards.

The developer is Bourne's Len Cubellis, who early in the application process lined up an army of supporters. After considerable pressure from CLF, as well as from local groups like the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod, he reduced the project's size. It went from the largest development ever proposed for the Cape to one with 20,000 sf of retail space, 137 housing units, and a 300 room hotel with conference centers, but it still fails to meet Cape Cod Commission (CCC) standards.

Early hearings strongly favored Cubellis's original plans. Then CLF began combining its traditional regulatory advocacy, with the running of opposition ads in Cape Cod papers. They were produced, pro bono, by our marketing whiz -- Paul Stone. By last May's hearing, the crowd was 80 percent opposed to the project.

On September 10, the CCC gave Cubellis until mid-November to present a plan that complies with mandatory standards of its Regional Policy Plan. His current plan would create traffic problems, and there is concern that he'll try to leave a portion of the site undeveloped, in order to evade the standards by building all sorts of small retail developments. If Cubellis's plan isn't amended, the CCC will be legally required to deny his project. If that happens, he could carry through on his threats to try and convince the town of Bourne to secede from the CCC. He could even attempt to blackmail the town, by offering an even less appealing alternative than the current plan, in the form of massive residential development, with just enough affordable housing to force approval of the project under the state's anti-snob zoning law -- Chapter 40B. Whatever the challenge, CLF will meet it, ensuring that Bourne and the Cape grow in a way that respects the smart-growth imperatives of the CCC's regional plan.

Rethinking the Littleton Railroad Station

Commuter rail is an important means of getting suburbanites to jobs in and near Boston. But it works best when the commuters can get to train stations on foot, bike, or by mass transit -- not via automobile -- and also when the stations help anchor town-center development in their communities. That's why CLF is opposing an MBTA/state highway department plan for relocating the Littleton rail station to a parcel of department land a mile from the town's Rte. 2/I-495 interchange. Not only would the new station be difficult and unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists to reach, but it would require the construction of a costly highway interchange near an already-existing one, and it would destroy vernal pools and well-known heron rookeries.

CLF, the Sudbury Valley Trustees, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society are urging the T and the highway department to take a hard look at more sensible and environmentally benign alternatives, including the expansion of parking capacity at the current Foster Street station; it currently accommodates only 65 cars. Or, since avoiding construction of a new interchange would save millions of tax dollars, a new, in-town parking facility could be built, at a lower net expense and without harming the environment.

At any rate, CLF and its allies are aggressively participating in the environmental review process, to make sure that the state identifies alternative sites for the Littleton station, ones accessible by foot and bicycle, and via thoroughfares other than heavily trafficked Route 2.

Protecting the East Boston Waterfront

After three years of work to shape the Seaport/South Boston waterfront into a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood, CLF has turned its sights to the other side of the Inner Harbor. East Boston residents have long been cut off from their waterfront by fenced-off industrial sites, many of them vacant or underutilized. Recently, the Massachusetts Port Authority -- which controls much of the area's waterfront -- built a major greenspace, Piers Park, opening up a piece of the waterfront for recreational use. But there's much more to come. Developments are in the works for two of East Boston's largest piers, Massport's Pier One, and nearby Clippership Wharf.

CLF believes that the developments must be built without displacing East Boston's many important waterfront marine industries. Much of the area is still a Designated Port Area (DPA), a place where the working waterfront gets top priority. If it doesn't remain a DPA, luxury housing developments could spring up, walling off the neighborhood from the water, and forcing out the marine industries. Developed intelligently, though, the East Boston waterfront could become a place where housing, shops, and public spaces such as Harborwalk co-exist with tugboats, bait dealers, and a reinvigorated shipyard; a place where transportation to Boston -- water ferries and the T -- are a short walk from new housing.

So many planning processes and development reviews are underway at the same time that neighborhood residents, marine users, and other concerned Bostonians are struggling to understand who is proposing what. Massport is trying to hammer out a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The MOU would modify the usual rules for waterfront development -- under the Public Waterfront Act/Chapter 91, for Pier One and Massport properties outside the DPA. The Boston Redevelopment Authority is simultaneously working on a master plan for properties that would remain part of the port, and a Municipal Harbor Plan to modify Chapter 91 rules for non-Massport properties outside the port. And even before the planning processes are complete, the Clippership Wharf project -- consisting of 400 condominium units on a 13-acre site -- has begun its city and state environmental reviews. During this busy time, CLF advocates are attending planning meetings, writing comments, and working to help our East Boston partners be effective participants in shaping their new waterfront.

Continuing to Shape the Seaport

As planning for the East Boston waterfront gets underway, the critical but sometimes invisible work of shaping a new waterfront neighborhood in the Seaport continues. The 3 million square foot Fan Pier project has begun the final stages of city and state reviews -- without, unfortunately, anyone answering longstanding questions about how the area's transportation capacities will accommodate either automobile or transit ridership. Questions have also arisen about whether Fan Pier's mini-city will fulfill its promise as a mixed-use development. With one hotel eliminated from the plans, the project consists of 40% office space (Boston officials have said: no more than 33% office). "Market conditions" may dictate that all office space gets built before housing construction gets underway. CLF remains an active and effective participant in the regulatory process. We won't rest until Boston gets the world-class development it deserves on Fan Pier.

A key factor in the Seaport's ultimate success will be our ability to keep cars from clogging its streets. After seven years of silence, the city has finally begun the process of instituting a "parking freeze" at areas such as Fan Pier -- to limit traffic, and promote transit use. ELF is working with elected officials and local groups such as South Boston Neighborhood Environmental Health Watch, to make sure that the freeze becomes a powerful tool for limiting parking, traffic, and air pollution, in both the Seaport and nearby residential areas.

For more information, see: clf/ and click on Massachusetts.
Stephanie Pollock
Massachusetts Advocacy
Center Director
COPYRIGHT 2001 Conservation Law Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Pollack, Stephanie
Publication:Conservation Matters
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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