March 2, 2007
Deval says coast is clear: After court ruling, gov moves to aid projects
By Scott Van Voorhis
Boston Herald Business Reporter
Gov. Deval Patrick signaled yesterday he will come to the rescue of Cambridge’s giant NorthPoint project and several other developments endangered by a recent state court ruling.
Administration officials filed legislation that would effectively reverse a recent state Supreme Judicial Court decision – one that threatened to trigger extensive coastal building reviews for NorthPoint and other developments.
However, Patrick’s newest legislative drive – which would restore rules exempting near-waterfront projects from coastal building review – outraged critics of the NorthPoint proposal, who pointed out that two key administration officials previously held top jobs on the Cambridge project’s development team.
Daniel O’Connell, Patrick’s economic developer and housing czar, is a veteran real estate executive who previoulsy led the NorthPoint team. Greg Bialecki, appointed to be the administration’s real estate permitting guru, was the project’s lead attorney.
“I am outraged,” fumed Richard Clarey, a member of the Cambridge activist group that won the NorthPoint case and a lawyer. “They are helping themselves.”
Meanwhile, John Moot, president of the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, argued the Patrick administration’s proposal would cripple his group’s hard-won efforts to force changes in the NorthPoint plan.
The neighborhood group contends the ruling by the SJC gives it leverage to force NorthPoint’s developers to increase the amount of parkland and civic space in the city neighborhood-sized project. The SJC found that NorthPoint, while not directly on the water, is still subject to coastal building regulations because much of it would be built on “filled tidelands.”
NorthPoint is just one project endangered by the court ruling, which could affect an array of projects, from new towers proposed for North and South stations to new development around Fenway Park [map] , said Ian Bowles, secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. Even long-established buildings are now subject to “title uncertainty” in the wake of the court ruling, he argued.
“This is not about one project,” said Kyle Sullivan, a spokesman for the governor’s office. “The SJC ruling had a statewide impact.”