Massachusetts Bill Threatens Waterfront Public Access

Legislation would set precedent of privatizing public spaces

If a bill currently in front of the Massachusetts House of Representatives passes, a condo association would be allowed to skirt their Chapter 91 obligations to provide public access to the Boston Harbor waterfront, permanently privatizing the property. This would set a dangerous precedent for public access on our waterfront. Photo: via Flickr user Roberto Zingales (CC BY-SA 2.0)

There is currently legislation in front of the Massachusetts House of Representatives that not only threatens public access to Boston’s Waterfront but could set a dangerous precedent for waterfronts across the Commonwealth.

If the bill (H.4505) were to pass, the Commercial Wharf East Condominium Association would be allowed to skirt their Chapter 91 obligations to provide public access and benefits and permanently privatize the property. It would also open the door for other private entities who want to cut off public access to Boston Harbor to ask the legislature for exemptions rather than maintain access and benefits for the public.

Legislation Could Set Dangerous Precedent

The condo association is in a long-standing dispute with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) over their compliance with state law. This bill would undermine DEP’s enforcement authority and preempt ongoing litigation between DEP and the condo association. Any weakening of DEP’s authority to enforce the public’s right to access and use tidelands would have implications for properties subject to Chapter 91 across the Commonwealth. Including historically underserved waterfront communities who rely on Chapter 91 to secure better public access for residents.

The public spent billions to clean up Boston Harbor – and the public should be able to partake in the benefits of that effort. And that is why CLF opposes this legislation. We will continue to champion the public’s right to access Boston Harbor and the Waterfront, even as developers and private entities encroach on the public’s access to tidelands and their political allies look the other way. We cannot afford to lose any more of the Waterfront to private interests.

Help Protect Waterfront Public Access

You can help us fight this bill by calling Massachusetts House of Representatives Speaker Robert DeLeo (617-722-2500) and tell him you oppose H.4505.

For too long, private interests have been given free rein at the expense Bostonians like you and me. It’s time to let our legislators know that we expect more from our elected officials and our city.

Tell Speaker DeLeo: H.4505 would set a dangerous precedent that could wall off waterfront access for the public. This bill must be stopped.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.