Revived Bill Threatens Waterfront Public Access in Massachusetts

Legislation would set precedent of privatizing public spaces

Deanna Moran | @demoran18

Last year, you took action to oppose a proposed bill that would have threatened public access to Boston’s waterfront and set a dangerous precedent for waterfront areas statewide.

That bill died in the legislature last session but has since been revived and is up for debate by a key legislative committee next week. So now we need your help again. Committee members need to know that this blatant attempt by one condo association to skirt the law is not okay. Tell them to kill H.833 before it rolls back our public rights to access waterfront areas.

One Exception to the Law Sets a Dangerous Precedent for All

A Massachusetts law called the Public Waterfront Act (commonly referred to as Chapter 91) enshrines our collective right to access waterfront areas. The law requires developers and property owners to agree to certain public benefits in exchange for being allowed to build on tidelands.

Enforcement of the law is in the hands of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The Commercial Wharf East Condominium Association is in a longstanding dispute with DEP over their compliance with Chapter 91. The bill (H.833) being debated next week would exempt the condo association from getting a Chapter 91 license, allowing it to ignore its legal obligations to provide public access and benefits on its property. This move would also undermine DEP’s enforcement authority and preempt ongoing litigation between the agency and the condo association to bring it into compliance.

This bill isn’t just about giving a single condo association an out when it comes to following the law, however. Any weakening of DEP’s authority to enforce the public’s right to access and use tidelands would have implications across the Commonwealth. It would be especially damaging for historically underserved waterfront communities that rely on Chapter 91 to secure better public access for their residents.

We all spent billions to clean up Boston Harbor – and we should all be able to share in the benefits of that effort. What’s more, it’s our legal right to use and enjoy the harbor. And that is why CLF opposes this legislation. We will continue to champion the public’s rights, even as developers and private entities encroach on our access and their political allies look the other way.

Take Action Now to Help Protect Waterfront Public Access

We cannot afford to lose any more of our waterfront areas to private interests. You can help us fight this bill. Make a call to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, and tell them to kill H.833 before it rolls back protections for our waterfront.

For too long, private interests have been given free rein at the expense of 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 committee members: H.833 would set a dangerous precedent that could wall off waterfront access for the public. This bill must be stopped.

 

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