MA Supreme Judicial Court Takes Up Downtown Harbor Plan Case

The view from the Boston Harborwalk near the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: Jerry Monkman

November 23, 2021 (BOSTON, MA) – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has decided to review a lower court decision voiding certain elements of the Downtown Boston Municipal Harbor Plan. Governor Charlie Baker appealed to the SJC after the ruling from a Superior Court judge in April 2021. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) released the following statement in response.

“The public’s right to access the waterfront has been guaranteed for generations, and we must fight any attempts by unauthorized state officials to undermine it,” said Peter Shelley, Senior Counsel at CLF. “The politicized, developer-driven process that led to Boston’s harbor plan was fundamentally flawed. The lower court was correct to conclude that the state agencies did not have the authority to approve it. We’re confident the justices will uphold that decision to send Boston’s unlawful plan back to the drawing board.”

CLF challenged Boston’s Downtown Municipal Harbor Plan in a 2018 lawsuit after state officials ignored decades-old rules governing public waterfront access in approving the plan. In May, the Department of Environmental Protection responded to the ruling by releasing new draft regulations concerning waterfront development that propose to retroactively enact Boston’s existing flawed plan. Over the summer, Boston Mayor Janey announced her decision to withdraw the plan to create a more inclusive one focused on climate resilience.

CLF experts are available for further comment.