State Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand, whose Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) has carefully monitored the planning of the South Boston Waterfront, indicated today that his office will staunchly defend the public interest with regard to proposed Fan Pier developments and the BRA's forthcoming Municipal Harbor Plan.

Yesterday, despite innumerable urgings issued by the EOEA and waterfront advocacy groups to significantly scale back the proposed density and to increase recreational greenspace, Fan Pier project planners moved forward with the official filing of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for their 3.3 million square foot project. The EOEA must now dedicate its resources to the consideration of this plan.

And, despite the repeated comments from State officials focusing attention on parameters as outlined in the BRA's own Public Realm Plan, the City agency is moving forward with its plans to submit a Final draft of a Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) in mid-May. The MHP, recently distributed in Draft form, supports development objectives which would allow for a waterfront densely populated with market-driven projects as opposed to the uses required by zoning for fulfillment of the Public Realm Plan. If approved, the MHP will overide State Chapter 91 regulations.

Enviro boss no fan of Fan Pier plan
by Eric Convey and Scott Van Voorhis
Boston Herald
Thursday, April 20, 2000
State Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand threatened yesterday to
kill the Fan Pier project favored by Mayor Thomas M. Menino unless
developers increase the amount of park land abutting the water.
``I really believe they're going to have to pull that project back
enough,'' Durand said, referring to a plan by Chicago's Pritzker family to
build 3.3 million square feet of office, retail and residential space at
the valuable site.
Durand could block construction by rejecting the city's final Municipal
Harbor Plan, which is expected to be submitted next month. The city has put
forward a draft version, which Durand yesterday indicated was unacceptable.
``I have asked the city of Boston to send us a plan that we can approve,''
he said.
The Harbor Plan outlines ways in which the city would let developers avoid
violating rules against building within 100 feet of the water if they
provide other environmental concessions.
The Pritzker plan depends on such allowances; as many as half its planned
buildings are closer than 100 feet to the water.
Asked whether the current Fan Pier design offers enough park land to
satisfy him, Durand said, ``At the present time, no.''
One area of particular contention is a planned park - originally designed
as a fountain and skating rink - between Old Northern Avenue and Pritzker's
cove, said sources familiar with talks between the developers and the
Menino and Durand want a proposed building just east of the park narrowed,
to broaden the view of the water from the roadway and a planned MBTA
station, the sources said. The Pritzkers have been leery of scaling back
the project more than they already have.
Durand and the city have also been trying to work out strict rules for
permitting deviations from the 100-foot setback requirement, sources said.
Establishing standards would make it easier for developers to compare
various scenarios.
Durand said he hopes something can be worked out. ``Everybody is working
very hard to convince the developers to do the right thing,'' he said.
Durand made his remarks in a meeting with Herald editors and reporters.
Other parties involved in the project said they were confident an agreement
can be reached.
``Our requirement is that we be able to build the eight buildings on the
site . . . but within that context we will continue to look for areas where
we can create and enhance the quality of the park space,'' said Daniel
O'Connell of Spaulding & Slye Colliers, the local real estate developer
overseeing the project for the Pritzkers.
Menino's spokeswoman, Carol Brennan, said, ``We're continuing to work on
the draft to refine it, to submit it in the best possible shape so that we
can do what the mayor has wanted to do all along, which is to build an
urban neighborhood on Fan Pier.''
The city has no deadline for submitting its final Harbor Plan, but the
Boston Redevelopment Authority has indicated it will be filed by May 15.
Aides to the secretary said later yesterday that he does not want to reject
the Harbor Plan, but will insist that it contain more park land. They did
not say how much would be needed to satisfy him.
In addition to criticizing some aspects of the Pritzker proposal, Durand
praised the Conservation Law Foundation for threatening to block it in
The environmental group has complained that the Pritzker plan is too big
for the site and provides too little park land. Its leaders have also
maintained the Pritzker plan runs afoul of state laws that guarantee public
access to the waterfront. They've threatened legal action unless changes
are made.
``The CLF lawsuit provides us with an opportunity to leverage the open
space,'' Durand said.
CLF lawyers working on the project did not return calls seeking comment
While opposing the Pritzker plan, the environmental group has entered into
an unusual alliance with developer Frank McCourt, who owns inland property
near Fan Pier.
McCourt has called for construction of a larger waterfront park overlooking
the harbor, and a broad concourse leading from his land to the Pritzker
cove, through the disputed park.
Under his scheme, the Pritzkers would forego plans to build on the
waterfront, but would erect taller buildings in a joint venture on his
land. Both developers would share the profits.
The Pritzkers and the city have panned McCourt's proposal. But Durand said
yesterday that there are components of it - especially the bigger parks -
that he likes.

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