This editorial by the Boston Globe Editorial Board ran on page A16 of the Boston Globe on 9/28/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

Back to the drawing board

Bob Durand, the state secretary of environmental affairs, has diligently conducted four hearings on the implications of the Boston Municipal Harbor Plan, and on Tuesday night he summed up the results.

''I expected to hear calls for an extension of the comment period. I expected to hear calls for new hearings,'' he said. ''I did not expect a resolution [in opposition] from 10 city councilors, nor calls I have been been receiving from legislators. I hope Ann and Nancy report back to the BRA and the mayor about the rising tide of opposition and concern.''

Ann Chiacchieri and Nancy Tentindo of the Boston Redevelopment Authority were the only speakers Tuesday who favored the city Municipal Harbor Plan, designed to facilitate a massive development on the Fan Pier. While a few speakers at earlier hearings had favored the plan, the consensus was that it would result in waterfront developments that would be too big and unwelcome to the public.

If it were not for Durand's intervention, Mayor Menino would probably have broken ground on the project by now. But state law makes public access to the waterfront an overriding matter of public policy.

It would do no harm to hold more hearings or extend the comment period beyond Oct. 4, but this may not be necessary given the level of previous public participation and the improvements to the Municipal Harbor Plan already suggested. At the Tuesday meeting, Peter Kuttner, representing the Boston Society of Architects, proposed to replace one condominium building with a park. At an earlier meeting, state Senator Stephen Lynch of South Boston argued for an expanded park at the bottom of the Fan Pier. Both proposals merit serious consideration in a revised plan.

As chief planner for the city, the BRA - not Durand's office - ought to be pushing the developer to make these changes. People from all over the city, by their opposition to the plan Tuesday night, gave the mayor a political incentive to have the BRA perform this critical role.

City Councilor Maura Hennigan has filed a resolution opposing the plan and seeking a longer comment period. Her measure has the support of nine others on the 13-member council, which will consider it next week. The council has little say over development, but the resolution is another indication of public concern.

After the comment period ends, Durand has 60 days to make a decision on the plan. He ought to tell the BRA to make it better, through a process as informative and open as the hearings he has just conducted. The people of Boston deserve a plan that will justify their interest in keeping the waterfront a precious public asset.

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