''If we push back the process significantly, we would risk missing this real estate cycle. We need to evaluate development proposals in a timely manner or lose the opportunities.'' --

-- Boston Chamber of Commerce
reflecting on the establishment of Boston's first Muncipal Harbor Plan

Responding to a push from City Hall, Boston's Chamber of Commerce and labor force is galvanizing to advocate for approval of the Municipal Harbor Plan. SAND members, many supportive of the trades, stress that the Municipal Harbor Plan will likely slow development because the surrounding communities will register their concern regarding each project at subsequent Article 80 hearings. If a Municipal Harbor Plan was instead tailored to reflect and address a community's public and civic needs and concerns, projects would move more swiftly through approvals.

We encourage the trades to consider a Municipal Harbor Plan that ensures a framework for responsible development. This will keep projects in the pipeline.

Unions get results at City Hall as Harbor Plan survives round

By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff, 10/5/2000

Members of the city's powerful building trade unions, concerned about mounting opposition to Mayor Thomas M. Menino's development plan for the South Boston waterfront, descended on City Hall yesterday, pressuring city councilors to drop their opposition to the massive construction project or lose labor's support in the next election.

And it worked, in part: The council backed off a plan to ask the state environmental secretary to reject the city's Municipal Harbor Plan. Instead, 10 of the 13 members called for yet another hearing on the plan, in the hope of further rallying public opposition to prevail upon the mayor to alter the design.

Meanwhile, Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand agreed, at Council President James M. Kelly's request, to extend the public comment period on the plan for the third time. The comment period will end Oct. 18 - just two days after the council's planned hearing and weeks before Durand is expected to issue a ruling.

A frustrated Menino said yesterday he was tired of the stalling and said the project had already been adjusted to accommodate concerns that more open space was needed along Fan Pier.

''We're going to process all these things to death and it's unfortunate,'' Menino said. ''That's why people complain about trying to do projects in our city.''

In a sign of concern surrounding the growing opposition to the plan, the administration dispatched various supporters to speak on its merits. And the Pritzker family's team, which is developing the largest, most visible project on Fan Pier, is now calling out Chamber of Commerce and tourism and business constituencies to rally around its plan, which would bring a flurry of new hotel, office, and residential construction to the water's edge.

Pam McDermott, a spokeswoman for the Pritzkers's Fan Pier Co., said a ruling is expected in November and a delay would not only cost the project, but cost the city needed hotel rooms. Added the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce's Jim Clocke: ''If we push back the process significantly, we would risk missing this real estate cycle. We need to evaluate development proposals in a timely manner or lose the opportunities.''

To win Durand's approval, the Municipal Harbor Plan - which would exempt building along the waterfront from state environmental law - must satisfy the law's primary goal of ensuring that the public owns, and has access to, the waterfront. Critics, including the Conservation Law Foundation, which has threatened to sue over the plan, argue that the mayor's plan fails to do so. Some critics say it ''walls off the water'' from the public.

''No one is against building the full, 17-million-square-foot Seaport,'' said Stephanie Pollack, CLF vice president. ''The only question is how much goes to the water's edge. The plan backs it up to the water's edge and that's just not legal. The fastest way to get to groundbreaking is to rewrite the plan before it goes to court.''

Now, residents are also voicing opposition, after hearing from critics hosting meetings through the upstart Waterfront Information Network. Yesterday, one South Boston resident presented a petition of 452 people who urged Durand to reject the plan.

Councilor Maura Hennigan (Jamaica Plain), who wrote the council resolution against Menino's plan, said minor ''tweaking'' won't salvage the plan, which needs to be rethought by Menino.

''The whole problem is his premise,'' Hennigan said. ''What he has done is put private interest first and filled in the public interest around the private interest.''

Earlier, councilors sparred with labor leaders, who suggested that opposition to the waterfront plans would cost them construction jobs. Several councilors expressed annoyance that Joe Nigro, head of the Building Trades Union, weighed in, since he is also vice chairman of the board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which developed the Municipal Harbor Plan for Menino.

Councilors Kelly and Michael Flaherty of South Boston and Councilor Paul Scapicchio (North End), who chairs the economic development committee, declined to sign on to Hennigan's resolution.

''It seemed like there was an intention there to try to just scrap the effort, and I don't think that's best,'' Flaherty said. ''There's a genuine risk that the current economic cycle could run its course with little or no development on the South Boston waterfront. We'll have another decade or two of Northern Avenue being a dreary parking lot.''

This story ran on page B01 of the Boston Globe on 10/5/2000. © Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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