This story ran on page 14 of the Boston Globe on 5/5/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.


Waterfront violation

THE INDEPENDENCE Wharf building on Atlantic Avenue, now under renovation, is hard to miss for pedestrians and motorists along the downtown waterfront. Violations of the state waterfront regulations are less apparent, but they will send a message that these rules are easily bent unless the state Department of Environmental Protection increases penalties it is prepared to impose on the developer.

Modern Continental, the developer, has done much good work along the waterfront, but at Independence Wharf it stepped over the line. It began work before getting the approval of DEP and then added a 14th floor of office space and reserved the entire second floor for parking.

State regulations prohibit above-ground parking and additional height to discourage privatization and unsightly buildings along the waterfront. Modern Continental got around these by some creative lawyering that turned a small existing penthouse on top of the building into an entire floor and then by replacing 20 parking spaces next door with the 100-space second-floor garage.

The DEP fined Modern Continental only $10,000 for starting the work without prior authorization and then increased that to a measly $30,000 when the company neglected to send its check on time. The Conservation Law Foundation has filed a motion for an internal review of the decision, which will give DEP a chance to make the punishment fit the offense.

Under current law DEP cannot levy more than $25,000 a day for violations, but since Modern Continental might be liable for weeks of premature construction, the fine could far exceed $30,000. Even better, DEP ought to reexamine its decision on the 14th floor and the parking. If Modern Continental wants to keep both, it ought to make a major yearly payment to groups or projects that enhance public access to the waterfront. These payments should go on for a long enough time - say 10 or 15 years - that the money generates lasting improvements.

The Independence Wharf renovations will produce a building next to the Evelyn Moakley Bridge with significantly better public access and much greater visual appeal than the previous incarnation. The project could go forward, with the 14th floor and the parking, as long as DEP sends a powerful financial message to discourage developers from getting an early and illegal start on construction.

This story ran on page 14 of the Boston Globe on 5/5/2001.

© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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