South Boston Municipal Harbor Plan Final Decision - December 2000

Find details of the Final Decision on the 2000 South Boston Municipal Harbor Plan.

The links below provide the details of Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert Durand's Final Decision on the South Boston Municipal Harbor Plan, followed by the Executive Summary of the decision.

Executive Summary

Municipal harbor planning provides an opportunity for municipalities to tailor certain aspects of c.91 requirements to local conditions as long as the basic tenets of the public trust doctrine are upheld to ensure "comparable or greater effectiveness" under Chapter 91. The South Boston Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) seeks substitute provisions for setback requirements, facilities of private tenancy, open space/lot coverage, open space management, and building heights and proposes offsets for public use and enjoyment of filled tidelands as embodied in the public trust doctrine.

The principles upon which the City of Boston, the South Boston Municipal Harbor Plan Advisory Committee (MHPAC), and the Secretary of Environmental Affairs based their work in the development of this MHP are to:
- enhance open space access;
- avoid privatization of the shoreline;
- minimize adverse effects of wind and shadow;
- clearly identify substitutions and quantifiable offsets to ensure enforceability;
- promote offsets that are valued by the public consistent with those expressed in public comments; and
- ensure that developments are carried out in a manner that protects public rights in both filled and flowed tidelands.

Since the submission of the South Boston MHP in July, 2000, several changes have been made in response to public comment letters, concerns raised by neighborhood groups, and suggestions made by area landowners and developers, the City of Boston, and state agencies. Secretary Durand's decision on the South Boston MHP reflects a great many of the changes made by these groups and individuals, and results in a plan that provides a vibrant urban waterfront with significant public amenities and benefits as envisioned and required under Chapter 91.

Specifically, the decision modifies the original MHP with conditions that will result in the following:

- To ensure that total building massing allowable under the MHP is comparable to that under Chapter 91, the total allowable development for the Fan Pier and Pier 4 sites shall not exceed 3.87 million square feet, irrespective of civic and cultural facilities and a maximum 1% margin of error resulting from final design and construction

- To avoid interference with the flight path from Runway 27 at Logan Airport, maximum heights in the Inner Harbor Subdistrict (primarily Pier 4 and Fan Pier) will be governed by FAA and Massport policies, most likely resulting in maximum building heights of 240' - 270';

- To enlarge public use and enjoyment of the waterfront, reduce shadow impacts on the Fan Pier Cove, and improve physical and visual links between the MBTA's Courthouse Square station and the waterfront, the footprint of buildings on Parcels C, D, E, F, H, and J on the Fan Pier site will be reduced, creating additional public open space;

- The Public Green at the base of the Cove is increased in size from 1 acre (July MHP) and 1.7 acres (Secretary's draft decision) to approximately 2 acres, or slightly larger than the parks at Post Office Square and Copley Square;

- Several areas originally planned as streets will be converted to pedestrian-usable open space, resulting in better quality public "green" spaces along and leading to the waterfront;

- As noted above, the footprint of the proposed ICA (Parcel J) will be reduced to approximately 15,000 square feet but maximum usable floor heights will be increased to 75 feet;

- A total of 11 acres of open space will be created on Fan Pier and Pier 4, including a 2-acre Public Green at the base of the Cove;

- Civic and cultural facilities (127,000 square feet) will be considered neither as offsets for wind/shadow/height substitutions nor as part of the massing calculations, but will be baseline requirements to publicly activate the waterfront in a manner appropriate with Commonwealth tidelands;

- A comprehensive cultural facilities master plan will be required to ensure coordinated activation of the civic/cultural facilities along the waterfront, and shall include the so-called "cultural loop" water transportation;

- Most water transportation components will be made as baseline Chapter 91 requirements, although a limited amount of water transportation will be allowed as project offsets;

- Building heights from the shore inland generally will be "stepped up" consistent with Chapter 91 principles;

- On Pier 4, buildings will be set back 26 feet on the eastern edge of the pier, 200 feet at the end of the pier, and 45 feet on the western or Cove side of the pier;

- Because of questions over enforcement and the true public value of the proposed 4-Season Rooms, such spaces will not be eligible for credit as offsets;

- For new buildings (or portions thereof) within the MHP area that do not provide the requisite amount of open space under c.91, a system of aggregated offsets will be used to provide viable, useable open space along and adjacent to Fort Point Channel, the Cove Public Green, and other areas along the water's edge;

- To fully comply with the Secretary's Scope, and to respond to concerns raised by the Gillette Company regarding its continued operation as a water-dependent industrial use, the decision supports the City's detailed master planning effort currently underway, with possible further revisions as a result of the completed master plan; and

- The MHP will not be effective until the City submits zoning to implement the Plan under 301 CMR 23.04(6) and 301 CMR 23.05(5).

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