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Boston’s big downtown waterfront rezoning? Not so fast, say groups

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They vow legal action, in part to stop Boston Harbor Garage redevelopment

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Two groups are pursuing legal action against a major rezoning of the Boston waterfront in an attempt to prevent the large-scale redevelopment of the Boston Harbor Garage.

Recall that earlier this year state officials approved a plan to rezone 42 acres of Boston waterfront and tidelands.

The plan in part cleared the way for the redevelopment of the Boston Harbor Garage at 270 Atlantic Avenue into a 600-foot tower (and, for that matter, the redevelopment of the James Hook Lobster site at Atlantic Avenue and Seaport Boulevard into a 300-foot building).

The Chiofaro Company has been trying to redevelop the garage for ages, but has encountered myriad challenges, including from the New England Aquarium and the neighboring Harbor Towers condo complex (pictured above).

But things looked like a go as of the spring 2018 approval of the rezoning, known as the municipal harbor plan.

Now, though, two groups—the Harbor Towers’ trustees and Boston-based environmental advocacy group the Conservation Law Foundation—have announced they are pursuing legal action against that rezoning. Basically, they see it as prelude to cutting off much of the waterfront from the public—which would violate state law.

And, of course, they see projects such as the Boston Harbor Garage redevelopment that the rezoning would facilitate as the likeliest physical obstacles to public waterfront access.

Here is a bit of a June 21 letter that that the trustees of Harbor Tower I and Harbor Tower II, and their adviser, sent the complex’s condo owners, explaining their intention to take legal action against the rezoning:

In short, we believe the construction of a 600-foot intensive, mixed-use tower on the Garage block in close proximity to the shoreline of Boston Harbor would violate state law. And we believe the recent approval of a 600-foot building envelope for the site by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs violates regulations pertaining to municipal harbor plans.

Where do things stand now then? Pretty much where they stood prior to the threat of legal action: The rezoning in place, the redevelopment of Boston Harbor Garage theoretically a go. But that could change. Stay tuned.