Yesterday, I testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources & Agriculture in opposition to H. 1169, An Act Protecting Sunlight in Certain Public Parks. If passed, the bill would eliminate local authority to permit certain projects and would prohibit any structure that could create a new shadow on certain properties in Cambridge and Boston.
The bill would add shadows affecting Charles River Esplanade, Christopher Columbus Park, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square Park, Back Bay Fens, and Magazine Beach Park to provisions of a law which currently exist protecting Boston Common and Lynn Common. It would create legislative restrictions on certain developments which could not be varied locally.
There is no question that if this bill is passed, the economic impact would be staggering. At the hearing yesterday, there was compelling testimony from labor interests regarding the number of desperately needed jobs that would be lost. Some of the most well respected developers in the city, Robert Beal and Ronald Druker, testified in opposition to the bill along with representatives from academic institutions, the Mass Municipal Association, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and business groups. Due to the height restrictions that would be imposed as a result of this bill, many development projects would not be viable. Lost development means lost jobs, lost property taxes, a reduction of affordable housing funds, and less housing. The bill would affect areas including the Longwood Medical Area – a neighborhood where city and business leaders have long sought (and succeeded in) attracting research, academic institutions, and economic development.
Furthermore, there are no provisions for variances or relief from the legislation. Therefore, the effect of the bill would be to make development projects subject to state legislative restrictions which could only be changed by additional legislation, completely removing local authority to permit these projects. It ignores the extensive review process now in place at the local level. For example, the City of Boston requires in-depth wind, shadow and environmental analyses as part of its review process for large projects.
Finally, it’s important to note that density, which this bill significantly limits, combined with proper planning, are what cities need to thrive and grow. Density is smart growth and it makes economic sense.
NAIOP will continue to advocate against passage of this bill and we’ll keep NAIOP members posted on this issue as the legislative session draws to a close in July.