Since 2000, when the former Boston Regional Medical Center property was sold, the Friends of the Fells has led the campaign to ensure that new development would be on a scale in harmony with its surrounding historic parkways and the Fells Reservation. Below you will find the history and current status of our on-going struggle.
After you read the information below, we invite you to please share your comments or lend your support to this matter, please visit the Langwood Commons Feedback Page. We also welcome your financial support in the form of a donation of any amount to offset the substantial legal expenses associated with our work on behalf of the entire Fells community.
Initial Evaluations of the Langwood Commons Development
A series of environmental impact review (MEPA) rulings issued by the Commonwealth in the ensuing years have made clear that planned projects will not meet this standard. The reviews have stated that the large size of the various plans do not qualify them as “reduced build alternative[s that] can be built without adversely affecting the character of the parkways.” Additional “Adverse Effect Findings” issued by the Mass Historical Commission have said that the large scale of the project would lead to inappropriate changes to the parkways, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The MEPA rulings required the developers to provide concrete information quantifying how traffic impacts from the project would be mitigated to protect the historic parkways and the Fells Reservation itself.
The Legal Issue
Instead of submitting details of a smaller plan as required, in January 2008 the developers urged state officials to remove Langwood Commons completely from all further environmental review! The developers asserted that they had determined that the project was small enough, so they simply would not seek any permits to make any parkway changes. Thus, the developers claimed, the Commonwealth no longer has any jurisdiction for review of the project’s environmental impacts. In June 2009, the state Environmental Affairs Secretary issued an astounding opinion, which stated “in the absence of a request for a permit or direct or indirect financial assistance from the [developers] I do not have the authority to assert MEPA jurisdiction over the private development.”
Friends of the Fells Fight Back
In response, the Friends of the Fells, the City of Medford, and individual residents filed suit in Superior Court claiming that the state’s actions violate statutes and regulations designed to protect the environment, including the statute that mandates that DCR “shall preserve and protect the scenic and historic integrity of its roadways and boulevards.” On February 11, 2010 motions were heard in Superior Court. In March the judge dismissed the claims, asserting that there were no grounds.
An appeal of this dismissal was heard by the Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) on May 5, 2011. In a unanimous decision issued on August 11, 2011, the SJC ruled in favor of Friends of the Fells and fellow plaintiffs, stating that sufficient facts had been presented regarding the case to require a hearing by the Superior Court.
The Current Status of Our Case
In January 2015, a Superior Court judge issued a decision denying the claims filed in 2009. The Friends and other plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration. This motion was denied without a hearing, and a final judgment was issued on April 14, 2015. On April 23, 2015, the Friends and individual plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal of the order and judgment, to begin the formal process for obtaining appellate review of the ruling later this year. We still hope to achieve a positive outcome, favorable to preserving the integrity of the Fells especially as it pertains to protecting the historic and scenic character of Woodland Road.
Give Your Feedback and Support
For an opportunity to share your comments or lend your support to this matter, please visit the Langwood Commons Feedback Page. We also that you support the Friends of the Fells with financial assistance to pay the significant legal fees we have incurred as we continue to demand that any development in the Fells be consistent with the law, and with the nature of the Fells and its community.