In a terse Advisory Opinion issued December 30, 2013, the Director of the MEPA Office has endorsed the current claim by the developers of the Langwood Commons project that their redevelopment project inside the Middlesex Fells Reservation is no longer subject to MEPA jurisdiction for environmental impact review.
The developers filed their request to end environmental review after the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) terminated the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the developers had been required to sign in 2009 by DCR and the Secretary of Environmental Affairs when the developers claimed then that their project was not subject to MEPA jurisdiction.
The MOU agreement obligated the developers to pay $1.8 million to DCR to modify Fells parkways because of safety and other impacts from the additional 4,500 traffic trips to be created by the project. At that time, DCR and the Secretary declared that the redevelopment project could not proceed without completing MEPA review unless the developers agreed to mitigate development traffic impacts.
The termination of the MOU by DCR and this new Advisory Opinion from the Secretary represent a complete reversal and abandonment of their long held regulatory positions, which cited requirements to address unacceptable public safety risks due to traffic increases from the proposed project.
The termination of the MOU and issuance of this Advisory Opinion are only the latest twists in the dealings among the developers, DCR and the Secretary that are being challenged as a violation of MEPA’s prohibition against project “segmentation” in a Superior Court lawsuit that the Friends of the Fells, ten citizens, and the City of Medford filed in 2009.
The case is scheduled to be heard by Superior Court later this year.