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State rules Gateway Center mall out of compliance with license

 By Brendan Clogston

 

DDR, the owner of the Gateway Center mall is out of compliance with its license and will have to work with Encore Boston Harbor to complete a key connection in the Northern Strand Community Trail, the state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) ruled recently.

Because the mall is located on filled tidelands, DDR had to receive approval from the state environmental agency to build on the property. The license issued to the company in 2001 requires that it maintains a 23.5 acre waterfront park and its associated pathways and amenities. DDR has disputed its responsibility to build the bike path since the original paperwork in the possession of the state was lost in a fire.

The Letter of Non-Compliance, which was signed on June 21 by Program Chief Ben Lynch of the Waterways/Chapter 91 Regulation Program, determined after observations on December 11 and June 14 “that existing site conditions at the DDRC Gateway Center (“DDR”) and Gateway Park properties on Mystic View Road… are in non-compliance with one or more laws, regulations, orders, licenses, permits or approvals enforced by the Department.”

Key among those requirements: DDR is not in compliance with the construction and maintenance of a bicycle path connecting to the MDC Mystic River Reservation to its boundary with the Boston & Maine Railroad, a major connection for the Northern Strand Community Trail. Encore Boston Harbors’ own license also requires that the project be completed, but despite three years of meeting with DDR, no resolution has been reached. DDR officials have reportedly been concerned about liability should building the path disturb soil contamination that is capped on the property.

Other violations according to the letter include:

  • Failure to submit a copy of a final Easement and Maintenance agreement for approval to DCR
  • Failure to construct a lookout platform and the appropriate lighting
  • Failure to submit a revised landscape plan with written approval in consultation with DCR by October 12, 2001
  • Failure to provide 40 parking spaces for Gateway Park patrons (only 39 spaces are currently provided)
  • Failure to construct authorized structures within five years of date of issuance of the license

These failures, according to the letter, “prevented the Department from participating with DDRC Gateway LLC to develop or refine a mutually agreeable final design for implementation and maintenance of the Gateway Park. Absent these submittals and cooperative approval, several additional Gateway Park amenities such as fully accessible walkways and crosswalk connects, a viewing platform, park lighting, signage and Gateway Park promotion were either inadequately met or were not implemented at all. The Department is requiring the cooperating of DDRC Gateway LLC to resolve these matters as soon as possible.”

The Department has issued a number of new requirements for the company in order to bring their license back into compliance. Within eight months of the notice, DDR “shall construct and open for public use a bicycle path … OR, within-30 days of this NON, DDRC Gateway LLC shall submit to the Department a fully executed Memorandum of Agreement with Encore Boston LLC containing timeline commitments and agreements for access and construction as necessary to ensure completion and opening for public use said path within 8 months of this NON.”

Within 21 days of the notice, DDR is to submit a timeline, approved by the state, for the submission of a final Landscape Plan, which will address all of the deficiencies described in the decision, along with a timetable for completing all of the missing Gateway Park elements.

Within 30 days of the decision, DDR must submit a final Easement and Maintenance agreement between DDR and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, including a schedule for implementing all of its outstanding commitments.

City of Everett and Encore officials have been pushing for the state to intervene in the case after months of unsuccessful negotiations with DDR. In May, the Conservation Law Foundation sent a letter to the state asking them to require DDR to provide “compensatory mitigation commensurate with the duration and severity of the site’s deprivation of the proprietary rights of the Commonwealth.”

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