City Will Conduct Planning Process for Creek Changes

Community and environmental leaders said this week they are cheering the decision of the City to commit to a detailed community planning process as part of the proposed changes to the Designated Port Area (DPA) along the Chelsea Creek – a change that is believed to be sought in order to usher in more development such as hotels, restaurants and luxury residential buildings near the Chelsea Street Bridge. “We have spoken with Ned Keefe and John DePriest about a master planning / community visioning process for the Creek and they both committed to deep community involvement,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of the Chelsea Collaborative. “We are thrilled and plan to mobilize dozens of folks, especially those in the most impacted neighborhoods.” “The City recognizes that there are a number of different interests on the waterfront,” said John DePriest, the City’s Director of Planning and Development. “There is the State which sees working waterfronts as a valuable economic resource in need of protection. There are the property and business owners who have invested in their businesses and who are comfortable operating under DPA regulations, and there are property owners who feel that their property has minimal value to water-related industrial uses and who seek to redevelop their property for other uses. There are also residents who see the waterfront as an amenity and who seek better access to the river.” The City is seeking the review in order to determine those areas where the DPA designation is appropriate and where these competing interests can be best accommodated. The City has filed a request for a boundary review for the Chelsea Creek DPA. The State Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has accepted the request and will hold a public information meeting on Tuesday, March 31, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in City Hall, to provide Chelsea residents and business/land owners with information about the review process. The DPA program is a State program aimed at promoting and protecting water-dependent industrial uses. The program recognizes the economic value of port areas and the investment made in the State’s ports infrastructure (roads, piers, docks, seawalls, deep-water channels), and seeks to preserve waterfront land for businesses that require marine transportation or large volumes of water for withdrawal or discharge. There are 11 DPAs in the State, two of which affect the City of Chelsea. The Chelsea Creek DPA covers the entire waterfront from the McArdle Bridge upstream to the Forbes site. The landward boundary of the Chelsea Creek DPA extends along Marginal Street, Eastern Avenue, and the commuter rail tracks. The City has requested a boundary review on only a portion of the Chelsea Creek DPA, from the former Cabot Paint site to the Forbes Lithograph site. The Mystic River DPA is not part of this review. The purpose of the DPA boundary review process is to determine whether the Chelsea Creek DPA boundary (from the Cabot site to the Forbes site) should remain as it is currently constituted or whether it should be modified to more appropriately protect and promote contemporary state policy objectives related to DPAs. The DPAs were established by the State in the 1970s, but since that time, water-related industrial uses on Chelsea’s waterfront have actually declined in number. At one point, the waterfront was home to a number of oil tank farms and other industrial uses. With changes in the oil storage and distribution business, many of the tank farms have been demolished and only one is left in the Chelsea DPA on the Chelsea side of the river– the Gulf Oil facility on Eastern Avenue. This facility is very active and the owners have made significant investments in their infrastructure with an eye toward being a fixture in the City for some time to come. Other sites host non-water dependent uses functioning under temporary licenses from the State. The boundary review process is governed by State law. The notice of the review was officially noticed in the March 11 edition of the Environmental Monitor, the State’s on-line publication for information on public notices from State environmental agencies. This began a 30-day public comment period, after which the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) office will spend up to six months collecting information and meeting with affected parties. After the close of the information gathering process, CZM will issue a written report and receive comment on the report for an additional thirty days. The director of the CZM office then has 60 days to issue a final written report and decision on the boundary review. The public information meeting is part of the State’s efforts to involve all interests in the review process. CZM officials will review the process and the opportunities for input. The City encourages all to attend the meeting and looks forward to the review process.

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