On May 15, 2001 Mirant Kendall, LLC was granted a license by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to install new generating equipment and related structures. Special condition 1 of the license was that they “shall construct and maintain in good repair a publicly accessible pile-supported waterfront walkway along the Broad Canal”. The last sentence of that section says “Said walkway shall be constructed and opened to the public no later than the issuance of the City of Cambridge Occupancy Permit for the Combustion Turbine Generator building”.
The City of Cambridge’s Board of Zoning Appeals, under the benevolent guidance of Supreme Leader For Life Bob Healy, has granted them temporary Certificates of Occupancy as a matter of course ever since in violation of this license and the city variance granted by the same board. Mirant tried repeatedly to weasel out of their obligation using whatever arguments their crack team could come up with. These included the post 9/11 terrorism threat (while leaving their front and side doors unlocked and unattended and the main gate wide open), offering Bob Healy a half million dollars for alternative use in East Cambridge (which our dear leader said would be spent anywhere but), and an offer to help the DCR build a foot bridge across the Lechmere canal within 100 feet of the Land Boulevard bridge. Needless to say, these were met with the type and amount of reaction that the East Cambridge Planning Team and Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods are known for. Some of those meetings were a real hoot. No rotten vegetable matter was hurled, but it’s lucky there wasn’t any on hand. The VP in charge of that effort has since moved on.
About two years ago, they changed their tune and started a policy of reconciliation and apparent honesty. They presented new plans and actually worked with concerned citizens towards mutually acceptable compliance. They even started cooperating with their neighbors at the western end of the canal so that both companies improvements would be coordinated.
Until I saw the barges in the canal on New Years Day, I really didn’t believe that they would build anything there. We were told that construction on the First Street entrance to the walkway was to begin last October, and that didn’t happen, but now it seems that they have begun to spend real money on the project. Unfortunately, after watching how developers and the city work for so many years, that is the only kind of evidence that has actual value.
The Army Corps of Engineers only allows pilings to be driven in the Charles between November and April so as to disturb aquatic life as little as possible, so I expect to see (and hear) a lot of work in the near future.
If my friends and neighbors had not been vocal,vigilant, intelligent, persistent, and WILLING TO SHOW UP OVER AND OVER AGAIN, we would never have seen anything happen here. It’s barely begun, and a long way from done, and we are going to be watching closely. Even if it does get finished to spec., there are ongoing maintenance obligations that will need to be monitored.
Does it ever end? As long as we have a city government that refuses to do enforcement without being sued, it is left up to the citizens.