Southfield bill may add to end-of-session fray

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 9, 2014…..This month’s end-of-session rush of legislating on Beacon Hill may include an effort to jumpstart a large real estate development project south of Boston.

Lawmakers representing Weymouth, Abington and Rockland are on call for the potential arrival of legislation to facilitate the further development of Southfield at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Base, a residential and commercial project plagued by starts and stops over the years, but which looms as a game-changer for the area.

According to Town Council President Patrick O’Connor, Weymouth Mayor Sue Kay on Thursday night is scheduled to present a term sheet to the council reflecting her work with the firm Burns & Levinson on details for the project moving forward under developer Starwood Land Ventures.

In a presentation to the Weymouth Council in February, Starwood said the project calls for a maximum 2,855 residential housing units and up to 2 million square feet of commercial development, but not less than 900,000 square feet.

Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) told the News Service Tuesday that he was not optimistic about a bill arriving on Beacon Hill from the local level, until now.

“It is likely this week that it will be a reality that we will file something,” he said.

O’Connor, who is also legislative liaison on Hedlund’s staff, said he expects legislation could be filed Friday or Monday. “I’m a big supporter of the project,” O’Connor said. “It’s the largest development in the history of Massachusetts, south of Boston.”

According to Hedlund and O’Connor, the bill is expected to narrow the powers of the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation to zoning, rename the organization as the Southfield Redevelopment Authority, and restore more power to the three communities that will host the development.

The deal will call for the state to provide $40 million to complete the construction of an east-west parkway, while Starwood will pay for a wastewater treatment plant, also estimated to cost about $40 million. Hedlund said the latest arrangement will also reflect adjusted project timelines and financial arrangements for Weymouth.

Describing himself as an “incremental supporter” of the project, Hedlund called the management of the effort to date under Tri-Town “completely broken” and said he views significant management reforms as a requirement.

Last week, Hedlund criticized Tri-Town, which was created in 1998, for “trying to terminate” Starwood as Southfield’s master developer and for failing to accomplish its goals over the years.

“There is a lot at stake with this redevelopment and we are almost out of time in the legislative session,” Hedlund said in a June 30 statement. “This project is not just important for Weymouth’s future, but for the South Shore and Massachusetts’ economy as a whole. There is a lot of money at stake. There are a lot of jobs at stake.”

In April, Reps. Ronald Mariano of Quincy and James Murphy of Weymouth joined Hedlund in writing a letter to Kay urging her to “focus on the consensus” and reminding her of the July 31 end of formal sessions for the year.

The lawmakers wrote, “The end of the two-year legislative session is approaching on July 31, with many other pressing issues to be considered between now and then. If this matter is going to find a place on the agenda in time to receive a proper vetting, this stage of the process will need to begin soon.”

Informal sessions run from August through December and most bills can advance during those lightly attended sessions as long as no one objects.

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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