House pushes legislation aimed at the Southfield redevelopment

state house

BOSTON (State House News Service) - With formal sessions this year set to end on Thursday, the House on Monday quietly advanced legislation aimed at facilitating the redevelopment of SouthField, a sprawling development at the old South Weymouth Naval Air Station.

The SouthField bill (H 4346) gives Weymouth, Abington and Rockland tax revenues from the development and task those municipalities with providing services to the area, which is now managed by South Shore Tri-Town Development Corp. 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, according to Starwood Land Ventures.

The bill emerged Monday along with several others from the House Ways and Means Committee as lawmakers added to the agenda of bills lawmakers hope to send Gov. Deval Patrick before formal sessions end for the year on Thursday. Both branches plan formal sessions on Tuesday.

An aide to Sen. Robert Hedlund, who has backed the bill in the Senate, said the Ways and Means amendment made only a few technical changes including the makeup of a board that would play a limited role in governing the area.

The base was closed in 1997, and the local, state and federal governments agreed on a plan to redevelop the base soon after in conjunction with the federal government’s cleanup of hazardous materials, according to the bill. A 2013 review by Auditor Suzanne Bump found the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation Board lacked redevelopment expertise had not discussed financing and paid out $2.3 million without adequate documentation.

Tri-Town would be reconstituted as the Southfield Redevelopment Authority under the bill, which would grant more responsibilities to the three municipalities with the aim of “maximizing the fiscal benefit to the towns.”

In a July 22 letter to lawmakers, Rockland Board of Selectmen Chairman Edward Kimball said residents at a public hearing in that town on July 21 expressed concerns that the legislation maintain commitments to protect open space, that runways and towers be demolished to protect wildlife and the environment, and that Rockland not be put at risk of assuming costs associated with water and sewer infrastructure.

Congressman William Keating (D-Bourne) wrote a letter to legislative leaders on July 17 expressing “strong support” for the bill, saying it addressed issues that have “prevented development at Southfield and in effect, inhibited job creation and the flow of much needed revenue to this project’s host communities.”

“Southfield should and can be the South Shore’s most significant economic development and a model for public-private partnership going forward,” Keating wrote.

The House also gave initial approval to another bill (S 1635) endorsed by Ways and Means that gives more flexibility for the size of loads farm vehicles can carry. The Senate approved that bill in June.

Other bills that were amended Monday by Ways and Means and advanced in the House include:

- S 1920 establishing the Metrowest Commission on the Status of Women;
- S 2288 authorizing the transfer of certain parcels of land in the town of Hubbardston;
- H 4252 authorizing the state to convey certain parcels of land in Waltham;
- H 4337 to preserve the historic speedway administration building in Boston’s Brighton area.

After receiving the bills from Ways and Means, the House on Monday gave initial approval to:

- S 2053 authorizing the state to sell or lease certain property in the town of Tewksbury;
- S 2082 authorizing the state to grant a sewer easement under certain land in the town of Tewksbury;
- S 1635 to promote environmentally sound transportation of agricultural products;
- H 3444 relative to the lease of Worcester City Campus Corporation-owned land;
- H 3891 to convey a parcel of land in Marlborough;
- H 4232 preserving a monument to landing ship tanks in the former Hingham Shipyard.

The Ways and Means Committee on Monday also gave a favorable recommendation to S 2249 relative to uniform adult guardianship and protective proceedings jurisdiction;

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