The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) said this week that they have begun re-negotiations with MassPort on the expiring Little Mystic Channel parcels, but with the full commitment to run a public process before codifying any agreement with the Authority.
The BPDA told the Patriot-Bridge that they will commit to conducting a public process with the community about the parcels before they make any decisions on the lease.
“We have been in touch with MassPort and they have indicated that they would like to renew their lease on the BPDA’s Little Mystic property,” said Bonnie McGilpin of the BPDA. “They currently sub-lease the property to the Auto Port and believe that property is important to sustaining the jobs and economic development created at the port. However, MassPort also understands the BPDA will be conducting a community process prior to making any decisions.”
City Councilor Lydia Edwards has been very vocal about making sure there isn’t another 40-year lease signed without the people of Charlestown at the table.
“I see a commitment to an open transparent process, which is worth noting, but the devil is in the details,” she said this week.
The Little Mystic Channel parcels (known in local lore as Montego Bay) are waterfront property, and currently are used by the AutoPort on a sub-lease with MassPort for damaged vehicles. The parcels are also used to store the amphibious vehicles from the defunct SuperDuck Tours venture. Other parcels along the channel host HarborWalks or parks.
While the parcels seem to be prime waterfront property fit for development, waterfront access or green space enhancements, they are still within the Designated Port Area (DPA) and that requires a water-dependent industrial use for the land. That said, land can be removed from the DPA through a very complicated process, and many are willing to at least look at what that might mean in this case.
BPDA said they have engaged a private appraiser to get an independent judgment on the value of the property, and they also said any negotiations with potential tenants would include community benefits.
“Our negotiations with any future operator of the site will also include a conversation about community benefits,” McGilpin said.
The lease was put into place for 40 years and MassPort paid $1 for the entirety of the lease – making the yearly rent to the City at about 2.5 cents according to previous reporting in the Patriot Bridge.
Meanwhile, over a period of six years recently, MassPort took in $550,000 in rent from the sub-lease.
The lease officially runs out in July 2019.
Edwards said she supports the process, but wants to know more about what that will mean.
“We don’t need another 40-year lease off the rip with no input,” she said. “We need to have Charlestown people and the community at the table when these decisions are made. You could ask for another year to extend the lease while we figure out what the community wants to do with the parcels. I know MassPort has a vested interest in retaining the lease because they are making a great deal of money. We need to make sure every parcel in Charlestown is used appropriately for the community…We especially want the folks in NewTowne and Bunker Hill to have the strongest voice. They are the closest. July will come quickly, so we need to start this as soon as possible.”