Downtown North / Chapter 91 Coalition
O’Neill and Associates was retained by a broad coalition of community groups, environmental organizations, organized labor, real estate developers, and property owners concerned about a 2007 ruling by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) that would effectively make 4,000 acres of landlocked, filled tidelands subject to licensing - approximately 3,000 acres in Boston alone. This change to Chapter 91 of Massachusetts General Laws stood to negatively impact the regional economy in several ways. The SJC gave the legislature 180 days to respond with a legislative solution to address the public benefits process. Among the multiple legislative proposals put forward, the coalition supported the plan offered by Governor Deval Patrick. O’Neill and Associates developed a community relations and government relations campaign to raise support for Governor Patrick’s proposed legislation, House Bill 3757, which had been met with early resistance, particularly by members in the House of Representatives.
O’Neill and Associates led an effort to push forward Governor Patrick’s proposal, by reaching out to targeted elected officials and stakeholders. O’Neill and Associates developed messages, fact sheets, and an elaborate website to inform stakeholders about the complicated effects of the decision and the extent of the negative economic impacts. O’Neill and Associates coordinated a letter-writing campaign by small business owners, union leaders, and developers to the Speaker of the House, Senate President as well as other targeted key legislators, urging them to support the measure. O’Neill and Associates worked closely with the Delaware North Corporation, Partners Health Care, Simpson Housing, and the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), among others to reach a broad base of support for the bill.
The House of Representatives and Senate passed disparate bills, resulting in the measure being referred to a joint legislative conference committee for further consideration. O’Neill and Associates advocated for the legislative principles outlined in the Governor’s bill, as presented by the House of Representatives. O’Neill and Associates worked with conference committee members to increase awareness and create widespread support for the Governor’s bill.
As a direct result of O’Neill and Associates efforts, the coalition’s interests were represented and supported in the legislative conference committee’s deliberations. This bill created a new public benefit review process by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs for projects built on all tidelands and made changes to the MEPA review process. The bill also achieved the coalition’s goal to protect and validate existing property titles and licenses.