ECPT MINUTES February 28, 2007
The meeting was called to order by the president Barbara Broussard at 7:05 p.m. Barbara
thanked Christopher Sherman for providing refreshments for the meeting.
1. At the Planning Board: On March 6 at 7:30 p.m., discussion of Northpoint Parcel
J uses and building design.
2. At the BZA: On March 8, at 7 p.m., continued cases #9407, to avoid building the
public walkway along the Broad Canal, and #9408, to re-install a 19 MW gas
turbine generator (airplane jet engine), both Mirant Kendall LLC. There is
nothing on regular agenda for either March 8 or March 20.
3. City Council meetings: On March 8 at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy Longfellow School
auditorium, a joint meeting of the City Council Public Safety Committee and the
City Department of Transportation Traffic and Parking, to discuss issues relating
to access to relocated Lechmere Station and a possible vehicular underpass along
that portion of Msgr. O’Brian Hwy, enabling pedestrians to cross at grade. On
March 21, at 5 p.m. in Sullivan Room at City Hall, a public hearing on travel
policies will be held by the Council’s Government Operations and Rules
4. Minutes: The minutes of January 24 were approved as written. There was no
meeting on February 14 because of the storm.
5. Crime Prevention: The next crime prevention meeting will be held at East End
House on March 21, at 7 p.m. Light supper will be served. The group will
discuss topics for future meetings.
6. Cooking for a Cause, the major fund-raiser for East End House, will be held on
March 29 at The State Room, 60 State Street, Boston, beginning at 6 p.m.
Gourmet food and wine, live music, silent auction, and fun for all. Call EEH for
more information and to purchase tickets (617-876-4444).
7. North Cambridge Family Opera: Heather Hoffman announced that the group,
including her daughter Erica, will perform “Kids Court,” a very funny musical
satire on March 24-25, and March 31-April 1. She will have more information
and tickets later.
8. ECPT Website: Thanks to Willliam O’Neill, who has taken on the task of
keeping it updated, the website is functioning. Check for agendas,
announcements, minutes, etc., as well as links to other sites of interest
Police Report: Sergeant Maureen Ford, who on March 21 will celebrate her 21st year
on the Cambridge Police force, reported the following incidents for the preceding four
weeks: four aggravated assaults (some at mall, some road rage, one domestic); three
domestic disputes; four driving offenses (no insurance, skipped stop sign, etc.); one drug
arrest at Bent and First Sts.; one bad check passed at mall; two hit and runs; one
housebreak (Gore and Scirappa); larceny of more parking meters; thefts from
construction sites on Museum Way and Second St.; two larceny from cars (laptops); six
malicious destruction of property; two harassing phone calls; two assaults; one street
robbery; one weapons violation (no permit). Maureen warned that members should be
aware of “spoof” calling cards – user can plug in a different phone number for the caller
ID, so you don’t really know who is calling. Also, don’t give out personal information
to anyone calling regarding jury duty, since courts never make phone calls.
Mirant-Kendall LLC, Christopher Sherman, Manager of External Affairs for New
England: BZA Continued Case #9407, variance to remove requirement from BZA #8218
to build a walkway along the Broad Canal from First to Third Streets, and BZA
Continued Case #9408, variance for installation of a 29MW blackstart gas turbine
generator set with associated utility improvements.
According to Mr. Sherman, a power plant has existed on this site for many years, and had
at least two owners. In 2000, Southern Energy wanted to re-power the facility, and
needed a variance. The power plant is a pre-existing non-conforming use in this area.
The expansion was approved and the walkway was included as part of the variance. This
walkway is also required by the Chapter 91 license and by the Order of Conditions from
the Cambridge Conservation Commission, and the obligation to build it still remains.
Energy facilities are more aware of public safety since September 11, 2001, and the usual
safety barrier is a large land area. Mirant owns ten plants nationally, and Cambridge is its
smallest site, 6 acres (others are upwards of 100 acres each). The plant was built in the
1940’s, and density has grown around it. Requiring the walkway to be built would
permit people to walk beside a 5000 gallon fuel oil storage facility, a 2500-gallon
exposed sodium hypodioxide storage area, a 24-bottle hydrogen rack, and an exposed 115
kv electrical transmission substation. Mirant particularly fears vandalism, theft, and
danger to children.
Rather than building the walkway, Mirant proposes that a small park be constructed
along First Street, maintaining the existing trees, roughly 30 ft x 80 ft, and costing about
$200,000 to $250,000, with granite block, lighting, benches, etc. They are aware that the
area along the canal side fence is an eyesore, and have begun to clean it up, trimming
trees, replacing rusting and broken fencing. Mr. Sherman said his letter to City Manager
Healey, which included an offer of payment to the City of $500,000 was never intended
to broker a “backroom deal” and apologized if East Cambridge residents had gotten that
impression. He said he should have come to the community first, and agreed that any
mitigation should be in the East Cambridge area.
Questions and comments:
1. I don’t like this change of rules – how can we rely on our city boards to be sure that
our rights are protected. Ans: We have raised issues of safety and security, and can’t get
2. Is this mitigation adequate and in the right direction? Ans: We want to provide
something of equivalent value to the East Cambridge community.
3. The park you propose is a dead end, and not particularly useful – how do you
propose keeping it safe? Ans: The value of the park to Mirant is on-site
4. What changes could you make to reconfigure it so it would be a safe walkway?
5. I had assumed that a Chapter 91 license along a public waterway must be an on-
water use, not somewhere else in the neighborhood.
6. If protection is needed, why not just a wall along the walkway, similar to what
NStar has along Athenaeum Way? Ans: not safe enough.
7. Why has the company done nothing to protect residents in the past 5-1/2 years?
People seem to be able to wander into the building at will. Ans: Its not just
terrorism, could be just a fire on site. We’re tightening up security.
8. There should be a way to make the walkway safe – NStar has three electrical
transformers fully enclosed on the Athenaeum Way side, and pedestrians walk along
the sidewalk within a couple of feet.
9. I have a suggestion regarding the March 8 meeting – would you ask the BZA to
schedule it later on the agenda? We have a conflict with a public hearing. Also, in
your December 6 letter to Mr. Healey you set a precedent, that any company can
overset determinations of city boards – would you be willing to withdraw that letter?
Ans: No, and I don’t want to be later on agenda.
10. The bicycle committee has sent a letter to the BZA also. This walkway is a link in a
bike path through Cambridge to Somerville and beyond.
11. Cities are hazardous – this seems no worse than other potential dangers.
12. What changed? In 2002, Norm Cowden told ECPT that the walkway would need to
be redesigned, but that Mirant would get back to us with a plan. Ans: We needed a
building permit for expansion, and have no Certificate of Occupancy at the moment.
13. What would it cost to make a safe walkway? Ans: Walkway lessens security –
perhaps alarmed fencing, call boxes.
14. I am an advocate of open space, particularly recreational, and there is little potential
in East Cambridge. Would you rescind your letter to Mr. Healey?
15. The Broad Canal is ecologically different from the main Charles River, and as such
is worth preserving; providing more access to the water is valuable.
16. Is this site being prepared for sale? Ans: No.
17. Are you in compliance with the Chapter 91 license now? Ans: Not completely.
18. Was this walkway included in your bankruptcy case, and if not, why not? Ans:
Perhaps it was overlooked.
Discussion and Decision
There was considerable discussion and some confusion about the need for expansion of
the Mirant Kendall plant, as it would be used for back-up energy only, sold to the New
England power grid, and not directly distribution to Cambridge residents. Since the
focus of tonight’s discussion was the walkway, and BZA #9408 was not mentioned in
detail, it was decided to ask Mr. Sherman to return to our next meeting. Motion: It was
decided unanimously not to support BZA #9407, because members felt that they had not
heard a convincing argument. Safety factors, and terrorism seem to be a thin pretext for
avoiding the obligation to build the walkway.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m .
Nancy Stiening, Secretary