By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- Legislation restructuring the Southfield development on the former South Weymouth Naval Air Base will land on the governor's desk after state and local officials agreed to sideline the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation Board and grant more control to the towns of Weymouth, Abington and Rockland.
"It will eliminate some of the uncertainty," Sen. Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, told the News Service on Monday. The bill gathered momentum in late July as formal sessions wound down but fell short of reaching Gov. Deval Patrick's desk until Monday, when a final Senate vote completed legislative work on the bill.
Hedlund said once the bill becomes law, it will likely free up development dollars, and Weymouth, Rockland and Abington will start to see some revenues from the redevelopment.
"To date the town hasn't benefitted financially," Hedlund said.
In 1997, the old air base was closed, and local officials agreed on a plan to create a whole new community on the 1,400-acre site, planning 2,855 housing units, 2 million square feet of commercial space and a development corporation that was originally set to be dissolved in 2018, according to a 2013 audit by Auditor Suzanne Bump, which found a lack of expertise in the organization, inadequate accounting and significant financial deficits.
At the time of the 2013 audit, South Shore Tri-Town Development Corporation CEO Kevin Donovan told the News Service the development has 500 units of housing, and recently permitted a 72-unit apartment building, blaming the lack of growth on the recent recession.
The bill (H 4372) states that the base closure imposed an "increased fiscal burden" on Massachusetts and describes the full redevelopment of the base as "essential for the benefit of the towns of Abington, Rockland and Weymouth, the region and the commonwealth."
Starwood Land Ventures said the new agreement will achieve greater financial stability for Southfield and in the first year alone will create 400 construction jobs, 200 permanent jobs and $1.1 million in state tax revenue. Starwood, a national developer, will finance water infrastructure, which could cost more than $40 million, the company said in a fact sheet.
"Tri-town has failed for 12 years to build water and sewer, and Starwood will pay for construction until the project's tenants, offices, stores and other facilities can begin paying water and sewer fees," the fact sheet said. Also on track for completion is a parkway.
The three towns will collect property taxes, and Southfield will receive emergency services from the towns, and send school children to the local public schools. The Tri-Town Development Corporation will become the Southfield Redevelopment Authority overseeing land use, according to the deal, which emerged just before the end of formal sessions for the two-year legislative session that ends in early January.