Northeastern wins court decision in plan to expand Marine Science Center on its Nahant property – News @ Northeastern


A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Northeastern regarding the proposed expansion of the University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts.

Tuesday’s ruling deals a blow to the city of Nahant and the non-profit Nahant Preservation Trust, whose three-year legal battle has sought to block research expansion and a share in university property.

The judge ruled that the property was not listed as a monument, as the city had disputed.

“Northeastern University has not dedicated the land on and east of the Murphy Bunker at East Point, Nahant, Massachusetts, to the public for ecological preserve use and passive recreation, and the public has not accepted it,” Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Karp wrote in a summary judgment filed on Tuesday.

Northeastern operates a marine science center on the coastal property acquired in 1966 and has presented plans to expand its environmental and sustainability research capabilities at the site. The university agreed to issue a conservation restriction to permanently prevent future development of approximately 8 acres of existing open space on the Nahant campus.

Instead, last May the city voted to take about 12 acres of open space from Northeastern by Eminent Domain. The move came despite an offer from the university to impose the conservation restriction on about 90% of the open space desired by the Board of Selectmen at no cost to the city.

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The Supreme Court ruling brings Northeastern a step closer in its years-long effort to expand the ocean center and advance environmental research, with a particular focus on coastal sustainability.

“It’s progress. The court has clearly upended a failed approach to stop Northeastern at all costs,” said Ken Colangelo, a Nahant resident and former member of the city’s finance committee. “Unfortunately, the city still has a legacy of litigation as sea levels rise and seniors fight for housing.”

The Nahant Board of Selectmen estimates that acquiring the land planned for the expansion will cost the city $4.5 million. However, university officials estimate that the cost of the proposed intake would be significantly higher. A separate Supreme Court complaint contesting the validity of the land grab and its valuation is also pending before Judge Karp.

The 8 hectares of open space that would be preserved is east of the Murphy Bunker, which houses several of the university’s marine research laboratories. Under the conservation restriction, the university would relinquish its existing development rights in the area east of the Murphy Bunker. Northeastern would also undertake a major environmental remediation program to eliminate invasive species and restore native biodiversity to the area. This open space borders Henry Cabot Lodge Park owned by the City of Nahant.

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The university has offered to grant the City of Nahant an easement to provide public access to Canoe Beach from the adjacent municipal parking lot. The conservation restriction and ease of access would take effect after the completed expansion of the university’s Marine Science Center.

Northeastern acquired the former East Point Military Reservation in Nahant in 1966 after the City of Nahant refused to purchase nearly 21 acres from the US Department of Defense. At that time, the abandoned fortress and surrounding areas were cleared of vegetation and left barren.

Since building the research center on the former military site, the university has improved the property’s environmental credentials, including conducting environmental research that benefits coastal communities like Nahant.

As coastal communities face increasingly complex environmental threats, the Marine Science Center has been an active partner in developing solutions that help these communities become more sustainable and resilient.

Northeast researchers in Nahant have studied flooding risks from man-made changes to rivers, engineered robotic seashells to understand the effects of rising sea temperatures, and found innovative ways to monitor plastic waste that has entered the ocean.

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The facility also houses the Ocean Genome Legacy, a repository of more than 25,000 marine DNA and tissue samples built to preserve the genetic information of species that may one day become extinct.

Now, Northeastern plans to expand the Nahant facility to provide researchers with state-of-the-art tools to enhance the impact of this critically important work.

In addition to the proposed conservation restriction and facilitating access to Canoe Beach, Northeastern previously offered the city a multimillion-dollar financial package to mitigate the impact of the Marine Science Center expansion project on city infrastructure and to repair the water and… City’s sewage system. Assisting the city with operational and capital needs.

The package also includes tuition bursaries for Nahant residents to visit Northeastern, funding for the city’s elementary school arts and music program, bursaries for local elementary and high school students to attend the center’s Coastal Ocean Science Academy summer program, paid internships in the Navy Science Center for Nahant students and free public lectures and films for residents.

In addition, the university would fund a research program to help the city develop innovative solutions to combat threats related to climate change, such as storm surges and sea-level rise.

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