Institutional Master Plan Notification Form
In the City of Boston, hospitals, colleges and universities are required to submit to the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) an Institutional Master Plan (IMP) for review by the city and public which includes information about existing campus buildings, patients and staff, community benefit programs, parking management and sustainability programs, and proposed projects. The IMP has a set term, and updates are required to be submitted to the BPDA on a regular basis (typically every two years). To initiate review of an institution’s IMP, the institution must submit an Institutional Master Plan Notification Form (IMPNF) to the BPDA—Massachusetts General Hospital submitted its IMPNF to the BPDA on February 20, 2019. Following a 30-day comment period which included numerous public meetings, the BPDA issued a Scoping Determination outlining the scope of the IMP. Mass General prepared and submitted its IMP on April 23, 2021, which was followed by a 75-day comment period and multiple public meetings. Following the comment period closure, additional meetings with the city and public were held to solicit feedback on the IMP. The IMP—which has a term of 10 years—was approved on October 14, 2021, by the BPDA Board, and on November 17, 2021, by the Boston Zoning Commission.
Large Project Review
Large projects in Boston are required to be reviewed through the BPDA’s Development Review process. For institutions, the Development Review process (referred to as Large Project Review) is typically completed in parallel with IMP review. Large Project Review includes the review of a project’s design and approach to sustainability, as well as impacts such as transportation, wind, shadow, air quality, noise, utility infrastructure, stormwater management, and historic resources. Mass General initiated Large Project Review through submission of a Project Notification Form jointly with the IMPNF on February 20, 2019, which was followed by a comment period and public process that included several public meetings. A Draft Project Impact Report which provides details regarding project design and impacts was prepared based on the Scoping Determination issued by the BPDA on April 19, 2019 and submitted for review to the BPDA on April 23, 2021. A comment period was held which included additional public meetings. Following the comment period, further meetings were held with the City and public to discuss the project. The BPDA Board approved the project on October 14, 2021, concurrently with the approval of the IMP. Following BPDA Board approval, additional reviews are required by the BPDA, including design review, as well as supplemental permitting efforts to obtain a building permit, including approvals by the Public Improvement Commission, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, etc. In addition, due to the age of the buildings on the project site, review by the Boston Landmarks Commission was required to approve the demolition of such buildings.
Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Review
Review under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) is required when following two conditions are met:
- A project is within MEPA jurisdiction
- A MEPA review threshold is exceeded
MEPA jurisdiction is established when there is a state action (permit, state financial assistance, or land transfer from a state agency). Since the project was required to obtain a Determination of Need from the Department of Public Health and the project exceeded at least one MEPA review threshold for transportation, MEPA review was required. Review under MEPA is a disclosure process rather than an approval; proponents must describe the project and its impacts, and use “all feasible means to avoid Damage to the Environment or, to the extent Damage to the Environment cannot be avoided, to minimize and mitigate Damage to the Environment to the maximum extent practicable.” MEPA review includes review of alternatives, transportation, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, air quality, stormwater management, wastewater and water infrastructure, cultural resources, solid and hazardous waste, and construction. MEPA review is initiated through the submission of an Environmental Notification Form with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), which occurred on February 20, 2019, and is followed by a comment period and public meeting. The Secretary of EEA issued a Certificate on May 24, 2019, which requested information to be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Report, which was submitted to EEA on April 23, 2021, (jointly with the Draft Project Impact Report submitted to the BPDA) and was followed by another comment period. The Secretary of EEA issued a Certificate on June 16, 2021, which requested information to be included in a Final Environmental Impact Report. The Final Environmental Impact Report was submitted to EEA on October 8, 2021, followed by a comment period, and the final Certificate issued by the Secretary of EEA on November 15, 2021, determined that the Final Environmental Impact Report adequately and properly complied with MEPA and Mass General was allowed to proceed to state permitting for the project.