MassDOT and the freight railroad CSX are battling the owner of a vacant parcel next to a currently dormant rail line behind the South Boston convention center over his proposal to lease out the space for construction companies to park their trucks there.
MassDOT says David Pogorelc's plans for 5 Cypher St. could mess up its own plans to revive the line, known as Track 61, to test the scores of new Red Line cars it expects to begin arriving in 2019. CSX doesn't really have anything at all to do with the old track anymore but wants to maintain its rights to one day restart freight services on it to South Boston and has taken the state's side. The line is the only surviving part of a once dense network of train tracks along the South Boston waterfront.
In September, Pogorelc sued the MBTA and CSX in land court, seeking to have their easements revoked so he use it without encumbrance to offer parking space to the construction companies remaking the waterfront.
Today, however, the zoning board refused to give him the permission he requires to turn the vacant parcel into a parking lot. The board rejected Pogorelc's request without prejudice, which means he can return once he straightens out his disputes with the state and the railroad - and the owner of a neighboring parcel, who also opposes the idea, saying it could make it harder for her to redevelop her land.
At today's zoning hearing, a MassDOT attorney said the state has an easement over part of the parcel, as well as access to the long dormant Track 61, and that the state opposes the parking idea for fear it could somehow interfere with the T's plans to upgrade the track and add a third rail for testing the new Red Line cars as they arrive.
"It's a critically important transportation and environmental project for the Commonwealth," he told the board.
Pogorelc's attorney, Joe Hanley, said Pogorelc is willing to keep trucks at least 10.5 fee away from the center line of the track, which he said would satisfy CSX's concerns. CSX's attorney rose to say it would not.
Hanley also said Pogorelc is willing to work with the neighbor to develop "a robust buffering and landscaping plan" to protect the neighboring parcel.
Hanley tried to convince the board to approve the zoning request without considering the lawsuit or other disputes, saying those were not zoning concerns, but board members weren't buying it, saying they didn't want to be in the position of "sort of getting sucked into a morass here" as one member put it.
The meeting briefly grew testy. When the state and CSX attorneys both rose during the board's deliberations to make points, board Chairwoman Christine Araujo asked: "What is happening? Am I the chair or am I just sitting here?" She then sarcastically asked the landowner's attorney, Larry DiCara, if he had anything he'd like to add. DiCara demurred.