New Bedford State Reps Caution Mayor Over Draft Lawsuit
NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford's lawmakers on Beacon Hill are cautioning city mayor Jon Mitchell about a draft lawsuit sent to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority about land takings for the South Coast Rail project.
A release from State Representatives Chris Hendricks, Bill Straus, Chris Markey, and Paul Schmid — who represent parts of New Bedford and surrounding towns — states that they are "concerned" about Mitchell's "threatened legal action...against the MBTA."
New Bedford officials had drafted a lawsuit against the transit agency claiming that the T was not fairly compensating them for city-owned land seized through eminent domain, according to a report from the Boston Globe.
But City Solicitor Eric Jaikes said that last year, a Superior Court jury found that the MBTA did not adequately compensate the owner of a Church Street property for land takings — one of four such lawsuits recently filed against the agency.
The mayor believes New Bedford taxpayers "should be fairly compensated" for the city's land, Jaikes noted.
However, in their May 2 statement, the state representatives said the city's draft lawsuit "is nothing like" the others, which take issue with the price paid for the land.
Instead, the complaint challenges the MBTA's legal basis for taking ownership of the property, the legislators state — calling into question whether the project can continue as planned.
The land in question is near the Whale's Tooth parking lot, where the new South Coast Rail New Bedford terminus is currently under construction.
"We express our opposition to any approach by the City of New Bedford which could risk the timely completion of this project and public use of the coming train station," the lawmakers state.
"Alleging that the MBTA does not have the authority for the taking to begin would possibly delay the completion of the downtown station and potentially throw a wrench in the Southcoast Rail project as a whole," the statement continues.
"As such, we wholeheartedly disagree with the City making that assertion. We do not see how this aggressive approach fosters the continuing working relationships the City and the legislative delegation need to work on this or other projects benefitting our region."