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Council Votes to Seek Air Rights for High School Project in Lowell

February 6, 2019

LOWELL -- No, it’s not another Article 97 home-rule petition for the dead Cawley Stadium high school project.

Instead of a home-rule petition for conservation restrictions to be lifted on fields near Cawley Stadium, the city is seeking special legislation to secure air rights for the downtown high school project.

The City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday evening to approve the filing of Article 97 special legislation for the downtown high school project, authorizing the city to petition the state Legislature to ratify legislation.

City Manager Eileen Donoghue asked the City Council to approve the filing of this legislation, which would secure necessary air rights over Lucy Larcom Park and the Merrimack Canal to build new bridges.

The plans for the renovated Lowell High School call for the relocation and replacement of two pedestrian bridges that currently connect the 1922 High School Building with the Lord Building -- extending over the Merrimack Canal and Lucy Larcom Park.

In order to relocate and/or replace these bridges, the city needs to secure certain air rights over the canal and park. As land preserved for conservation and recreational purposes, securing air rights over the park and canal requires the passage of special legislation under Article 97 of the state constitution.

Lucy Larcom Park is greenspace used for park, open space and recreational purposes. No land from Lucy Larcom Park would be altered for the construction of the new pedestrian bridges, according to officials.

City Councilors Rodney Elliott and Rita Mercier have opposed certain steps for the downtown high school project, including eminent domain votes.

However, they voted with the rest of the council on Tuesday. Elliott after the meeting pointed out that he voted for Article 97 for the Cawley project.

“The voters spoke and you have to move forward,” Elliott said. “It’s important to move this forward.”

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun

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