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Belmonters Ask for Buffer Protection and Rezoning Planning

Still in desperate need of attention:

Wetland-Upland Habitat Issues Need Attention
Alewife Reservation Core Habitat Needs Attention
Rare Forest Needs Attention
Water Retention for Flooding Needs Attention

See website for reports on the above


October 14, 2003

 

Will Brownsberger

Paul Solomon

Anne Marie Mahoney

Belmont Town Hall

C/O Mel Kleckner

 

Dear Will, Anne Marie, and Paul,

 

Belmont Uplands:† Conservation Commission Review and Buffer Zones

 

This request concerning the Uplands is based on the following background:

 

         The developer of the Uplands, after advising the citizens of Belmont that a commercial development was in the townís best interest, has now decided to change course and has requested that Belmont change the zoning from commercial to allow high density residential development.

         Specifically, OíNeill Properties has asked for 400,000 square feet of development (and this figure does not include out buildings, outdoor decks and other structures) versus the previously approved 245,000 square feet of commercial development.† This is an increase in square footage of 155,000 square feet, an increase of more than 60%.

         The proposed development comes right to the edge of the wetlands.† The encircling 18-foot wide roadway and the six prongs of the proposed building stretch right to the edge of the wetlands border and therefore eliminate the protection of wetland and stream resource areas that the 100 foot buffer is supposed to provide pursuant to the State Wetlands Regulations.† This includes the wildlife habitat, which buffer zones are supposed to protect.

         The Biodiversity Study of Alewife Reservation Area incorporates surveys funded by the Riverways Program of the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, wildlife, and Environmental Law Enforcement.† These surveys document the large number of species living in the Alewife Area.† The survey area includes both the uplands site and the wetlands adjacent to the proposed Uplands Housing Development.† The authors of the Biodiversity Study of Alewife Area include:

o        Charles Katuska, a certified Professional Wetlands Scientist, who has a Masters of Forest Science from Yale University

o        David Morimoto, Ph.D., Program Director, Lesley Universityís Natural Sciences and Mathematics Department

o        Peter Alden, author of 14 nature books including the National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England.

         †The Biodiversity Study provides documentation for:

o        Nineteen species that have been identified as specifically requiring both wetlands and uplands habitat for their survival. †

o        Over 80 different species of birds including great blue heron, pheasants, hawks, owls and woodcocks which breed, migrate, winter or visit the Alwife Reservation and adjacent areas.†

o        Sixteen wild mammal species including beaver, muskrat, weasel, fox and mink.

o        The flora including the uplands silver maples, which constitute a rare forest in this region.

 

         The uplands site is surrounded by wetlands on three sides and on the fourth side as well, since the property on the other side of Acorn Park Drive also contains wetlands.

         Both FEMA and the DCR (formerly the MDC) are in the process of updating the 100-year flood plain.† The existing 100-year flood plain includes Acorn Park Drive, which itself has been seriously flooded 3 times within the past 50 years alone.

         In brief, this is a highly fragile ecosystem which will be severely affected by the proposed development.

         In their review of OíNeill Propertiesí recent Notice of Intent for their commercial development, the Conservation Commission formally rejected the Notice of Intent on the basis that OíNeill failed to provide the specific location of roadways, utilities, and sewer lines in the context of wetland and stream resource areas.† The roadways, sewer lines, and utilities may have adverse impacts on wetland resource areas.

         Because OíNeill has appealed the Conservation Commissionís decision to DEP, the efforts of the Conservation Commission are being directed toward that appeal.

         Now that OíNeill has changed its proposal from commercial to residential, it is logical for the Conservation Commission to have the opportunity to review a new submission from OíNeill covering the proposed residential project, and the Conservation Commission should be given sufficient time to complete that review.

         Given the close proximity of the housing development and related construction activity to the wetland resource area, it is important to allow the Conservation Commission to carry out its review responsibilities under the State Wetlands Regulations.† Otherwise the only opportunity for the Conservation Commissionís review will be after all of the zoning and memorandums of agreement have been finalized and presented to Town Meeting.

         Belmontís Vision 21 statement adopted by Town Meeting, April 23, 2001 contains these statements:

o        We protect the beauty and character of our natural settings.

o        We will be an environmentally responsible community and conserve our natural habitats.

 

In view of this background, the undersigned request two actions by the Board of Selectmen:

 

(1)†††††††††† Request an informal review of the complete residential development plan by the Conservation Commission, at public meetings to be held at convenient times, prior to your completion of the memorandum of agreement and prior to any presentation of the Uplands residential proposal to Town Meeting, so that the Conservation Commissionís recommendations can be considered as part of the Town Meeting deliberations on the zoning bylaw amendment and the memorandum of agreement.

 

(2)†††††††††† Following the review and report by the Conservation Commission, consider including language, in both any proposed memorandum of agreement and proposed zoning bylaw amendment for the residential development, to require (a) a 100 foot buffer zone with strict limits on intrusion by any and all forms of development, including, but not limited to, roadways, structures, and impervious surfaces and (b) other mitigation measures in order to enhance the Alewife Reservation and preserve wildlife habitat.

 

Moreover, because the Board of Selectmen has an independent responsibility to make sure that the development in the Town is environmentally appropriate to the site, this allows the Board to look beyond the confines of the Conservation Commissionís mandate under the Wetlands Protection Act.† We urge that the Board build on the Conservation Commissionís report and expand the conservation safeguards (as set forth in paragraph 2 above) in the memorandum of agreement and in the proposed zoning bylaws.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Michael Baram
Sue Bass
Rosemary Chase

Steven Covert

Mark D'Andrea

John Dieckmann

Jim Graves

Darrell King
Evanthia Malliris†
Judy McSwain

Grant Monahon

Martha Moore

Barbara Passero

Fred Paulsen
Tom Shapiro

Heli Tomford