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Alternative Site to the Uplands








March 8, 2004



Will Brownsberger, Chair

Paul Solomon

Anne Marie Mahoney

Board of Selectmen

Belmont Town Hall

455 Concord Avenue

Belmont, MA  02478


Re:      Alternative Site to the Uplands


Dear Will, Paul, and Anne Marie:


We support housing development that includes substantial portions of senior and affordable housing.  We also support preserving the Uplands.


How does one reconcile these two contradictory positions?


The answer is to preserve the Uplands by moving the housing to the old MDC skating rink site adjacent to the Uplands and reconfigure the Lake Street ramps (referenced as the “Alternative Location” or “Alternative Proposal”).


The type, size, and location of the development are important public policy issues for the Town. They will have long term consequences. 


The Planning Board meets next on March 30th to consider the zoning changes requested by O’Neill Properties, LLP (“O’Neill”) for the Uplands site.  The Planning Board has indicated that, if there is a substantial change to the proposed project, it will notice a further public hearing for input from public officials, representatives of O’Neill, and members of the public.  All parties agree that it is important to work expeditiously to resolve outstanding issues.


We recommend that the Board of Selectmen request the Planning Board, working with O’Neill, to examine the feasibility of the Alternative Location. 


With regards to the Alternative Location, we have examined certain of the feasibility issues and have solved them on a preliminary basis.




(1)               Access


We have adopted O’Neill’s access scheme for the commercial development.  As shown on Architect David Johnson’s plan entitled “Alternative Proposal” attached, the eastbound access lane begins closer to Lake Street and connects directly to Acorn Park Drive.  This eliminates the need for eastbound traffic entering the old ADL property from using the Pleasant Street exit.  To enter the Alternative Location, drivers would decelerate along the new eastbound access ramp and turn right on a relocated Service Road.  Drivers could then enter the driveway to the proposed garage or proceed to Lake Street.


            (2)        Size


            The commercial development contains approximately 242,500 sq. ft.  The Alternative Proposal Plan shows a 240,000 sq. ft. development with four stories and 150 units.  If deemed necessary, parking space for up to 300 cars are provided.


            On the Uplands, O’Neill is currently proposing 250 residential units with a gross floor area of 400,000 sq. ft.  Under the Alternative Proposal, 150 residential units are proposed with a gross floor area of 240,000 sq. ft.  This amounts to a 40% reduction in number of units and a corresponding 40% reduction in gross floor area.


            While we have not had the opportunity to review design drawing elevations of the Uplands proposed, it appears that the Alternative Proposal based on number of floors, ceiling height and land elevation would be approximately 25 feet lower than the Uplands proposal.


            (3)        Type of Housing


            We recommend consideration of a 50% ratio of senior housing within the Alternative Proposal.


(4)        Environment


            The old skating rink and Service Road site contain concrete footings, slabs, pavement, and rubble.  Building on an already developed site means that the natural Uplands site can remain “as is” with bird nesting and other wildlife habitat and natural water infiltration preserved.  This meets the State’s “Redevelop First” and “Conserve Natural Resources” smart growth principles.  Direct impacts to the wetland buffers are avoided.  With the addition of the Uplands to the Alewife Reservation, walking trails and nature observation and education will be enhanced for Belmont residents.


B.                 OTHER ADVANTAGES


(1)               State Support


Katherine Abbott, Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (successor to the MDC) supports the land “swap,” in order to preserve the Uplands and have the Uplands added to the Alewife Reservation and is prepared to request that the old rink site be declared surplus.


            (2)        Cambridge


            The Cambridge City Council Environmental Committee supports preservation of the Uplands.  From a flooding standpoint, Cambridge is interested in retaining the Uplands infiltration capacity.  For these reasons, we would expect Cambridge to allow the connection of the proposed housing at the Alternative Location to Cambridge’s sewer system.


            (3)        We will be asking the Representatives and Senators whose districts would be affected by the Alternative Proposal to support the necessary authorizing legislation.


            (4)        Town Meeting Support


            The Conservation Commission has voted to support preservation of the Uplands.  So did the original Alewife Study Group.  The Belmont Housing Trust favors the affordable housing component and does not take a position on where the housing should be located. 


We anticipate support from the Town Meeting Members who have environmental concerns, those who desire less size and profile for the development, those who desire senior, affordable, and market rate housing, and those who also desire net positive revenues for the Town.




            The Board of Assessors is currently examining the respective valuations and tax revenue numbers related to the different development proposals.




            For the above reasons, we hope that you agree that relocating the housing to an already built-on site is desirable and that the Town should strive to accomplish this goal.



            We request that you ask the Planning Board to evaluate this option as soon as practicable.



                                                                        Sincerely yours,




                                                                                    Fred Paulsen

                                                                                    Carolyn Bishop

                                                                                    Darrell King

                                                                                    Kit Dreier

                                                                                    Martin Duffy

                                                                                    James Graves

                                                                                    David Johnson

                                                                                    Martha Moore

                                                                                    Barbara Passero

                                                                                    Roger Wrubel




cc:        Melvin A. Kleckner, Town Administrator