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Letter: Paving paradise to put up a 40B?
By Sally Alcorn, Town Meeting member, Precinct 2
Letter, February 9, 2006 Belmont Citizen-Herald

The 40B apartment complex for the Belmont Uplands proposed by O'Neill Properties is at a critical stage. Located just off Route 2, a mile from the Alewife MBTA station, the O'Neill parcel includes a rare, 15-acre silver maple forest. If approved by the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals, O'Neill's plan to develop 299 affordable housing apartments will include the destruction of most of this rare forest and the numerous bird, animal and plant species that thrive there. Although it is called the "Uplands," the parcel is barely above the surrounding lowlands and wetlands, and helps retain and purify water runoff in the tri-city area of Belmont, Arlington, and Cambridge beside the Alewife Reservation.

Despite consistent opposition to O'Neill's plans by the Uplands Advisory Committee (the panel of experts appointed by the Belmont selectmen two years ago to study the impact of developing the Uplands), O'Neill has so far refused to consider any land swaps or "smart growth" alternatives that would save most of this wild area.

At this critical stage, the Belmont selectmen and the ZBA should appeal to Gov. Mitt Romney to intervene in order to conserve the Uplands as one of the last remaining parcels of open land of Belmont. They might ask the governor if he really wants to see news coverage of O'Neill's bulldozers razing this last remnant wilderness of a rare silver maple forest in his hometown as he runs for national office.

As a final suggestion: Belmont should consider purchasing the land from O'Neill. Lately, the town has increased property taxes to pay for major public projects like refurbishing the Town Hall and building two new fire stations and a large senior center. Town leaders should use their persuasive powers and borrowing muscle to move to save for future generations this last piece of wilderness - something that is irreplaceable and far more precious and enduring than any bricks and mortar project.

Sally Alcorn
Town Meeting member,
Precinct 2