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Belmont Uplands Appeal To Prevent Destruction to the Mystic River Watershed and the Silver Maple Forest and its Surroundings
From FAR and Uplands Alternative Group
(added to website September 27, 2006)
Ellen Mass - Friends of Alewife Reservation
Despite the increased outpouring of environmental preservation activity throughout the world that followed the showing of the global warming film of Al Gore, "An Inconvenient Truth", Uplands conservation progress remains minimal. However, there is one hopeful legal legislative action concerning the Uplands which would require an environmental impact study from developers, and MEPA overview (state environmental review process).
A pending Senate Bill (1909) is soon to come before the Governor, which could delay the Belmont Uplands development project, and conserve this unique river floodplain forest of 15 acres, including the wetlands and substantial marsh area that holds the rare urban wild of Belmont, Cambridge and Arlington together, and prevents further pollution of the upper Mystic River watershed, composed of 6 towns, 2 cities, and the Boston Harbor.
Over the summer, Belmont Little Pond neighbors held a few meetings which expressed strong opposition to the 40 B housing project, with advice from John Belskis of the 40B Coaltion made up of many towns throughout the state, to call regulatory attention to inappropriate development. Flyers were distributed throughout the Belmont watershed area with warnings of serious residential water and traffic impact. There is no attorney on the scene yet to appeal what is likely to be zoning board permission for O'Neill Properties of Pennsylvania to move ahead with clear cutting the forest for a 300 unit complex which include around 70 or less at low cost.
Senate Bill 1909 authored by Senator Robert Havern of Arlington, now has the bill for last minute touché, and should be forwarding it to the Governor for a 10 day scrutiny before becoming law. The Bill should require Brian O'Neill and backers, and other developers to consult the state study of traffic, hydrology and environmental impact, and to comply before permits are considered.
This study, long requested by state and agencies, Mystic River Watershed Association, FAR and local residents, and the Coalition for Alewife, would give respect to the watershed by examining the flood plain requirements and the impact of proposed development to the communities and green space. To date, the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Master Plan of 2003 has delineated the entire area as an important flood plain targeted by the state, to enhance i.e. restore natural ecosystems and store water for retention, as well as for recharge to the little river. The Plan provides for recreation for people that cannot travel long distances for their open spaces.
Although the Office of Commonwealth Development does not oppose any development, it was created to oversee strict state environmental standards. Towards this end, individuals and groups are asking the the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals to include an legal obligation for O’Neill to undergo a Mass. Environmental Policy Analysts Review because of the many changes he has made in his original proposal. This is law, and the process must be carefully scrutinized by grass roots organizations, and the Belmont Uplands Advisory Committee appointed by the town.
Positive signs on this watershed include 4 acres of green space to be returned to open space by the Bulfinch Co; and the Muskrat Marsh restoration is on hold by the state, because of the Uplands development plan. These plans will be greatly diminished by a large complex in the core buffer of the Alewife Reservation and the vast amount (in a city area) of contiguous habitat area for birds and mammals.
If the forest is removed, other developments will quickly be launched throughout our state-owned open spaces in the same Uplands western corridor from Boston. There are three such proposals along Route 2, and two along Concord Ave. This deplorable wetland abuse scenario gives little solace for conservation of the last vestige of our historical 130 acre "great swamp," which includes a refuge for dense wildlife and conservation land. At present Alewife continues to gift us with the critical lessons we will need to protect ourselves and our planet in the future. The last opportunity for the public to ask for more environmental study may be October 4th at the zoning board meeting, a forum where developers have determined the agendas.