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Cambridge councilors vote to help save Silver Maple Forest
By Jillian Fennimore/Chronicle staff
Original March 4, 2009 Cambridge Chronicle article
Cambridge - The decision of whether or not to bulldoze more than 15 acres of the Alewife Reservation may lie in the hands of Belmont officials, but Cambridge environmentalists say knocking down the Silver Maple Forest will greatly impact their city's ecosystem.
Not to mention the dozens of urban wildlife, plant species, and wetlands.
"This forest is important to the ecosystem," said Lesley Phillips, a Democratic State Committee member from Cambridge. "We need to make sure it is not destroyed." The undeveloped, privately-owned land - also known as the Belmont Uplands - is currently being eyed for a Chapter 40B affordable housing development. Belmont's Zoning Board approved the permits needed to move forward, but the town's Conservation Commission denied the developer's request for permits based on the proposal's design and reported wildlife/wetlands destruction. The decision is still in legal proceedings between all parties, including the state's Department of Environmental Protection.
On Monday night, city councilors – who have passed orders to preserve the watershed woodlands on numerous occasions in the past – unanimously voted on a resolution to prevent the approval of any permits needed from Cambridge to push the project further.
Close to three acres of the Silver Maple Forest is located in Cambridge, and under the current building proposal, storm water sewer connections to 299 units would result in significant floods and groundwater issues to nearby neighborhoods like Belmont, Cambridge and Arlington.
"This Belmont project would need to tie into Cambridge," said Councilor Craig Kelley about the city's sewer system. "But the issues are much bigger than just the easement." The council ordered that Cambridge's Conservation Commission meet with Belmont's commission before any final decisions are made.