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Thumbs Down on Life of Silver Maple Forest
Ellen Mass- Cambridge and Stanley Dzierzeski- Belmont
added to website March 22, 2010
Silver Maple Forest Decision Disputed
Ellen Mass- Cambridge
Stanley Dzierzeski- Belmont
Almost one year after the adjudicatory hearing on the Belmont Uplands (silver maple forest) case concluded, the Presiding Officer issued a decision March 22, recommending that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner approve O'Neill Property's proposed construction of a 300 unit housing project on the Belmont Uplands that would destroy the silver maple forest and significant wildlife habitat. The development would also increase flooding and pollution in the Winn Brook and Alewife area, an area recently flooded with at least a 100 year flood this past month.
The 4 day hearing proceedings originated with the town decision of the Belmont Conservation Commission (BCC) in 2008, denying the large development project because it found the building design and size to violate the interests protected by the Wetlands Protection Act (WPA). O'Neill Properties Inc. appealed to the DEP regional office against the town of Belmont, which had requested that the Firm revise plans and detail additional information; but instead, DEP issued a Superceding Order of Conditions (SOC), allowing the project to go forward. The Belmont Conservation Commission did appeal on WPA grounds and requested an adjudicatory hearing. The Coalition to Preserve the Belmont Uplands and Winn Brook Neighborhood together with the Friends of Alewife Reservation were allowed to participate as Interveners.
At the four-day hearing, the BCC and the Interveners called several expert witnesses who gave testimony on adverse impacts the project will have on the regional wetland and wildlife requirements. However, in a 40-page decision, the Presiding Officer did not consider the principal issues raised by BCC and the Interveners on which their scientists and engineers had testified. Instead, the Judge credited only the testimony of all of the developer's witnesses and the conclusions reached by the DEP official who issued the SOC.
Our attorneys advise that an appeal to Superior Court has a good chance of success because the decision is not supported by substantial evidence, is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise is contrary to the laws that are designed to protect the public interests. We expect that proceedings in the Superior Court will begin in about two months.