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Environmental and Civic Leaders Respond to Vicious GLOBE Accusations
March 3, 2012


Posted by: Bob Sprague in MyBlog on Mar 03, 2012
Tagged in: O'Neill, NIMBY, Cambridge, Belmont, Arlington

Two letters to the editor in the March 3 Boston Globe, one by an Arlington Town Meeting member, make basic and essential points about development along Route 2 affecting Arlington:

by Brian Rehrig of Arlington

NIMBYism is easy. It requires little thought or judgment, just a mindset of "don't build anything near me, and don't bother me with facts." Paul McMorrow falls prey to its counterpart: the assumption that any opposition to a development proposal is based on nothing more than selfish, unthinking NIMBYism.

In his Feb. 28 op-ed "The NIMBY playbook," McMorrow dismisses the fight against development of the Belmont Uplands site adjoining the Alewife Reservation as snobbish opposition to affordable housing, ignoring that the opposition is led by the Belmont Conservation Commission. This is a debate about the land, not about any specific project.

For decades the land in question has been a regional priority for open-space protection because of its relationship to the Alewife Reservation; the habitat it provides in conjunction with the wetlands that surround it; and the incremental worsening, with each loss of open space in the Alewife watershed, of the flooding that plagues hundreds of Arlington and Cambridge homes at every major storm.

Many residents of surrounding communities, including me, not only oppose this particular development plan, but opposed the earlier office-park development scheme on precisely the same grounds.

by Martin Cohen of Belmont

Paul McMorrow may know something about NIMBYism, but he does not seem to understand the Belmont Uplands case. The issue has always been ecological and never NIMBY. Besides, the site is more in Cambridge's backyard than Belmont's.

I attended most of the hearings on the 40B development as an associate member of the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals. (I did not sit on this case.) The board granted the appeal because they believed that the law required them to do so, not because they approved of the project. One member would have added stricter conditions.

There has been a long history of flooding, including sewage, near this site. Note that the developer's plans call for parking garages extending below the water table, and sewage tanks for emergency use. Most of those who object to O'Neill's development are in favor of affordable housing, but the objection to any development on this site is real: flooding, pollution, and the loss of open space, including an old silver maple forest, and homes for interesting wildlife.

The problem with 40B developments such as this is that developers pack too much into an inappropriate site, sell, and leave the community with the problems they have created.