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FAR sends letter on environmental impact to Planning Board
against high density development in the floodplain
McKinnon Company Proposal for large residential development at Alewife
(More to come.)

March 17, 2012

Dear Planning Board officials,
Honorable Mayor Henrietta Davis; Environmental Committee Chair, Minka vanBeuzekom; Vice Mayor, Denise Simmons,

Friends of Alewife Reservation and its Board of Directors wish to inform you of our growing concerns surrounding the Alewife Reservation and its development proposals from The McKinnon Company and its many Firms, and any additional Firms that the City is permitting in the area. FAR is a group that affirms the priority of 'smart growth' affordable housing development. Our focus and goals are environmental open space protection in the age of climate change, as we are in a low lying plain near the Atlantic ocean, and we have the great gift of inhabiting an urban wild as part of our municipal property on the Mystic River watershed, protected by US-EPA and by our Mystic River Watershed Association and its Mystic Steering Committee which meets regularly with state agencies about the watershed.

Our concern is with the Permits pending to the Cambridge Conservation Commission with additionally granted variances and order of conditions for Cambridge Park Drive, and previously, Discovery Park. We are concerned that all environmental regulations be highly investigated for issues related to the 100 year floodplain which is predicted to expand in coming years, and additionally, to give backing to the ultimate protection of the FEMA "floodway" which is the main stream flow body in the Alewife floodplain, now being permitted.

Discovery Park, permitted by Rich McKinnon, we feel, did not get the careful scrutiny and did not abide by requests from FEMA and the CCC .i.e. that the no-rise certification of FACES have a community response (CLOMR) attached.

FAR is a stewarding and educational organization and should not have spend much time on developments and the appropriateness of the permits. Over the years the Commissions have protected this area, and refused to permit these areas as freely as they are being done today. FAR is deeply concerned for the rare urban wild our municipality has been gifted with. This treasure of grand biodiversity of river, streams ponds and field ecology requires much care and protection. Data on these matters is last minute for public scrutiny, not accessible and almost impossible to respond to. See our following response to that challenge as well:

The City is planning a controversial new development outside the urban edge. The City should be able to demonstrate why this sprawl is necessary, and the impact it will have on transport, water supply, sewerage pipelines, schools, residents, wildlife and so on. If stakeholder input is to be constructive and taken seriously, then data should be available to make the case.

Where open data has further potential is providing citizens, business owners, NGOs and others with the tools they need to assess the situation for themselves. Seeing which business competitors have been issued with permits; understanding availability of transport, flooding potential; researching backlogs in housing and social services; quantifying traffic that runs through the Alewife residential areas.

Public data can enable people to be more effective in developing their own environmental, residential or business plans, and in responding to the plans of developers. The more accessible data is, the more effective planning can be, and ultimately the more inclusive and dynamic the city will be.

Proposal for Alewife Reservation's Cambridge Park Drive

Friends of Alewife Reservation

Bill Ackerly
Ellen Mass