Mugar site, Google EarthMugar: Most of it is the triangular tract west of Thorndike Field. / Google Earth

UPDATED Feb. 15: The town Conservation Commission has scheduled its sixth hearing about issues related to Thorndike Place, a residential complex proposed for East Arlington’s Mugar wetlands, which town officials have opposed since 2015.

The hearing is set for 7 tonight, Thursday, Feb. 15, via Zoom. Those interested in listening in may register here >> and see the agenda here >>

The forested, 17-acre habitat near Dorothy Road drew comments from Select Board member Steve DeCourcey at the Feb. 5 Select Board meeting. What he called an interesting development had occurred at the Feb. 1 Concom meeting. Arlington Land Trust, an environmental group, had engaged a hydrologist [Scott W. Horsley] to look at the test pit and groundwater results.

Stormwater management 'will not work as designed'

The report from Horsely, a water-resources consultant in Boston, stated: “The proposed stormwater management system will not work as designed, and may result in increased groundwater levels and surface flooding.”

DeCourcey said: “We’ve been looking at this issue since 2015, and have opposed [it] uniformly as a community due to flooding and other concerns in the area. One of the issues that has recently come up are the seven or eight test pits, and the reliability of the measurements in those test pits has now been put into question more formally since the submission of this report.”

Horsley indicated that more monitoring wells should be installed to provide a longer measurement period, DeCourcey said, adding that it is consistent with the Select Board’s position. If the project is ever able to be approved, he said, every single criterion and test must be met.

Doubt could block permit

If there’s doubt as to whether it’s a test pit or a monitoring one, a building permit won’t be issued unless there’s a demonstration of a separation in the groundwater level and the lower foundation, whether it’s parking garages or townhouses, added DeCourcey. 

“This report is a major development. The water levels are something that everyone should agree on, and more testing is probably necessary,” he said.

The site of the proposed Thorndike Place is on East Arlington’s Mugar wetlands. No structures are on the private property, and no one officially lives there, though homeless people are known to gather there and leave items behind. Arlington Land Realty, the developer, has spent $100,000 to aid the homeless, a representative said last fall.

Since 2015, the Select Board has opposed this development because of the already flood-prone existing adjacent neighborhood.

Feb. 1 background

The Coalition to Save Mugar Wetlands provides background about the Feb. 1 Concom meeting here >>

Dec. 5, 2023: Conservation Commission selects peer reviewers for Thorndike Place housing development

This news summary by YourArlington founder Bob Sprague and freelance writer Susan Gilbert was published Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. It was updated Feb. 15, to correct the reference before quotations from Horsley; they do not come from a report by Hatch Associates.