Coalition to Save Mugar Wetlands, March 24: MassHousing finds applicant’s proposed changes not substantial

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019
Revised proposal 'not what Mass Housing had approved.'
-- Town Counsel Heim

UPDATED, March 25: The Select Board has expressed concern in a March 16 letter to MassHousing that recent substantial changes in the long-stalled Mugar project could affect its eligibility to be built. Read the letter here >> 

The board's letter responds to one dated March 8 from Arlington Land Realty, the applicant for Thorndike Place.

The applicant’s letter describes proposed revisions to the East Arlington project. 

“The revised proposal before Arlington’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) alters many aspects of the project, and is not what MassHousing had approved for project eligibility, Town Counsel Doug Heim told the board Monday, March 15. “This is our opportunity to comment on the revised proposal’s project eligibility only,” he explained.

15 days to respond

“We’re revoking eligibility, or the project needs to be redesigned that is within eligibility,” he said. “If MassHousing decides it’s not within the scope of eligibility, the applicant would have to either dramatically revise their proposal, or start from scratch.”

MassHousing has 15 days to respond to the applicant’s March 8 notice of project revision. 

“At this point, there’s nothing more for the Select Board to do. They’ve done everything within its jurisdiction,” added Heim.

Heim further explained that the ZBA, which has the authority to approve this project, now has three options:

  • Approve the revised proposal as is.
  • Approve the revised proposal with additional conditions. If the applicant doesn’t agree to these conditions, the Select Board must support the ZBA’s decision and back it with resources and litigation.
  • Deny the revised proposal. The matter would then go to the state’s Housing Appeals Committee (HAC). There would be some litigation on the basis of the denial, and the HAC could appeal. 

The ZBA's hearing on the comprehensive permit, ongoing since September, resumes March 30.

Select Board letter

The board’s letter states that the revised changes are inconsistent with MassHousing’s previous findings, on which they based their approval. 

Most significant is the removal of six townhouses that would serve as a transitional zone to the adjacent neighborhood. The townhouses were of similar height, scale and spacing as the homes along nearby Dorothy Road, and provided a necessary buffer to the proposed apartment building. This four-story building has no compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood, and is now closer to Dorothy Road than originally planned.

“Our letter is very clear that the removal of the townhouses, and having just an enclosed building, is inappropriate for the neighborhood, and the egress is insufficient for the number of units. I hope this letter is well heeded,” said board member Dan Dunn.

Trash issues

Board member Steve DeCourcey discussed trash at Thorndike Field. “Many neighbors have emailed me and the town manager their concerns about the trash .... In January, we discussed this issue with Mugar [owners of the property], and on Feb. 8 we sent a letter, to which we never received a response.”

Board Chair John Hurd said, “The Somerville Homeless Coalition is cleaning up the trash, but it’s still there.”

DeCourcey added: “At a ZBA meeting, when we asked the developer's attorney about maintaining their property, the attorney couldn’t answer. It’s time to start talking about the next steps, including the trash issue. We’ll ask the town manager to start implementing plans, either administratively or to come back to the board.”

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine replied, “We’ll follow up with the next steps, with or without Mugar to clean up the property.” 

See the ACMi video of the March 15 meeting:

Coalition to Save Mugar Wetlands, March 17: The Size and Scope of the Proposed Thorndike Place Project

Erin Freeburger provided these slides >>

March 1, 2021: Del’s lemonade, preservation fixes OK'd


This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Saturday, March 20, 2021, and updated March 25, to add a link.