Published on May 1, 2017

Help Prevent Development on Habitat’s Border

There has been a proposal to build a subdivision on a property next to Habitat Education Center that, if approved, will have an adverse effect on the sanctuary and the wildlife that call it home.

May 1

The proposal for a new road at 178 Marsh Street was withdrawn by the landowner. 

Your support in signing the petition and communicating with the Board of Selectmen was invaluable in convincing the proponent that the requested waivers of Belmont’s Rules and Regulations governing new roads would not the granted.

However, the proponent can restart the process at any time by submitting a new proposal, so continue to watch this space for updates.

Read previous updates >


The Sanctuary Needs Your Help

Check this page regularly for updates and ways you can take action to help prevent the destruction of important wildlife habitat in Belmont.

As you walk the Border Trail from Highland Farm toward Turtle Pond and the Belmont Hill School, some of the land to your left belongs to Habitat Education Center, but much of it is private property owned by Marsh Street residents. The landowner at 178 Marsh Street has proposed a six-lot subdivision with the construction of a new road, measuring 751 feet long, a cul-de-sac, and five additional homes (Figure 2).

If allowed, this development will adversely affect the sanctuary (Figure 1) by damaging the wildlife habitat and lessening the sense of isolation that makes it a refuge for wildlife and people. We'll be posting regular updates about the project on this page as they occur, as well as information on how you can help prevent the destruction of important wildlife habitat in Belmont. If you have any questions please contact Sanctuary Director Roger Wrubel by email or by phone (617-489-5050).

Click on image to enlarge.   Click on image to enlarge.
     
 
 Figure 1: Location of 178 Marsh Street in relation to Habitat Education Center (red dashed line indicates shared border)   Figure 2: Proposed development at 178 Marsh Street showing Habitat property and wetlands
     

Updates

Listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent news listed first.

March 28

A huge number of Habitat supporters and opponents of the proposed development at 178 Marsh Street turned out for the Board of Survey hearing held in Belmont last night. People filled the chairs, walls and floors and spilled out of the room into the waiting room!

The developer presented some new details of his plan for an 800 foot road ending in a cul-de-sac, with five new houses, two of which are within 125 feet of Habitat and in the wetland buffer zone. He then presented a by-right plan showing he could construct three houses with the 600 foot road allowed by regulation. 

Many people spoke, mostly against the project and its negative impact on Habitat and Belmont. Some people spoke on behalf of the developer, who was born and raised his family in Belmont. One commenter was able to clearly explain that the 5-house development would result in tons of fill being trucked to the site because all the built areas, approximately 3.5 acres, would need to be raised 5-12 feet above the current grade.

One Board of Survey member stated he was ready to vote against the waiver for street length.

He commented on the effect that the outpouring of public opposition to the project—by letter, petition, and attendance at the hearings—had on him. The other two members requested and received a continuance until Monday, April 3, to consider the “new information” presented at the hearing.

Your efforts are paying off—keep it up!

Our voices are getting through, but we're not in the clear yet. You can help by continuing to write letters to the Belmont Board of Selectmen and collect petition names.

In addition, we urge you to attend the next meeting on April 3—your presence will do a great deal to convince the remaining two Board members that most of the people of Belmont oppose granting waivers of the town’s regulations for this project.

March 23, 2017

The Belmont Selectmen, who act as the town’s Board of Survey and are tasked with approving new roads, will be conducting a public hearing on Monday, March 27, at 7:30 pm in Town Hall.

The landowner has proposed construction of a new road, 800 feet long, with a cul-de-sac and 5 additional homes. The plan requires waiver of several of Belmont’s rules governing new roads; particularly a limit of 600 feet for dead-end streets.

We are asking the Board of Survey not to grant any waivers, which would allow more intense development, and only allow development that conforms to the town’s stated regulations.

Take Action: Please consider joining us at the March 27 meeting. If you can't attend the meeting or want to take additional action, we encourage you to write to the Belmont Board of Selectmen to let them know you oppose granting any waivers for this project.

March 8, 2017

The Belmont Board of Survey held their hearing on March 6. All three Board members were in attendance as well as town counsel and Glenn Clancy, Director of the Office of Community Development. After almost two hours of presentations and questions, the Board continued the hearing until March 27. The developer's team presented their plan and the requested waivers. Mr. Williams and Mr. Paolillo had questions while Mr. Baghdady had none.

Habitat Sanctuary Director Roger Wrubel presented Mass Audubon's opposition to the developer's plan, arguing that there are many reasons to deny the waivers—particularly in regards to the waiver that would extend the road length to allow more houses—because the public interest is served by less intense development of the site. Roger also presented petitions with 233 Belmont resident signatures, all urging the Board not to grant waivers that allow more intense development of the site. The lawyer representing Mass Audubon, Jack McElhinney, spoke about the legal authority of the Board to deny waivers, arguing the need for the Board to make an explicit finding to prove that granting waivers was in the public interest.

About a dozen residents spoke in favor of denying the waivers. Mr. Chiofaro’s sister spoke in favor of the project, citing the town’s need for more property tax revenue. It was hard to read the Board members. Some residents who spoke with Roger after the meeting were worried the Board would not deny the waivers.

A good turnout at the next meeting is essential. In addition, the petition is still available for signing at Habitat, and Roger can supply blank petitions for anyone who would like to gather signatures on their own.

February 28, 2017

The Belmont Board of Survey will be holding a hearing on the proposed road at 178 Marsh Street on Monday, March 6, at 7:00 pm in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room in Town Hall.

The landowner has proposed construction of a new road, 751 feet long, with a cul-de-sac and 5 additional homes. The plan requires waiver of several of Belmont’s rules governing new roads; particularly a limit of 600 feet for dead-end streets. We are asking the Board of Survey not to grant any waivers, which would allow more intense development, and only allow development that conforms to the town’s stated regulations.

Take Action: Please consider attending this meeting and/or writing to selectmen@belmont-ma.gov to let them know you oppose granting any waivers for this project that allow more intense development.

October 25, 2016

In a letter dated October 21, 2016, the landowner at 178 Marsh Street requested that their proposal for a new road (Sleepy Hollow Road) be withdrawn by Belmont’s Board of Survey. On October 24, the proposal was withdrawn. Glenn Clancy, Belmont’s Director of Community Development said that the proposal must first undergo environmental review by Belmont’s Conservation Commission. To date the Conservation Commission has not received a Notice of Intent from the landowner to start the environmental review process.

October 21, 2016

The Board of Selectmen’s office informed that the hearing on the proposal for a new road at 178 Marsh Street—which is scheduled for Monday, October 24—will be adjourned without taking testimony. There is no need to attend.

October 14, 2016

On September 19, the Board of Selectmen—acting as the Board of Survey—continued the hearing on the proposed new road at 178 Marsh Street until October 24 without taking testimony. The continuance was based on the advice of the town’s Director of Community Development that the matter should first go to the Conservation Commission.

For the proposed road to be considered by the Conservation Commission, the proponent is required to file a Notice of Intent. To date, he has not done so.

Meanwhile, we have learned that the Conservation Commission does not know if they have jurisdiction on the matter as the road does not intrude in the resource areas under the Commission’s purview, although the proposed housing development does. The Commission is awaiting advice from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
 
The October 24 hearing before the Board of Survey is likely to be continued or adjourned. Look for more updates after the meeting.

September 23, 2016

The Belmont Board of Survey meet last evening and continued the hearing on a new road at 178 Marsh Street until October 24, without taking testimony. The town’s Community Development Department advises that the proposal must first go to the Conservation Commission for approval since there are wetland issues onsite. The next Conservation Commission meeting is October 4. We do not know if the owner has filed with the Conservation Commission to open a hearing on that date. Stay tuned.

September 16, 2016

The Belmont Board of Survey hearing for a new road at 178 Marsh Street, which was scheduled for Monday, September 19, has been postponed. The town engineer is asking the applicant to first apply for a hearing before the Belmont Conservation Commission to resolve any wetland issues.

There is no need to attend the meeting on September 19. We will keep you informed of new hearing dates for meetings you may want to attend.

September 13, 2016

In July 2016, the land owner at 178 Marsh Street asked the Board of Survey to approve the new road (in Belmont this board has the same personnel as the Board of Selectmen). He requested several waivers of Belmont’s rules governing new roads—particularly a limit of 600 feet for dead-end streets. However, Belmont’s Office of Community Development determined that the proposal must first be approved by the Conservation Commission (ConCom) because of the extensive wetlands on the property as well as stormwater issues. To get a hearing before the ConCom the owner must file a Notice of Intent (NOI), which to our knowledge has not yet been submitted.