Letter to the Arlington Zoning Board of Appeals – Mugar Wetlands

Arlington Zoning Board of Appeals
51 Grove St.
Arlington, MA 02476
March 11, 2021

Dear Arlington Zoning Board of Appeals,
We are writing today to express our firm opposition to the proposed development of the Mugar
Wetlands by Oaktree Development LLC. The proposed development will alter the wetlands,
cause floods in the surrounding community, increase traffic dramatically, damage wildlife
habitat and force Arlington to cover costs of an unknown but potentially significant amount. It
will cause our community significant harm.

It is well knowns that traffic on Lake Street over recent has been unbearable. Of course, during
our public health emergency there has been a general decrease in traffic. However, we all know
the traffic will be back soon enough. Even if some people continue to work remotely, the Greater
Boston area has seen an uptick in population. This congestion causes greater pollution for those
living nearby, a marked increase in greenhouse gas emissions for the many of us deeply worried
about the environment, lost productivity for those sitting in traffic, and a general frustration and
diminution to quality of life. If this development moves forward, traffic and all of its attendant
problems will only grow worse. The development promises to bring hundreds of additional cars,
traveling not only on Lake Street but on other narrow surrounding side streets. Overall, we
simply do not have the capacity for this development.

Additionally, a significant portion of the Mugar property is included in the Federal Emergency
Management Association (FEMA) flood-plain map. In fact, the site consists of 17 acres and only
1.5 of those acres are outside the FEMA flood plain. More specifically, the builder proposes to
undertake construction on 7 acres. Of those 7 acres, 5.5 of them are in the floodplain.
It is highly important to protect flood plains because these areas act a “sponge” of sorts during
significant rainfall events. Any alteration to the land that reduces storage capacity will bring
greater flooding in our neighborhoods. Therefore, the abutters and neighbors are rightfully
concerned that this development will directly diminish their property. In addition, the Thorndike
Field complex will experience more flooding as a result of the development. This would render
the field unfit for recreational programming many more days of the year, including the large
soccer and lacrosse fields that are used so often by our children. Over time, as our climate
continues to change and storms continue to worsen, we can only expect flooding to increase.

Moreover, there just are not many areas left in Arlington that are hospitable to the wildlife in our
midst. Whether it is foxes, deer, a variety of birds and other animals, the area of the proposed development is one of the few areas available to local wildlife. With the other developments that
have happened along Route 2 and the concomitant loss of undeveloped space, the development
at the Mugar site would be one more nail in the coffin for local wildlife.

Oaktree is proceeding under the state’s 40B law, which allows developers to circumvent local
zoning if a town has not yet met a certain affordable housing threshold. Specifically, to stop a
40B development a city or town must have either 10 percent (10%) of its housing stock, or 1.5
percent (1.5%) of the town’s developable land designated as “deed-restricted” affordable
housing. Arlington just barely misses the 1.5% threshold and in many ways has shown a truly
significant commitment to affordable housing. One only has to look at Arlington’s Housing
Production Plan to see the commitment in Arlington to create affordable housing. It is wrong to
force such a deeply unpopular project on a Town that is already making strides to increase its
affordable housing percentage. We have spent much of our time in the legislature advocating for
a series of different measures to increase our supply of affordable housing. However, in this case,
the flooding, traffic problems, costs to the municipality, and degradation of wildlife far outweigh
the benefits.

It is important to remember that Town Meeting is opposed, the Select Board is opposed, and the
overwhelming majority of neighbors and other Arlington residents are opposed. While we all
want to grow our affordable housing stock, and Arlington has a concrete plan to do so, this
development brings with it far too many detrimental impacts. Thank you for your time and
dedication to our community. We urge you to reject Oaktree Development LLC’s proposal.


Dave Rogers
State Representative
24th Middlesex District

Sean Garballey
State Representative
23rd Middlesex District

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Phone: 617-722-2263
Email: dave.rogers@mahouse.gov
Mail: State House Room 473B, Boston, MA 02133