Coalition to Save Mugar Wetlands, March 24: MassHousing Finds Applicant’s Proposed Changes Not Substantial

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

UPDATED, April 7: The town Zoning Board of Appeals met Thursday, March 11, and held a continued hearing about the permit for Thorndike Place. It could have been  the last scheduled hearing for this project, but, given the documents recently recently, the hearing was continued to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 30. 

Because of a family emergency, Arlington Land Realty, the applicant for Thorndike Place, has requested a continuance until the next scheduled hearing date, Thursday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m., a March 30 town email said.
The board plans to open the March 30 hearing solely for the purpose of approving the continuance and the extension.   

See the agenda here >> 

Reach the meeting on Zoom here >>

April 2 letter from Heather Keith-Lucas >>

Raising another significant concern, the town manager in a recent letter to the ZBA addressed the status of the approximately 12 acres of the site that the Applicant proposes to transfer to the Town or another entity for "conservation" as part of the project. He laid out numerous conditions that must be met by the Applicant before any transfer could occur and that should be part of the ZBA's final decision, which is expected to be made in April.

See the March 11, 2021, summary by Steve Revilak, a board member who provides his personal notes >> 

 The applicant submitted a letter to MassHousing regarding the project revisions. You can view the letter here under Reference Material titled ‘MassHousing Notice’ dated March 8, 2021.

From Arlington Land Trust:

The Zoning Board of Appeals has issued a draft decision on the application for a comprehensive permit for Thorndike Place on the Mugar land in East Arlington. The 40-page decision appears to grant a permit for the project as presented at the Feb. 16 hearing: a massive single building of 172 rental units fronting immediately on Dorothy Road.  Many terms and conditions are itemized, but significant concerns remain unaddressed.

At the Select Board meeting on March 1, Selectman Steve DeCourcey made a slide presentation about the Mugar/Thorndike Place Comprehensive Permit and the board subsequently voted 5-0 to send additional comments to the Zoning Board of Appeals, following up on the Select Board letter of Feb. 22. The new comments call into question the validity of the project’s initial approval by MassHousing.

Revised Thorndike Place proposalfrom the revised Thorndike Place proposal
The current scheme, presented to the ZBA by Oaktree Development on Feb. 16, eliminates the townhouses along Dorothy Road, consolidating the entire project of 172 rental units into one large structure fronting immediately on Dorothy. Removal of the townhouses takes away the only design element that was reasonably compatible with the style and scale of the neighborhood. It also takes away any opportunities for home ownership, leaving only rental units in the remaining four-story structure.

The original 2015 “Project Eligibility Approval” by MassHousing based its findings on the project having a mix of rental and ownership opportunities, and that “the proposed townhouse units on Dorothy Road were designed as a transitional zone between the duplex and single family homes of the existing residential neighborhood to the North and East of the project and the larger proposed apartment building to the South.” Both of these key elements have now been removed. The Select Board suggests that without the townhouses the original Eligibility Approval could not have been granted. The Board has urged the ZBA to request that the Applicant submit a new site approval application for review by MassHousing before any further action is taken on the current proposal.

State Sen. Cindy Friedman has also sent a letter to the ZBA reinforcing her opposition to the proposed Thorndike Place project.

Feb. 16, 2021: Steve Revilak's meeting summary

This news announcement, including information provided by the Arlington Land Trust, was published Saturday, March 13, 2021. Updated March 26, to add agenda, and March 28, to note hearing status and link to manager letter; and April 7, to add link to letter.