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Board urges ZBA to request new Thorndike Place application

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

UPDATED, March 6: Given the proposed changes to Thorndike Place, the Select Board unanimously has urged the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to request that the developer, Oaktree, submit a new site-approval application for review by MassHousing before any action is taken.

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

MassHousing provides financing for affordable homeownership and rental housing. Select Board Chair John Hurd and Town Counsel Doug Heim will write a letter to notify the ZBA.

“It was a different plan at the project-eligibility stage,” member Steve DeCourcey said at the March 1 board meeting. “The Select Board had no opportunity to comment on this substantial change and what went before the ZBA and MassHousing, and what was submitted originally.

“This is the ZBA’s decision, and we respect that decision. However, changes were made to the building type, from owner to rental, so we need to go back to MassHousing.” 

Revised proposal

Proposed now for the Mugar site, between Thorndike Field and Route 2, East Arlington, is a 172-unit apartment building. Changes from the original plan include removing the initially proposed 12 townhouses, reducing the apartment building’s size and moving most parking spaces underground to re-site the building farther away from the delineated wetlands. 

However, the Select Board does not believe these measures go far enough. This development still has many fundamental concerns, given the site’s obvious constraints and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Concerns include traffic, effect on the environment and lack of compatibility with the neighborhood. 

The revised proposal has no buffer zone, to keep the project from overwhelming the neighborhood, DeCourcey said. Originally, the apartment building was 150 away from Dorothy Road; it’s now just 23 feet away. The proposal also identifies Dorothy Road and Little John Road as 45 feet wide when, in fact, Dorothy Road is 25 feet wide and Little John Road is 20 feet wide.

Video

Here is the video of the March 1 Select Board presentation made by DeCourcey.

MassHousing says the developer should be prepared to address any municipal concerns relative to the project’s size and scale. Removal of the townhouses conflicts with both MassHousing’s project-eligibility letter findings and the comprehensive permit application, DeCourcey said. All units are now rental-only apartments. 

“MassHousing needs to consider this as a new proposal,” said board member Diane Mahon.

The developer would have to describe its revised proposal to MassHousing, and the Select Board would then have the opportunity to comment on that.

"We can advise the ZBA," explained Heim.

Since September, the ZBA has held hearings on a variety of issues involving the site as that board considers a comprehensive permit for the project called Thorndike Place.

The last ZBA hearing was Feb. 16, and the next is set for Thursday, March 11, at 7:30 p.m.

See the ACMi video of the March 1 meeting:


Feb. 24, 2021: Friedman reaffirms opposition to Mugar project


This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, March. 3, 2021. Updated March 4, to add ACMi video window, and then March 6, to add link to DeCourcey video.

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