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Selectmen respond to MassHousing; agency expected decision soon

UPDATED, Oct. 8: Disagreements between Arlington officials and the developer of the Mugar site continue, as the town has sent its latest response to MassHousing on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013

Oaktree Development of Cambridge seeks approval from the state agency for a 40B project comprising 219 units of housing near Route 2 in East Arlington. It remains unclear when they might occur under a process that Town Counsel Doug Heim again called "unorthodox."

There is "no specified time frame," Heim told selectmen Monday, Oct. 5, as they discussed how to respond to eight documents Oaktree submitted after after the Aug. 18 deadline.

Asked when the agency might decide, Eric W. Gedstad, communications director for MassHousing, wrote Thursday, Oct. 8: "Once we receive the remaining documentation from the applicant, we estimate that we will have a decision on whether or not to grant project eligibility within two weeks."

Points raised in the eight-page letter, in response to what the letter calls "the defect-riddled original application," are that the applicant, Arlington Land Realty LLC, has not provided:

-- A qualifying "NEF Letter of Interest," or evidence of another eligible state or federal subsidy. The letter says that applicant submitted a letter from TDBank "stating explicitly that it is not an NEF member bank";

-- Evidence it controls the 17-acre site; and

-- Clarification of the status of the "Twelve Townhomes for Sale ... scribbled in as an addendum to the project application."

Other objections

The letter also says that the proposed project "remains ill suited" for wetlands and flood zone, out of character with the neighborhood and raised traffic concerns.

Following suggestions Monday from Selectmen Diane Mahon and Dan Dunn, the letter included a reference to a failed 2009 negotiation over the Mugar site.

In earlier comment, Gwen Noyes, a founder of Oaktree, told YourArlington that a letter from 40B adviser Robert Engler "points out the very important fact (conveniently overlooked by the Town) that in 2009 the Town itself attempted to put together a development scheme for basically the same area we are now proposing to build housing -- albeit more units [by Oaktree].

"It was only lack of outside (State) funding that sidelined that idea. However, the approximately 6 acres of land we're proposing to build housing on now are just as buildable today as they were several years ago when the Town itself wanted to do so. Why does that factoid continuously get lost?

The Oct. 6 letter says:

"It bears emphasizing that SEB's [an Oaktree consultant] discussion of negotiations between the Town and the Mugar family regarding development of the parcel (see unnumbered page 4 of SEB letter) is both mistaken in part, and when viewed appropriately, further supportive of this Board's position on project and development in Arlington generally.

"Foremost, the negotiations referenced never advanced to this Board. The MOU [memo of understanding] cited by SEB was never presented to, discussed, nor voted upon by the Selectmen in open or executive session."

Asked to comment

Noyes has been asked to comment on the Oct. 6 letter.

Selectmen Chairman Kevin Greeley said Monday that it is "unfair that they submit [documents after a deadline], and we don't have a chance for a public hearing."

Heim responded that apparently MassHousing's view of the eight documents submitted after Aug. 18 differs from how town officials see things.

Speaking as a member of the public, Precinct 1 Town Meeting member Stuart Cleinman praised officials at the crowded Aug. 12 Town Hall hearing. "Your work on this is extraordinary," he said.

The Oct. 6 letter was signed by Greeley. Advice on it was provided by Heim and Jon Witten, the town's special 40B counsel. 

Sept. 25, 2015: Mugar developer submits 8 project documents after August deadline

Aug. 19, 2015: Selectmen's comments on Mugar project sent to MassHousing
Aug. 13, 2015: Details few as Mugar site developer looks ahead
July 15, 2015: Hearing on Mugar site appliocation tough to schedule 
June 29, 2105: July 22 meeting set as developer moves toward 40B Mugar application
June 9: Step toward 40B filed for Mugar site; town seeks more time to respond
May 26, 2015: Speakers at Hardy send a clear message about Mugar site: NO
Cambridge Day, April 26: 3-year Cambridge master-plan process to start with Alewife
April 5, 2015: Coalition responds point by point to Mugar developer's statements
Opinion: Arlington's Belskis on 40B
March 31, 2015: Coalition seeks to preserve Mugar site from development         
Coalition to Save Mugar Wetlands: WordPress | Facebook
March 8, 2015: Belmont Uplands permit issued; opponents vow to continue

This report was published at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, and updated Oct. 8, to add agency comment.

YOUR VIEW: Opinions: Murals politics, Town Day, Medford St., AFD, ACMi, poetry, Mugar, Alewife

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