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Mugar developer submits document, and town awaits 40B decision

 Commercial trucking limited on Jason; cable-TV talks in 2016

The developer of the Mugar project in East Arlington has submitted its documents to MassHousing, and town officials are waiting to see whether the state agency decides that the 219 units of housing near Route 2 can take the 40B route.

Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013

The process has continued since June.

Disagreements between Arlington officials and the developer of the site continued, as the town has sent its latest response to MassHousing on Oct. 6.

Asked when the agency might decide, Eric W. Gedstad, communications director for MassHousing, wrote 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."

The selectmen's office received notice of final documents Nov. 18. Two weeks from then would be Wednesday, Dec. 2.

But note that, in response to a follow-up from YourArlington, MassHousing spokesman Thomas J. Farmer wrote Oct. 27: "[W]e anticipate getting all the information we need for the Mugar proposal in the near future and then we will be able to complete the review process. I don’t want to put a time frame on it but we are not anticipating an extended period of time to complete the review."

Agency confirms all documents submitted

MassHousing was asked to provide its latest expectation about when the agency might decide whether Oaktree, representing the Mugar family, is eligible to proceed with the project under 40B, a 1969 law aimed to increase affordable housing. If approved, Oaktree would apply to the town's Zoning Board of Appeals for a comprehensive permit, allowing the project to avoid local zoning rules.

MassHousing's Farmer responded Nov. 24 that "all the information has been submitted and it is now being reviewed by senior staff here." He suggested checking back next week but gave no time frame other than that.
Town Counsel Doug Heim provided the update to selectmen about the developer’s documents Monday, Nov. 23. He wrote the next day:

"I believe MassHousing is considering the application complete because 1) the documentation SEB LLC [Oaktree's consultant] submitted was what remained outstanding, and 2) prior discussions with MassHousing indicated that they would consider it complete once they received such documents.

They did not explicitly tell me it is complete, nor did they provide a time frame."

Various votes

In other business, the selectmen voted:

-- 4-1, to approve a request to exclude heavy commercial vehicles on Jason Street;

-- 5-0, to adoption a cable-TV report, a step in the process to negotiate new contracts with providers Comcast, Verizon and RCN;

-- 5-0, to approve revisions to the town's notices policy, adopted by Town Meeting last spring, to assure certain speech remains protected;

-- 5-0, to approve that request for proposals be submitted for the former Disable American Veterans building at 1207 Mass. Ave.;

-- 5-0, to set a Special Town Meeting for Monday, Jan. 25, to discuss funding for modular classrooms next to the Stratton School, which will undergo renovation starting in June; the warrant, requiring 100 signatures for new articles, will be open Wednesday, Dec. 2, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and

-- 5-0, to approve "Cause + Event Arlington 2016," a 5K race set for May 22.

As to commercial traffic, Selectman Steven M. Byrne raised the issue after constituents complained about trucks using Jason as cut-through to Rt. 2.

Selectman Dan Dunn said he had received similar pleas from other parts of town and expressed concerned that if the board takes such action in one neighborhood, then others would want the same. "Why should this be the one?" he asked.

Further, he asked, how do we decide which do and which don't?

Byrne said he was trying to respond to constituents and said he does not want a blanket policy.

Noting the town has "gone down this road before," Selectman Diane Mahon expressed support and said she would favor have state officials attend a future meeting.

Selectman Joseph Curro added support, adding, "We will be pushing more truck traffic onto Pleasant and Highland."

Selectman Kevin Greeley said he has the "same trepidation

On the measure, Dunn voted no.

ACMi negotiations

John F. Maher, the former town counsel who is Cable Advisory Committee chairman, explained the ascertainment report required for cable licenses and looked ahead to June, when Comcast's agreement with the town ends. The pacts for the other providers end in 2017.

ACMi, the town's cable studio, gets "upwards of $900,000" a year from the providers.

The money is needed as ACMI seeks capability for high-definition TV as well as having a program guide embedded right into the channel you use to reach ACMi. Now surfers have to rely on paper and online sources to see program listings.

The station has large capital needs and some equipment is outdated, Maher said, adding that ACMi wants double poles addressed.

Steps toward negotiations include send a request for proposals to the three providers, hoping first for a response from Comcast by Feb. 1, followed by negotiations. Leading them will be Peter Epstein, outside counsel.

A survey and an April 15 public hearing, Maher said, reflected "a very high level" of satisfaction.

1207 Mass Ave. action

As to 1207 Mass. Ave. Town Manager Adam W. Chapdelaine said the short-term lease would be from six months to one year for a "cooperative/collaborative effort," at a minimum of $6 a square foot.

After that, the plan is to see the property, with proceeds supporting renovations at Stratton.

Dunn asked whether the time frame still makes sense. "We can make it work," Chapdelaine answered.

Curro asked whether the space would be only for incubator businesses. Those interested would take the building "as is," Town Counsel Doug Heim said.

If no incubator business shows interest, then the town might have to change the building's purpose and reprice it, Chapdelaine said.

The property has previously been described as possible for coworking, as YourArlington has reported.

2 override scenarios

At the end of the Nov. 23 meeting, Dunn said he had attended a long-range planning meeting that day and that two override scenarios were discussed -- for 2018 and 2021.

Chapdelaine explained Nov. 24 that is no override proposal on the table as yet and that this was part of ongoing long-range discussions, so department heads, others could get a grip on what's coming.

Discussed were scenarios in two possible years, not two proposed votes, he said.

Oct. 7, 2015: Selectmen respond to MassHousing; agency expected decision soon

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 Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015.

YOUR VIEW: Opinions: Vote, AG, taxes, Hill's, news loss, poetry, Mugar, Alewife

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