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2nd hearing on revised 47 Spy Pond Lane plan held

Vacant home at 47 Spy Pond Lane. / Bob Sprague photoVacant home at 47 Spy Pond Lane in the summer of 2016. / Bob Sprague photo

UPDATED, Oct. 31: A Halloween skeleton has stared out of the burned-out house on an overgrown lot at Spy Pond’s edge for more than a year. It suggests a ghost reflecting the fate of 47 Spy Pond Lane.

A plan for the property is before the Conservation Commission for a third time, even though the board issued unanimous denials for development that did not fulfill the town’s requirements, in 2017 and in 2018. After the developer, Scott Seaver, sued the town, he reached a conditional settlement agreement with the ConCom. Under it, the developer agreed to submit an amended plan to the commission and delay the company's appeal of its previously denied plan.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, Seaver and his team, the abutters and their Lawyer, and 50 members of the public gathered at the Conservation Commission’s hearing in Town Hall Auditorium.

At the close of the hearing, commissioners asked Seaver to develop viable alternatives, to seek comment from the National Heritage Foundation and to submit more legible drawings. The hearing was continued to Thursday, Nov. 1, with this issue scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Because of early voting in Town Hall auditorium, the meeting has been relocated to the mural room on the ground floor of the  Senior Center, at 27 Maple St.

ConCom chair assures audience

Nathaniel Stevens, chair of the commission, assured the audience that the next decision on this property would not create a legal precedent and that there was no secret settlement deal between the town and Seaver. He also said that Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and Town Counsel Doug Heim fully support the ConCom and that he was confident in their denials of past plans for 47 Spy Pond Lane. Stevens reported that Seaver reached out to the commission, so he agreed to a vote on a third iteration of the development plans.

Next, wetlands consultant Mary Trudeau and attorney Matthew Watsky presented the newest version of Seaver’s two-house, pond-side project. The plan includes slightly lesser intrusion into the resource areas. Their reports addressed plantings, how the project was an enhancement to the environmental aspects of the site and how smaller houses were not viable.

Elizabeth Pyle, attorney for the neighbors, argued that this potential settlement does not uphold the town’s regulations, that it is standard not to build on wetlands even with mitigations and that Seaver has not provided viable alternatives as required by the town’s regulations.

Many members of the audience spoke during public comment. No statement was in support of Seaver’s current plans.

Rowe: Stand up for town bylaws

Clarissa Rowe, a former Select Board member and president of the Arlington Land Trust, an advocacy group for open space, asked the commission to stand up for Arlington’s good bylaws.

John Worden, a former Town Meeting moderator and secretary-at-large of the Historic Districts Commission, commented on development pressure on the town and how Arlington has been very slow to create protections for its buildings and environment.

An abutter who did not want to be identified presented overlay drawings of Seaver's original house footprints, of the revised set of footprints, and of the footprint of a 3,000-square-foot new house. This visual revealed how much larger Seaver's latest house plans would be compared to a sizable house nearby, but not on the pond. This neighbor also called for viable alternatives to developing the property.

The diagram presented at the meeting illustrates. See it here >>

Among the themes addressed by other speakers were stress on the pond, climate change, the increasing value of Arlington’s real estate, the limited revisions of Seaver’s third set of plans, and the emotional value of the pond and its surroundings to their lives.

In closing, the commissioners asked the abutters to consider whether there would be other types of damage to the pond if the alternate plans were approved.

The 47 Spy Pond part of the meeting lasted for about two hours.

Reported earlier

The following was reported earlier, when the hearing was first scheduled for Oct. 4. 

A housing plan near Spy Pond that drew protests from neighbors two years ago is back, but a hearing about it is delayed.

The town Conservation Commission was scheduled to meet Thursday, Oct. 4, to discuss a new plan for 47 Spy Pond Lane offered by the developer, Seaver Construction of Woburn. It will be held until the next regular meeting, set for Thursday, Oct. 18, at 8:15 p.m. The location has been changed to Town Hall. 

The applicant requested postponement because his attorney had a scheduling conflict, a newsletter from Arlington Land Trust reported. 

Neighbors have asked for a large turnout at 7:30 p.m. in the Charles Lyons Hearing Room, second floor of Town Hall.

After an earlier plans last roiled residents, from May through October in 2016, the commission ruled that the developer could not build two large houses on a lot on the shore of Spy Pond where there is one small home. The main reason: The project would would have extended deep into the protected wetlands buffer zone.

Seaver Construction subsequently filed a lawsuit against the town. Neighbors are upset, in part, because they believe the town chose to avoid litigation, settled with Seaver and is prepared to allow the two large houses with minor modifications.

Town counsel: Developer, ConCom have conditional accord

Asked about this, Town Counsel Doug Heim told YourArlington that Seaver had reached a conditional settlement agreement with the ConCom. Under it, the developer agreed to submit an amended plan to the commission and delay the company's appeal of its previously denied plan.

The agreement requires a public hearing about the revised plans, and that is scheduled for Thursday. The commission expects to hear from the public and will consider information from abutters and other residents generally, as well as comments about the revised proposal, Heim wrote in an email.

The commission reserved its rights to make certain special conditions based upon what happens at the hearing, he wrote, but if the commission ultimately denies the amended permit, Seaver will be able to proceed with its lawsuit.

He added: "The commission is best equipped to speak to their individual and collective reasoning behind the conditional settlement at hearing, though it still needs to hear from the public. However, I think it's fair to say that the commission's perspective is that thus far, the revised proposal is markedly better in terms of both reducing the impact of any redevelopment of the site and mitigating those impacts with plantings and other measures to help provide for wildlife and protect the resource area and responsive to most, if not all of the reasons the commission denied the permit."

Public urged to attend

Arlington residents Heijung Kim and Laura Kiesel wrote on the Arlington email list this week, urging public participation.

They wrote that 47 Spy Pond Lane is a lot (zoned for a single-family house) on Spy Pond with one house on it. The existing house sits outside the 100-foot buffer zone around Spy Pond. Seaver Construction had proposed splitting the lot in two and building two large houses deep into the 100-foot buffer zone around the pond, but the ConCom rejected that.

In Seaver's new proposal, they wrote, both houses still extend into the protected 100-foot buffer zone, with one of the houses mostly inside that buffer, as shown in a diagram they provided. See it here >> 

They wrote that they believe the ConCom will approve the latest proposal unless there is significant public outcry.

Heim added: "The commission denied the application and Seaver appealed that decision and filed suit to essentially reverse the commission. Then he wanted to negotiate. It's been a two-year process so far and I think the Commission has show its willingness to stick to what it thinks is in keeping with the regulations and law."

Sept.-Oct., 2016: At Spy Pond's edge, two-home plan rejected by Concom

July-Sept., 2016: Neighbors ask Concom to abide by buffer-zone rules for Spy Pond development

Conservation Commission regulations for wetland protection

Concom also administers the state Wetlands Protection Act (includes 100-foot buffer zone)

This news summary was published Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, and updated with a fresh summary by Alice Trexler was Friday, Oct. 19. Heijung Kim contributed to this report. Both are neighbors of the proposed project. This version was updated Oct. 31, to note change of meeting location.

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