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Milton residents come out in force to oppose Milton Mews residential development

Posted by Dave Eisenstadter  March 22, 2013 03:40 PM

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Milton Mews project

More than 130 residents came before selectmen Thursday night to protest the Mill Creek Residential Trust Milton Mews project on Brush Hill Road.

At the same meeting, selectmen voted to ask the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency for a 90-day extension of the comment period for the project.

“I’m strongly opposed to the development and expressed reservations in a private meeting with representatives of the developer,” said Selectman Robert Sweeney at the meeting.

The Milton Mews project is coming to town under Massachusetts 40B law, allowing developers to override local zoning if a town has less than 10 percent affordable housing.

About a dozen residents got up to speak about the project, all of them opposed to it. Roughly half of the audience was made up of residents of Fuller Village, a senior community near the site of the proposed 276-unit residential development.

Deborah Felton, a Milton Town Meeting member and executive director of Fuller Village, was the first to speak.

“Selectmen have historically listened to the neighborhood, and I don’t think they have that support for this 40B development,” Felton said at the meeting.

She reminded selectmen that more than 300 Fuller Village residents signed a petition opposing the project and presented it to selectmen last month.

Denny Swenson, a board member of the Friends of the Blue Hills, said the project threatens endangered species and local habitats, including Fowl Meadow.

Fowl Meadow, a wetland tract traversing Norwood, Canton, Westwood, Dedham, Milton, Sharon, and Hyde Park, was almost paved over in 1967 when the state proposed to extend Interstate-95 to Boston, according to the Neponset River Watershed Association website. A citizen lawsuit stopped the proposal, diverting the highway to follow the course of Route 128.

Fowl Meadow is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the state, according to Neponset River Watershed Association Board Member and Milton resident Taber Keally. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation website confirmed Keally’s statement.

“If Fowl Meadow can stop a major highway then I think it could stop a big, unwanted development,” Sweeney said at the meeting.

Tim Kernan of the Brush Hill Neighborhood Association added that the proposed development would increase an already exacerbated traffic situation in the area.

“[Route] 138 is already overburdened and pressure is put on all other roads,” Kernan said.

Christine Seidman, a Milton resident and Harvard Medical School professor, said increased traffic could endanger seniors suffering from cardiovascular disease by delaying ambulances.

Following resident comments, attorney Jason R. Talerman spoke to selectmen about his experience both facilitating and opposing 40B projects.

Talerman is working on behalf of Fuller Village and several individual residents in the Hemenway Drive and Brush Hill Road area.

While towns that directly challenge 40B projects in court often lose, there are many ways to oppose such developments and prevent them from being built, Talerman said.

Talerman denied that the Milton Mews project would be “cash positive”; in other words, the increased taxes from the homes would not would cover police, fire, and traffic needs resulting from the project.

He advised selectmen to perform detailed study of the effects on traffic, fire access, and environmental concerns over the next months to present to the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, which will review whether the project can continue.

Talerman also urged residents to empower their zoning board to stand firm on traffic and environmental restrictions.

Selectmen unanimously agreed to draft a letter requesting a 90-day extension on the comment period and to seek professional help in documenting traffic, environmental, and other concerns related to Milton Mews.

Robert Hewitt, Mill Creek’s vice president of development, did not immediately return a call for comment.

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