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

UPDATED, July 29: Residents got their last chance to speak about whether a second home may be built at 47 Spy Pond Lane at the Conservation Commission hearing July 25. No votes were taken that night, on a sycamore tree or the project itself, and a final vote on the matter was held Thursday, Sept. 5.

At 10 p.m.  July 25, 14 members of the public, developer Scott Seaver of Woburn and his associate, Mary Trudeau, gathered with the commissioners in the Town Hall Annex.

Commission Chair Nathaniel Stevens opened the proceedings by reviewing a letter from the town engineer about storm-water mitigation for the property. The engineer deemed the drainage system adequate and agreed that it would mitigate extra roof-top runoff.

Heim memo

Stevens also mentioned receiving more real estate information on behalf of Seaver and additional letters from the public.

Next, Stevens addressed Alice Trexler’s recent letter involving Town Counsel Doug Heim’s memo “on alternative analysis” in Arlington’s wetlands regulations. He assured everyone that Heim’s interpretations of “alternative analysis” using state regulations did not replace Arlington’s bylaws as a basis for decision-making but were only guidance for the commission.

A neighbor of No. 47 requested that the commission consider guidance from the Town of Lincoln’s use of “alternative analysis.” That town's understanding of “alternative analysis” includes the size and scope of a project. For that reason, Lincoln is able to consider reducing a project size as part of such an analysis. The neighbor requested that the commission not consider Heim’s memo pertaining to Arlington as dogma.

Tree, climate change

Town Meeting member Jo Anne Preston urged the commission to place climate resiliency in the foreground of their decision-making. She pointed out that trees and wetlands were two of the most important mechanisms for slowing climate change.

She calculated that the mature 17-inch thick sycamore was able to sequester 465 pounds of atmospheric carbon per year at its current size, that replacement trees often did not thrive, and she estimated that they would not sequester more than 10 pounds of carbon in the beginning. Likewise, the wetland at No. 47 sequesters carbon and will release it when disturbed.

[The tree replacements proposed complies with the commission's tree replacement section of the local wetlands regulations. The tree-replacement section was primarily written by two commissioners, both of whom are professional and certified landscape architects.

[The "wetland" on 47 Spy Pond Lane is considered Bank and Land Subject to Flooding. It is not a traditional wetland in terms of reeds, which one may typically think of.

[Additionally, this lot is considered predisturbed, and almost all of it is lawn which does not have much habitat value at all. The proposal includes revegetating the first 25 feet of the property with native wetlands plants, which would increase the total wetland area of the property. It would create a buffer with stormwater and habitat value, which the property currently does not have.]

Residents Jane Ratowsky, Beth Melofchick, Linda Ford and Linda Guttman all agreed with Preston and objected to destruction of the mature sycamore tree and to building over the wetlands.

Plea about pressure

Town Meeting member Patricia Worden spoke about Spy Pond and its surroundings as one of Arlington’s precious resources. She said town counsel is not an environmental lawyer, referring to his alternative-analysis memo. She said the Conservation Commission must not be subject to pressure from a developer who wants to maximize profit.

[The town counsel does not sit on or vote for the commission. Commission Chair Stevens is an environmental land-use lawyer.]

Finally, there was a motion to close the hearing for Lot 1A of 47 Spy Pond Lane. Last December, the commission approved a dwelling for the alternate side of the lot.

As she would be absent for the next meeting, in August, Commissioner Susan Chapnick gave a favorable reaction to the improvements and mitigations in the current development plans.

Seaver asked that the commission vote only when all of its members could be present, so the deliberations and vote are expected Sept. 5. No additional public input is to be allowed, as the commission formally closed this round of hearings. 

July 17, 2019: Hearing on 47 Spy Pond Lane focuses on tree, profit
June 20, 2019: Long-running saga of 47 Spy Pond Lane continue
Oct. 31, 2018: 2nd hearing on revised 47 Spy Pond Lane plan held
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 announcement was published July 24, 2019, and updated to a summary by Alice Trexler on July 28. She also spoke at the hearing. On July 29, additions in brackets from Emily Sullivan, administrator of the Concom, were included.