I want to thank you for your efforts in trying to preserve open space in your district, and for trying to prevent construction in a location that is inappropriate for multiple reasons – floodprone and in floodplain, inadequate sewer capacity, not physically near either schools or businesses.
However, I think everyone realizes that this effort was destined to go nowhere, and would be about as successful as current Republican efforts to repeal national health care legislation. Like that effort, it shows earnest effort to one’s supporters, despite the impossibility of its passage for one very simple reason: the money isn’t there, either at the state or the municipal level.
Even the small silver lining – an appraisal of the land by DCR – is very small indeed. As you pointed out, the bill neither provides funding to DCR to purchase the land, nor instructs it to do so.
In fact, given the lack of either political will or funding to purchase the site, it could be argued that the appraisal itself is a waste of public money.
The *only* value the appraisal has is that if one can bring developer O’Neil to the table, it provides a basis for negotiations about a deal in which O’Neil turns the land over to the state (much like O’Neil did for an adjacent 8 acres) in exchange for a tax deduction.
However, that requires that O’Neill conclude that given consistent, long-standing community opposition (I now forget for how many years this has been going on. 7?), it is simply not worth it to continue this effort, that there are better ways to use its limited financial resources. That’s a difficult prospect. Although the current recession makes it hard to sell new residential units, it has also lowered the cost of construction to bargain levels. Developers keep deep pockets precisely in order to ride out the real estate market’s multi-year boom-bust cycle.
Therefore, the question becomes: what particular show of community support for keeping the land green will convince O’Neil that this particular effort is not worth it? Given some consensus on that question, I’m sure the appropriate demonstration of community support can be arranged.
Two other points to note:
1) O’Neil is a Philadelphia-based national developer. It has a national reputation to uphold. It would not want opposition here to adversely affect proposals it is making elsewhere.
2) Since Belmont’s sewerage is inadequate, the only way the development can proceed is for O’Neil to route its sewerage through the pumping station built for the other, recently-built office buildings nearby. However, the City of Cambridge does not want Belmont’s sewerage running through Cambridge pipes. Let’s keep it that way. That may take some deft negotiation; Cambridge is the usual culprit in allowing construction within the Alewife floodplain that pushes it further into Belmont and Arlington.
So again, a thank you to you and your fellow legislators for the relatively easy support of filing a bill that’s destined to fail. What are the next, and harder steps, for you, your colleagues, and us?