I’m pleased to report some progress on the Silver Maple Forest issue.
Last Wednesday night, the House passed the Environmental Bond Bill as House
The bill includes an express authorization of the expenditure of up to $6
million towards the acquisition of the Silver Maple Forest. This
authorization does not compel the Department of Conservation and Recreation
to make the expenditure, but it expresses legislative support for it.
Of course, $6 million is not sufficient to purchase the property. The bond
bill, as passed by the House, includes an outside section which would also
allow for local contributions towards the acquisition. The outside section
incorporates much of the language of House Bill 21, the bill that I filed
last year with Senator Tolman as a co-sponsor.
Under the language that the House approved, the Commissioner of DCR will
have 90 days to conduct an appraisal of the property and then an additional
30 days to decide how much he feels that the state should contribute towards
an acquisition. He could decide any amount between $0 and $6 million.
The communities of Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge will then have another
120 days to determine how much they are willing to contribute (including
possible private donations). If the state and local contributions add up to
the fair market value of the property, then the state would move forward to
make the acquisition.
The house-approved language does not allow for an eminent domain taking.
The owner of the property would have to agree to the acquisition.
So, in summary, the bill authorizes up to $6 million in state funds for an
acquisition and creates a timeline for DCR, the localities and the owner to
decide whether an acquisition should occur. It preserves the freedom of all
parties, forcing only that a decision be made, but not what that decision
I am very grateful to the leadership of the House for supporting this
important local legislation.
It is important to note that the Senate has yet to take action on the bill
and, of course, that even if the Senate also approves the language, the
Governor will then need to decide whether or not to approve the language.
I will keep you posted as to the next steps. Things should move quickly
over the next week.