The Milton Mews is a 276-unit apartment complex proposed on Brush Hill Road in Milton. The project is being brought forward under the 40B affordable housing program, which would exempt it from most normal local zoning and permitting. Unfortunately, the project is located deep inside the Fowl Meadow Area of Critical Environmental Concern in a sensitive wildlife habitat. This has prompted the Watershed Association to take the unusual step of opposing the development in its entirety. On March 21, longtime Watershed Association Board Member, Taber Keally, testified before the Milton Board of Selectmen, urging them to oppose the project. Below are the talking points from his testimony…
NEPONSET RIVER WATERSHED ASSOCIATION OPPOSES BRUSH HILL ROAD DEVELOPMENT
We have been working to protect the Neponset River and surrounding watershed lands since 1968. Our involvement in Milton includes working in the schools to educate our children and monitoring river health through our water sampling program. We sample river cleanliness at 41 locations throughout the watershed; eight of these sampling sites are in Milton.
The Neponset has come a long way from its days as a severely polluted industrial river. In fact, most streams in the Neponset River system meet swimmable standards during dry weather.
The proposed 20-acre development site on Brush Hill Road currently includes three single-family homes occupying about five developed acres. The remainder of the parcel is mature woodlands and wetlands.
- As an organization, we are not opposed to development, and, in fact, we welcome redevelopment projects on previously developed sites, even when they involve densities equal to or greater than that proposed here. However, we oppose the proposed development of this site because of the significant and unavoidable impacts which it will have on this extremely sensitive area.
- This largely undeveloped site directly abuts the Fowl Meadow portion of DCR’s Neponset River Reservation. Both the wetlands and uplands are included in the Fowl Meadow and Ponkapoag Bog Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), and are mapped as habitat for state-listed species. The entire project is located within the ACEC (the boundary runs along Milton Street up to route 138).
- Since NepRWA originally nominated the Fowl Meadow for ACEC status, we are very concerned that the proposed development is not compatible with the legal purpose of the ACEC designation, which is to preserve and restore the unique natural resources of the ACEC.
- The proposed project will encroach into the undisturbed edge of what is otherwise a large, contiguous area of high-value wildlife habitat which has been recognized by the Commonwealth as regionally significant.
- We also are concerned that the plans don’t appear to reflect an accurate delineation of wetlands on the site. And even as shown, the project proposes filling wetlands, which is specifically prohibited in an ACEC.
- While it isn’t shown on the incomplete plans submitted, we are concerned with the design of the stormwater system for the site and the unavoidable impacts on water quality and hydrology that will affect wetland and river habitats downstream.
- Because of the ACEC designation, the wetland regulations require that the project have “no adverse impact” to wetlands on the site, and we believe that the current proposal clearly does not meet this standard.
- The ACEC designation is intended to protect the natural and cultural resources of the area. We believe that the visual and traffic impacts of the project will adversely affect the cultural resources for which the ACEC was designated.
- Because the project is in an ACEC, it is subject to MEPA jurisdiction, the Commonwealth’s environmental impact review process. The MEPA regulations require that the MEPA review process be completed before any state agency (such as Mass Housing) takes final action on the project. We, therefore, respectfully request that the Selectmen ask Mass Housing to withhold its final decision on financing, and ask the Milton Conservation Commission to forestall its review of the project until such time as the required MEPA process has been completed.