The Department of Conservation and Recreation recently filed an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) in connection with plans to modify historic parkways later this year in the vicinity of the Langwood Commons redevelopment project.
This parkway modification plan is the subject of litigation commenced in 2009 in Superior Court. The case was sent back to the Superior Court in 2011 after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the appeal filed by a group of citizens, the Friends of Fells, and the City of Medford properly stated a claim that the collaboration between DCR and the Langwood Commons developers may be an improper plan to segment the work so the developers could avoid environmental (MEPA) review for their redevelopment project.
In its ENF filing DCR now acknowledges the connection between its planned parkway work and additional traffic expected from the development project, but then asks the state to waive all its prior decisions which required a full public review of all potential development related impacts.
DCR parkway alterations include • removal of seventeen trees, • adding traffic signals in two locations, and • removing the entire length of one of the two Woodland Road southbound traffic lanes. Despite thousands of additional daily traffic trips from the development project, DCR’s ENF states that the parkway changes will not add to the roadway carrying capacity.
If this attempt to narrow MEPA review is successful, DCR and the developers will have prevented the public from commenting on how the parkway work relates to impacts from the additional 4,500 daily traffic trips generated when the Langwood Commons housing and office project is completed.
In addition, DCR has not addressed concerns raised by the Massachusetts Historical Commission that the parkway alterations would adversely affect the historic character of the historic parkways. A letter sent in September 2012 by the MHC to DCR stated that the proposed parkway changes would compromise the “integrity of the design, setting, materials, and feeling of the historic parkway.”
DCR appears to want to fast track its Fells parkway alteration scheme by urging the state’s environmental secretary to provide only the minimum time for review and comment. DCR is attempting to prevent public comments beyond the current March 26 deadline. The only public meeting was scheduled for Monday, March 18, during the daytime at 1:30 pm when few persons would be able to attend.
By taking this action, DCR is attempting to circumvent the pending litigation to start the parkway work before the Court rules on whether a more comprehensive MEPA environmental review is required for the redevelopment project.
The plaintiffs in the litigation have filed a motion asking the court to issue an injunction to prevent DCR from proceeding with the plan until the appeal is decided.