Residents continue opposition to Walcott Heritage Farms project

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

The Marlborough City Council noted a number of messages from community members regarding the proposed Walcott Heritage Farms project. The majority of messages opposed the proposal. Photo/Dakota Antelman
The Marlborough City Council noted a number of messages from community members regarding the proposed Walcott Heritage Farms project. The majority of messages opposed the proposal.
Photo/Dakota Antelman

MARLBOROUGH – City residents continued to send letters opposing the Walcott Heritage Farms development after the Marlborough City Council Urban Affairs Subcommittee voted to reject the project’s special permit application, last month.

The City Council noted the feedback during their July 19 meeting as it continues to prepare for a full vote on the matter.

 

Concerns focus on traffic safety

The Urban Affairs Subcommittee voted 4-1 against the application on June 29, and largely did so due to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) refusal to install a traffic light at the site. MassDOT made its decision on the grounds that the Walcott property and the roads around it do not meet any of the predetermined warrants that define whether a light should be placed at a given location. 

As the state made this choice, though, city officials raised concerns over potential accidents at the Walcott site on Route 20. Marlborough residents struck a similar tone in their writing.

Robert Cucchi, a resident of the Villages at Marlborough East, which is directly across from the site of the proposed development, was concerned about the impact of the development for such a reason.

“If there is no traffic light installed, it would be a nightmare to get in and out of the complexes,” Cucchi wrote. “Also, it would be a great safety issue.” 

 

Residents worry about traffic volume

Other residents opposed the project on the basis that it would potentially increase traffic on Route 20.

Mary Laity wrote that the project would add an estimated 280 cars to Route 20 throughout a single day.

“Route 20 cannot accommodate that much traffic,” Laity wrote.

Cindy Zomar also opposed the project due to concern over the traffic it could cause. 

In the subcommittee meeting City Councilor Kathleen Robey, the lone Urban Affairs vote in favor of granting the application, said MassDOT’s decision not to add a traffic light suggested that potential traffic problems would not be so great as to necessitate one. 

Zomar disagreed, arguing that that the decision represented, instead, an admission that even a traffic light would do nothing to remedy a problem she said the development would make worse.

Referring to the many communications to City Council regarding the project, Zomar said that only one – that of the owner – was supportive of it.

“How many projects ever get that much attention unless it’s when someone talks about defunding the schools or laying off teachers?” Zomar wrote. “I think the voters have already expressed themselves.” 

Zomar is a former educator and City Councilor who has been outspoken in her opposition to the Walcott project. Zomar also covers schools and education for the Community Advocate.

 

Letters call on city to preserve history

Marilyn Fenter took issue with the use of the McGee Farm site for the development, writing that the city should try to maintain some of its rural history.

“Perhaps we can do something with the [McGee] land that would reflect our historical American heritage to especially teach the children and the newer immigrants who live here,” she wrote.

Joe Deneen, also a Villages resident, expressed his concern that increased traffic could make Route 20 more dangerous. Deneen argued that the only incentive for the project, against major safety concerns, was money.

“This has to be the clearest choice you have faced in a long time,” Deneen wrote in his message to the City Council. “You just have to vote on the right thing to do. Not the political thing or the personal thing. Just the right thing.”

 

State legislators share thoughts

As residents have criticized the Walcott proposal, the Urban Affairs Subcommittee has followed their lead, voting down the project. 

While an upcoming full vote will offer a final decision on the matter, state legislators have also weighed in. 

“They’re on the ground, they’re listening to the constituents, so I support their decision,” State Rep. Carmine Gentile (D-Sudbury) said of Marlborough’s City Councilors in Community Advocate reporting originally published last week. 

“The reality is we need more housing,” he continued. “We need more housing in eastern Massachusetts. We need more housing everywhere. That would have supplied a lot more housing.” 

Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough), meanwhile, specifically questioned the Urban Affair’s Committee’s decision. 

“The traffic light issue, it’s been proven to have no merit by MassDOT,” she said. “We set up the meeting. That’s what we were asked to do, so that’s what we did, and it was made clear to us by MassDOT that basically under no circumstances was a light ever going to be warranted at that intersection.”

“I appreciate that the counselors feel that it’s necessary, but the numbers just aren’t there to support their argument,” she added.

 

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