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ARLINGTON, MA-Selectmen here have approached selectmen in Belmont and Cambridge seeking support for the development of a regional approach to the Alewife area that encompasses Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge. While the overwhelming majority of development occurs in Cambridge, the neighboring towns contend that the impact of those projects can be felt where they live.

Similar tri-community development districts have been established in Medford, Malden, and Everett and in Wareham, Carver and Plymouth. “There are traffic and environmental issues that affect all of us,” Alan McClennan, director of planning and community development, tells GlobeSt.com. McClennan says that both Belmont and Arlington are interested in developing a district approach but it is still unclear if Cambridge is willing to be involved. “The three communities would have to agree that it was a good idea and then legislation would have to be passed,” says McClennan.

Recently, this town concluded that a 17-acre site should not be developed, as it would “create an unacceptable negative impact on its citizens,” says McClennan, who notes that Belmont came to the same conclusion. “Years of traffic studies indicate that development of that site would adversely impact both towns,” he says. The town is now attempting to negotiate with the owners, the Mugar family, who want to develop over 300,000-sf of office space on the site. The town wants to preserve the land as open space. Similarly, in Belmont, O’Neill Properties Group wants to develop a 242,500-sf office and research building and a 690-car parking garage. Under the plan, 8.6 acres would be preserved as open space. The town currently has a moratorium on development, which is set to expire shortly, but a number of local residents are trying to get a six-month extension on the moratorium. They contend that the planning studies that would evaluate the impact a project like the one O’Neill is proposing have not been completed. The O’Neill plan worries officials in Arlington as well.

“What is trying to be accomplished here is an understanding that as land is used there are impacts that result,” points out McClennan. “We need to understand what those impacts are. Developing a piece of land for tax revenue doesn’t bring as much value as you think it does.”

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