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ARLINGTON, MA-A plan by the Archdiocese of Boston to develop a 68-unit residential complex here on a six-acre site it owns near the St. Camillus Church is being met with increasing local opposition.

The land was donated to the archdiocese and the church gave some of it back to the town to use as playing fields and parking lots. The Church has proposed developing its complex on one of the parking lots.

But local residents are concerned because the land has also been used as a waste site. According to Charles Gallagher, spokesperson for the Friends of Poets Corner, a recently formed local advocacy group, “We don’t know what’s going on with the site other than what the church and its environmental consultants said, and they wouldn’t give us any numbers.” Gallagher contends that the church did its testing without issuing a public notice. His group wants the church to do an audit. Repeated calls to the Archdiocese were not returned by presstime.

Gallagher’s group is also worried that the density of the complex will create additional flooding in the area and result in overcrowding at the local school. “This is overdeveloped, high-density housing,” Gallagher tells GlobeSt.com. “The Church wants to cap the site and then we’ll have that much more run-off in the area.”

The area is zoned for single-family housing but at least a third of the complex is proposed to be affordable, which would enable the Church to apply for a comprehensive permit. This allows it to bypass local zoning laws if the town has not met its 10% affordable housing requirement yet. Arlington has 4.6% affordable housing. “They have threatened to apply for a comprehensive permit,” says Gallagher. “Now they say they will address the community’s concerns. They are acting like a developer, not like a church.”

Gallagher notes that the church has said that it would trim the housing plan but “we haven’t seen anything,” he says. Another concern is that the Archdiocese will close St. Camillus and continue to develop on that 10-acre site. “The Church spokesperson referred to this plan as phase I,” notes Gallagher. “We fear phase II will be on St. Camillus’ land.”

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