Square peg in a round hole in Milton

April 4, 2014

When I moved to Milton in 2002 (Mary’s been here since 1969), I was thrilled to be living in a home that had been built shortly after the Civil War in the heart of a town proud of its heritage and smart enough to have created an historic district to protect it.

Expecting development of the seven-acre field behind our home with single family homes, as required by its R-1 zoning, we purchased 10 feet of land along the back of our property. We planted azaleas, hollies and cherry trees on it: a natural buffer between our house and the anticipated single-family homes. Like so many others, our home is our largest investment. A large part of its value is determined by its surroundings.

Now we find out that Draper Holdings wants that field rezoned R-3 so it can cram 22 four-unit buildings (88 condos) and 220 parking spaces on this seven-acre block between Mulberry and Union, bounded by Willow and Clifton streets. As a point of reference, the corner of Willow and Union marks the beginning of the Milton Historic District.

According to documents submitted to the Office of State Planning, the housing project will generate 576 trips each weekday entering or exiting onto Willow Street. Willow is a single block terminating at its west end at Mulberry and its east end at Union. Union and Mulberry are maintained by the state, Willow by the Town of Milton.

Can these streets, especially Willow, handle this increased traffic load? What about in the summer when tourists use Union Street to avoid the congestion on Route 1? We can’t control beach traffic, but we don’t have to add hundreds of cars to it.

How about the provision of emergency services? Will these 22 buildings be easily accessible to fire trucks? What about water? How is our already strained water capacity going to respond to this increased demand and who’s gonna pay for it?

This seven acres is presently farmland. The 220 parking spaces, 22 multifamily buildings and their associated streets and sidewalks are going to create a heck of a lot of impervious surface. Where’s the stormwater runoff going to go?

And how will the town’s already overburdened schools, particularly H.O.B., handle this boom in school age children? A totally unexpected boom - the field, as currently zoned, would be built out with 28 single-family homes; they’re proposing 88 condominiums.

Finally: what conceivable town interest does overbuilding this seven-acre field in the heart of town advance?

Claiming it fills a need for affordable housing is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. If Milton needs more affordable housing than it already has, there are far more suitable locations to put it than on this piece of land. Read the comprehensive plan. This parcel is not among those identified as potential high density locales.

Further, notwithstanding Mayor Jones’ belief: "If Mr. Draper is putting his name on the project, he's prepared to see it through.” Mr. Draper didn’t see Cannery Village through. How do we know he won’t flip this property too?

If this comes before Milton Planning & Zoning, on which I serve, I will recuse myself. The field is in our backyard; approving the rezone will likely result in a financial loss to Mary and me. Still, we ask ourselves: is cramming 22 four-unit buildings (88 condos) on a single block in the heart of town good or bad for Milton? We think it’s bad.

It will increase demand for public services: schools, roads, water, parks, police,emergency services… Traffic in town will go through the roof. And it isn’t even remotely compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Is the backdrop of 22 multifamily buildings looming 10 feet taller than the historic homes on Union Street, the gateway to Historic Milton, really the image we want to project?

Lynn E. Ekelund
Mary L.P. Hudson

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