- Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals
Please Help Stop the Subdivision of One Benton Road
MLM Realty Trust was denied permission to subdivide the land at One Benton Road by the Somerville Office of Strategic Development and Planning Board. They are appealing this decision to the Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals without having addressed any of the concerns that caused the initial decision.
One Benton Road was built in the mid-19th century and contained a number of unique architectural details, most notably the large stained glass window in the back of the house, all of which were dismantled and sold by MLM during their renovation of the house. Additionally, the lot was the site of the last significant area of green space in the neighborhood, characterized by a rolling grassy hill with a pink blooming cherry tree in the spring. That landscape feature was completely eradicated when MLM put in a driveway.
One Benton Road is a single lot, and based on MLM's approach to renovating the original structure, without regard to the wishes of Somerville residents and Aldermen, and without cooperation with the Historic Preservation Society, there is no reason to expect that further subdivision and construction on the land will be an improvement.
For almost a year and despite significantly dropping the price, MLM has not been able to sell the third unit in the existing structure. There is no reason to expect that further building in a space designed for one home will be attractive to prospective buyers.
- Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals
We're writing to encourage you to uphold the Planning Board's denial of MLM Realty Trust's proposal to subdivide the backyard at One Benton Road in order to build a three-unit condominium. We feel that the following issues, mentioned in the Planning Board's denial of MLM's proposal, have not been addressed, nor can they be adequately dealt with through mediation.
Subdividing the property at One Benton Road would:
* compromise the traffic and pedestrian safety at the intersection of Benton Rd with Summer St, esp. for children attending the two schools one block away and anyone attending the many services and functions at St Catherine's Church, also one block away.
* adversely affect the Mystic River and Charles River watershed of this hilltop location.
*exacerbate water runoff problems for neighbors down slope of One Benton Rd. These neighbors now have significant water runoff problems that didn't exist before MLM began their work on One Benton Rd.
* erode property values in the adjacent historic districts.
* increase traffic and parking density in a neighborhood that's already strained by this issue.
*diminish the scenic nature of the adjacent historic districts.
*contribute to the loss of open green space in Somerville, a city that everyone knows is densely developed and has about 77% of its property already paved over or built upon.
*encroach upon and harm the local historic districts that have already been adversely affected by MLM's inappropriate work on One Benton Rd.
*damage the historic integrity of the backyard at One Benton Rd and the adjacent historic districts.
Allowing MLM to proceed with their plan to subdivide the One Benton Road property directly contradicts Somerville's commitment to being a green city by endorsing an outside developer's machinations to bring increased traffic to an already over-congested part of Somerville, thus increasing pollution and decreasing the availability of street parking, while building with no commitment to green construction materials or techniques. The inititial three unit condominium structure on the One Benton Road property has already been responsible for the loss of three parking spaces on Summer Street due to the placement of the curb cut they made. In order to compensate for this loss, MLM agreed in December 2009 to create additional parking on the Benton Road side of the property by reducing the existing the driveway there from 39 ft. to 13 ft., but has done none of the agreed-upon work. Additionally, the sidewalk on the Benton Road side of the building has not been maintained according to Somerville's stated snow removal policies, resulting in a narrow icy passageway rather than a safe walkway.
It is clear that MLM is uninterested in Somerville or the community surrounding One Benton Road; but rather wishes to use the small amount of open land left on the property for one reason: their stated desire to make a profit on the purchase price they paid. The fact that the one of the initial three units they've built has not been sold after 11 months on the market does not suggest that continuing to build on the lot will make it desirable to potential buyers.
Somerville can never recover the history and beauty that was destroyed when MLM gutted the Giobbe House, which formerly stood on the One Benton Road lot, but we can disallow their further attempts to degrade and destroy our city's integrity in order to fill their own pockets.
Thank you for your kind attention to our concerns.
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