Open space is one of the aspects of Newton that makes it a great place to live. We are fortunate that past generations of Newton activists had the foresight to recommend the preservation of key parcels of land, and that past generations of elected officials had the good sense to follow those recommendations. Today’s environmentalists carry on that tradition with their advocacy for Webster Woods, the largest contiguous parcel of open space in Newton. As Mayor, I intend to continue that same tradition of good sense by preserving this important parcel.
The 22-acre parcel of undeveloped land now owned by Boston College is directly in the middle of the public open space under the care of the City of Newton to the north and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to the south. Preserving the Webster Wood parcel would create a continuous band of publicly protected open space extending from Beacon Street to the Chestnut Hill Mall.
Preserving open space plays a critical role in protecting the environment. It reduces pollutants in our storm drain system; lowers the likelihood of street flooding; provides wildlife habitat; and reduces greenhouse gasses. Whatever happens to that parcel is critical to all residents of Newton for environmental, recreational, and educational reasons.
Therefore, I am committed to:
- Striking while the iron is hot. The opportunity to preserve open space does not come along every day, and once a parcel is developed, it’s almost always gone forever. That is why preservation of appropriate open space in general, and the permanent protection of Webster Woods in particular, has always been a top priority of mine.
- Forming a Webster Woods citizen advisory group as soon as possible after taking office and meeting personally with the group at a minimum of once a quarter.
- Negotiating with Boston College for permanent protection of and public access to the undeveloped wooded area at a minimum, and preferably including the rear and front satellite parking areas and their abutting wooded areas as well. Restoring these parking lots to a natural condition would significantly expand and improve the safety of Webster Woods. Furthermore, I will negotiate with BC for assurances of compatible future use of the remaining portion of the parcel.
- Submitting necessary approvals to the Community Preservation Act Committee and the City Council to finalize and implement the agreement with Boston College within two and a half years from taking office, but preferably sooner.
- Supporting a taking by eminent domain (or potentially an equally enforceable legal alternative) that ensures no development of these wooded areas and continued public use of them, if, despite my best efforts, I am unable to forge a satisfactory agreement with Boston College.
- Imposing an enforceable perpetual conservation restriction on the open space.
- Exploring with DCR and the Conservation Commission the replacement of the current driveway access to the site, which is hazardous, to the signalized intersection and driveway currently serving the Shops at Chestnut Hill and the Towers of Chestnut Hill.
Note: I have used documents created by and for the City of Newton, sometimes word-for-word, when writing this position paper.