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2011 Special State Primary Candiate Open Space Questions and Answers

The Waltham Land Trust asked the 5 candidates running for the 10th Middlesex State Representative District seat 6 questions about open space in Waltham. Here are the answers from the 4 candidates who responded.

On March 16th, the Waltham Land Trust, a non-profit whose mission is to preserve open space in Waltham (www.walthamlandtrust.org), sent a letter to the 5 candidates competing in the Special State Primary for the 10th Middlesex State Representative District. The letter contained 6 questions about open space preservation. We invited the candidates to respond so that we could share their views with our members and the citizens of the district they seek to represent.

Only 4 of the candidates responded by the deadline of March 28th, James E Dixon, Sean T Durkee, John J Lawn Jr and Gary J Marchese. Allan L Ciccone Jr did not reply to the letter nor to attempts to reach him by phone and email.

Below are the 6 questions and responses from the 4 candidates who did respond, with responses presented in alphabetical order by last name.


Question 1. What are your views of our state's land disposition policy MGL Chapter 7, Section 40, and how would you like to change it, if at all? Should local communities where the land is being surplussed have more or less say than the current policy?

James E Dixon — As a general rule, I favor local control. When state property is being surplussed, local communities should have an input, particularly if the parcel of land is large enough to have a significant impact on the landscape of a community. After a cursory look at MGL Chapter 7, Section 40F, I would say that it needs clarification and distinction on the larger parcels of land, such as Fernald, and give the advisory committee more authority in the decision-making process.

Sean T Durkee — I think more local control is always better.  If the city agrees not to re-sell the land AND it is used for open space, recreation, or smart-growth in cooperation with the state, the existing buyback rate at 80% should be lowered or eliminated.

John J Lawn Jr — I believe that this law protects the state and does not give enough control to the local municipalities. The impacts on surplus land will be felt locally and there needs to me more transparency. These difficult economic times brings this more to light. Any development will have immense impacts at the local level.  Cities and Towns need stronger voices in this. I would work to pass legislation that would give more control to the local governments and boards and commissions.

Gary J Marchese — The legislation drafted and enacted by Representative Stanley (Chapter 149, s402 of the Acts of 2004) is a good template to use to modify the land disposition policies of the Commonwealth.  Representative Stanley’s establishment of the Fernald Development Center land reuse committee is specific to the Fernald property, but its terms and conditions could be used as a template for disposition of all state-owned land.  Establishing a re-use committee comprised of local elected officials and interested community members to discuss land disposition within a municipality is essential to deriving the needs of the community in which the land is located.  Requiring a public hearing to receive input from the community is also a key component of such legislation.


Question 2. If the Fernald property is finally surplussed by the state, to what uses do you think the property should be put in Waltham?

James E Dixon — As much as possible, the serenity of Fernald should be preserved. The Fernald Re-Use Committee’s recommendations are a good guideline to follow. Many of its facilities can benefit the community at large and should be maintained, such as the Greene Pool, gymnasium, and Marquardt Nursing Center. It should maintain its primary mission as a residential home for the severely disabled. The open space should be preserved, and its historical significance should be showcased. A cemetery could also be part of the re-use.

Sean T Durkee — The Fernald property should be used for open space and recreation as much as possible where environmentally acceptable.  A small number of historic buildings could be rehabilitated to be used as green, affordable housing units.  Traffic issues must be taken into account with any development.

John J Lawn Jr — I would work with Tom Stanley, Mayor McCarthy, Waltham City Council, Waltham Conservation Commission and the Waltham Land Trust to come up with a plan that achieves something that can work for all of Waltham. We all represent Waltham. I have a history or working together with others to achieve a common good.  Public discussion from the taxpayers of Waltham also needs to be heard.

Gary J Marchese — The Fernald Campus consists of 185 + acres of land (not including the Shriver Center), about 80% of which is undeveloped.  There are over 70 buildings on site, many of which are contaminated with asbestos.  A small part of the premises is subject to an “Activity and Use Limitation” restriction by DEP due to contamination and release of oil from underground fuel storage tanks (i.e. at and near Fernald Center Power Plant).  The Fernald Center is well over 150 years old, many of the structures have historic significance and much of the property sits in or near the environmentally sensitive Western Greenway - streams run through it -  and there is a significant neighborhood presence abutting a portion of the property.   

The Fernald parcel is zoned Conservation/Recreation which significantly limits uses allowed by right. Certainly any reuse plan has to account for the remaining residents who call the Fernald Center their home. 

Any future development must take into consideration a substantial buffer zone for the abutting neighbors, protecting the history of the site, and preserving as much open space in perpetuity as possible.  Recreation, passive and active, farming-gardening green houses, cemetery, low density residential development (i.e. single family homes) would be preferred re-uses.


Question 3. Should the City of Waltham receive a price break in purchasing the Fernald land if surplussed, since the state has not paid any taxes on the land while Waltham has continually provided police, fire and other services?

James E Dixon — The City of Waltham should receive the property, free and clear.

Sean T Durkee — Yes.

John J Lawn Jr — I do believe that Waltham should receive a price break and would fight at the State  level so that happens!

Gary J Marchese — The Commonwealth must protect the City’s interests in this property to prevent overdevelopment and preserve the quality of life of this part of Waltham. While it is unrealistic to expect the Commonwealth to gift the entire 200 acres to Waltham, gifting a large portion of the site to Waltham to meet its needs of protecting its neighborhoods, conserving open space and providing active and passive recreation must be seriously considered.


Question 4. The DCR's budget has been cut substantially. The management plan for Beaver Brook North has not been finalized nor implemented. Little has been coming from DCR regarding maintenance or completion of the Riverwalk, which affects Waltham, Newton, and Watertown. Are you in favor of improved funding for the DCR properties within Waltham's, Newton’s and Watertown’s borders? If so how would you make it a priority?

James E Dixon — The DCR’s record of achievement is spotty at best. The new footbridge behind the Stop and Shop is a nice addition, but its handling of the Connors Pool was pathetic. An Elm St. to Moody St. segment of the Riverwalk would showcase the historical and cultural significance of Waltham, but I’ve heard of no talk about its completion. If the DCR can’t or won’t do it, we should form a collaboration of local communities, businesses, philanthropies, and other interested groups and individuals to raise the funds to complete it.

Sean T Durkee — Yes, I’m in favor of increased funding.  The combined legislative representatives of Waltham, Watertown, Newton, Belmont, and Lexington should create a regional group and publicize DCR funding.

John J Lawn Jr — I have worked with Dan Driscoll from DCR. He is a neighbor and a friend and a valuable resource for these communities. I would continue to work with him on these and other important issues. My family and I use the riverwalk weekly. I have always called Rep Koutoujians office to help with clean up and cutting down grass and over grown branches. This is personal to me and living only 200 yards from the Riverpath my entire life.  I would work on the Beaver Brook plan and push the state for a meeting and an update to why it is not progressing.

Gary J Marchese — My record on the City Council for acquiring open space, and minimizing the impact of development by requiring developers to set aside conservation/recreation zones when possible, is impeccable. I voted for and supported the acquisition of Army Corps, Met State, Lot 1, Chesterbrook Woods, Shady’s Pond Conservation, and every other open space acquisition by this City for the past 13 years.  I will continue to do so.  On the State level, we can assist municipalities with low cost loans or grants to provide them with the seed money to use as a deposit to purchase open space.  Completing the river walk and obtaining the funding should be part of a bond bill which would involve several projects state-wide;  in this way we could elicit support among other legislators in whose district these projects are located.


Question 5. The Rail Trail project through Waltham appears to have stalled. Are you in favor of completing the project and how will you aid in seeing the project completed?

James E Dixon — As the communities from Boston to Concord enjoy the Minuteman Trail, Waltham continues to wallow in its image as “the Forgotten City” on Beacon Hill. Although I would like to see the Rail Trail project move forward, I have heard concerns about security in some areas, particularly around the Gardencrest apartments.

Sean T Durkee — Yes, I’m in favor of completing the project.  I attended the first Waltham public hearing on the rail trails project.  I personally enjoy the Minuteman trail whenever I can.  Also, I’ve hiked many portions of the unfinished trail.  I will look into why construction has not already started on the trail and will educate those who are unaware of rail trail benefits.

John J Lawn Jr — I have voted in Watertown to support the rail project. I would use these experiences to help move along the Waltham rail project. I have done it!

Gary J Marchese — I would work closely with Senator Fargo and Representative Stanley.


Question 6. Please express any general comments you have about open space and its preservation in Waltham. Have you personally enjoyed any of Waltham’s wonderful open space?

James E Dixon — I believe that Waltham does a good job of preserving open space, compared to many cities and towns that I’ve lived in or visited throughout the country. I enjoy daily walks at the Paine Estate and Storer Conservation Area, and regularly walk segments of the Riverwalk. I have, on occasion, ridden my bicycle on the Riverwalk into Boston.

Sean T Durkee — I personally enjoy walking, hiking, running, biking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing on: Prospect Hill Park, Berry Farm, Hardy Pond, Charles River, Beaverbrook North Reservations, Western Greenway and its new trails and bridges, wooded properties along Second Avenue over Bear Hill, the lands adjacent to the railroad track along Stony Brook, around the Cambridge Reservoir and Western Conservation lands, Forest Grove and the Riverwalk along its entirety, and the Paine/Lyman/Gore Estates.  The Durkee Family has enjoyed Waltham and the surrounding communities open space for the past 100 years.  I would like future generations to enjoy the same benefits of open space recreation my family has enjoyed.

John J Lawn Jr — Open space is something we need to protect for future generations. We live in such a dense area that open space should be a priority! As I said the riverpath is something I use weekly with my 5 children. We also hike at Prospect hill and ride bikes at Beaver Brook. I look forward to working on protecting Walthams open space with Waltham Land Trust!

Gary J Marchese — I learned how to ski on Prospect Hill, ice-skated on the open rink next to Connors Pool and at the MDC rink.  I also skated at Walker’s Pond, Lyman’s Pond, and in the Cove.  I have hiked up Prospect Hill and viewed the Boston sky line from its peak, I have walked my dog along the walking paths of the Paine Estate, and my family and I have biked and walked along the River Walk and enjoyed the views of the wild life from the Mary Early Bridge.  I am currently sponsoring an Anti-Graffiti ordinance to help the City combat graffiti particularly on the buildings along the River Walk.  I was a member of the Waltham Environmental Committee for 2/12 years and worked closely with the EPA representative on the city incinerator and storm water retention and infiltration issues.  In June, 2008, as a member of the Rules and Ordinances Committee, we reviewed and recommended for approval important legislation amending Waltham’s Stormwater Ordinance to bring Waltham into compliance with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Policies for storm water management and illicit discharges into the Waltham’s storm water drainage system.

Protecting our scarce natural resources, and preserving open space in  perpetuity have been and will continue to be a priority.


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