Monday, January 31, 2011

Subdivision of One Benton Road Revisited

Gather round, children while we revisit the story of the Giobbe House, a beautiful historic structure sitting atop a rolling green hill that was gutted and destroyed by an out-of-town developer for the purpose of constructing condos. Come closer while I remind you of that developer's fight to further subdivide the already compromised landscape in order to build a second condo structure, despite their awareness of the environmental and traffic problems it will cause the city if given the approval to go forward, as well as the fact that after nearly a year on the market, one of the units in the current structure has yet to be sold. Finally, learn how Somerville residents have thus far prevented the proposed subdivision by working with the Board of Aldermen, resulting in the denial of the proposal by the Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals, and are continuing to fight by attempting to force a denial of the realtor's upcoming appeal.

Well, it's petition time again, with MLM Realty Trust's appeal scheduled to come up before the Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday February 2, 2011. Please read the previous blog entries linked here to follow the history of this situation, or if you're familiar with the long saga and would like to join the fight, click on this link: and sign. The petition we submitted at the June 2010 Office of Strategic Planning and Development and Planning Board meeting was instrumental in preventing MLM's development plans once, and we believe this new one will be again.

Previous Giobbe House/One Benton Road posts:

The Giobbe House

More Tales of the Giobbe House

Further Tales of the Giobbe House

The Giobbe House: The Saga Continues

One Benton Road's Last Stand

Here's the text of the current petition:

Dear Members of the 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 initial 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 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.

This is a situation in which every signature makes a difference, so please add yours and let the ZBA know that Somerville is not interested in being exploited by developers with no commitment to working in harmony with the community.

Again, sign at


Anonymous Susan Kaup Kelley said...

As an over 60 year old, life-long member of the Spring Hill community, with three generations of Somervillians preceding me, I applaud Laura Slapikoff's successful work in bringing the issue of 1 Benton Road to the attention of the wider community!
While the historic architecture of the Giobbe house has been ruined, the issue of despoiling neighborhoods through callous shoehorn development has been highlighted. 1 Benton Road is the poster child for the timeliness of this issue. It is an issue which affects the whole city!
The Zoning Board of Appeals has scheduled MLM developers' petition to expand their ill-conceived project for March 14, 2011. Check with City Hall Monday of that week to make sure of this schedule.
If you care about the texture of life in Somerville in every part of the city, if you care about architecture, housing, traffic, flooding, conservation, city planning, parking or population density ... Please consider signing this petition! The matters at stake are BIGGER than 1 Benton Road alone!

4:10 PM  

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