2000 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 10:21:59 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] EPA Expresses Concern About Impacts from Proposed Reuse of Weymouth

US EPA Region 1

Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office

For immediate release: Sept. 14, 2000; Release # 00-09-06

EPA Expresses Concern About Impacts from Proposed Reuse of Weymouth Air
Station; Calls for Comprehensive Review of Water Supply, Traffic and
Regional Impacts

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a letter to
state officials expressing strong reservations about the size and scope of
the proposed redevelopment of the former Weymouth Naval Air Station. The
proposal calls for a major entertainment/mall/office complex that would be
the first of its kind in New England. 

Citing traffic impacts, inadequate water supplies and various other
concerns, EPA's New England Regional Administrator Mindy S. Lubber today
called on state environmental officials to require a far-reaching
environmental impact analysis as part of the state's review of the project
slated to be built in Weymouth, Rockland and Abington. 

"We remain seriously concerned about various potential impacts related to
the proposed redevelopment," Lubber said. "The base redevelopment, viewed
both alone and in combination with other major new developments in
southeastern Massachusetts, will place huge demands on highways, water
supplies, air quality and other natural resources both in the host
communities and across the entire region." 

"Given the large sums of money this project will require from the
Commonwealth for road improvements, it would seem prudent to undertake a
no-holds-barred review of whether the public benefits justify the public
investment," Lubber added. 

Lubber said the Commonwealth's review should include a thorough analysis of
the cumulative impacts of the redevelopment and other planned projects on
regional water supplies, highway networks and other resources.
Additionally, she said, the state's review should include mitigation
proposals, smaller-scale base development alternatives and a far-reaching
public involvement process, including the possible creation of a Citizens
Advisory Committee. 

Lubber's concerns were outlined in a letter and an attachment delivered
late last week to Massachusetts Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert
Durand. Durand's office has until tomorrow to decide on the scope of the
environmental review that will be required for the proposed redevelopment
and associated transportation improvements. 

Situated on 1,450 acres in Weymouth, Abington and Rockland, the former
Naval Air Station is targeted for two million square feet of retail
development dominated by a "Super" retail/entertainment mall (currently
slated to be built by the Mills Corp.), 1.4 million square feet of
business/research and development space, 500 to 700 units of senior
housing, an 18-hole public golf course, and 100,000 square feet of
institutional space. The development would use roughly half of the
property, with 738 acres remaining as open space. 

Lubber cited various concerns about the size and scope of the project,
particularly in terms of potential impacts on traffic, water supplies and
air quality. Given those concerns, EPA requested the following specifics in
the state's review: 

Drinking Water Supplies: Project proponents have no confirmed source of
water to support the project which will require (not including the golf
course) an estimated 515,000 gallons a day, more than five times the daily
demand when the property was used as an air station. (Including the golf
course, daily demand in the summer months will approach 815,000 gallons a
day.) The lack of water is especially troublesome given that the Town of
Weymouth has exceeded the safe yield for its water supplies in the past and
is currently under a state consent order requiring it to find a new source
for additional water by 2002. "The state's review must explore potential
water supply alternatives and clearly demonstrate that realistic solutions
to this problem exist," Lubber said. 

Traffic Issues: According to the developer, traffic generated by the
redevelopment will add 66,000 vehicle trips a day to nearby roads, in
particular Routes 3 and 18. Given that those two roads are "already
severely congested and overcapacity," Lubber said strong consideration
should be given to downsizing the project and making it less auto
dependent. She also recommended that the review be accompanied with
mitigation proposals that would utilize private financing for expanded mass
transportation - both for the project itself and the entire region. 

"These traffic increases illustrate the need for an appropriately sized
project that is environmentally acceptable, that can be accommodated by a
regional infrastructure, and that is not so heavily reliant on
automobiles," Lubber said. "The reuse plan of the scale and type currently
proposed has great potential to exceed the carrying capacity of the region." 

Additionally, Lubber suggested that local communities and regional planning
agencies have an important role reviewing the project. She also recommended
that the Commonwealth look at other mall projects built by the Mills Corp.
to understand the potential impacts of such a project south of Boston. 

"The proposed Mills Mall is a project of the sort that has not been seen in
New England, but which has been compared based on visitor numbers to nearby
casino developments and even Disneyland," she said. "It's not clear that
the region can handle those kinds of impacts." 

Review Process: Lubber said EPA does not object to the developer's request
for a special review procedure for the project, but only as long as it
features the following: formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee
representing a variety of viewpoints; a well-defined decision-making
protocol for approving the project in phases; a guarantee that phasing will
not lead to a piece-meal environmental analysis; and an entirely open
public process prior to each milestone decision. 
# # #

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