Assembly Square Draft Environmental Impact Report Testimony

(Submitted to EOEA 8/10/09)

August 10, 2008

Secretary Ian A. Bowles
Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
Attn: Deirdre  Buckley
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114
Deirdre.Buckley@state.ma.us

RE: EOEA #13989, Draft Environmental Impact Report, Assembly Square Mixed-Use Development

Dear Secretary Bowles:

This note is with regard to  EOEA #13989, Draft Environmental Impact Report, Assembly Square Mixed-Use Development. I support this development in general, with the following comments:

  1. The actual text of the Development Covenant and of the Settlement between the proponent and the Mystic View Task Force (referenced on pp. 3-20 and 3-21) should  be included as an appendix in the FEIR. These are legally-binding agreements with the city government and with concerned citizens of Somerville, and their terms should be made part of the FEIR to ensure that they are not forgotten and thereby become matters of dispute. In particular, I cite the hard cap of 55,000 vehicle trips per day that the proponent agreed to as part of the MVTF settlement.
  2. The site plan (Figure 1.1) shows that the new MBTA Orange Line stop has only a single head house at the foot of Foley Street. While the IKEA development is a separate development from the current proposal, it is part of the overall plan for Assembly Square. I request that  the state commit to a second MBTA head house near the foot of IKEA Way, with a walkway from the head house to the IKEA building. This will encourage transit-oriented access to the IKEA store and mitigate its known dependence upon the automobile. It will also knit the IKEA store further into the rest of the site.
  3. Residential development is a net tax loss to the City of Somerville because residents draw more upon city services than businesses do. Furthermore, market conditions for residential development are currently very poor due to the subprime lending crisis. The state should provide regulatory support to encourage alternatives to residential development that will bring in high tax revenues, in particular high-end office development.
  4. The DEIR gives minimal attention to the abutting Winter Hill Yacht Club, which although on public land is a private club that provides no public access or benefit to the Somerville community at large. I request that state government encourage the Winter Hill Yacht Club to provide services to the community, for example a youth program like that long provided by Community Boating on the Charles.
  5. Main Street and Riverside Drive should have at minimum a marked bicycle lane. (None appears in the section in Figures 1.10 and 1.12.) Riverside Drive in particular should encourage bicycle use with a bicycle lane or path, because this is the scenic route along the river.
  6. The existing developments on the site are almost all automobile oriented. Examples include the Assembly Square Marketplace (all big-box stores) and the existing Home Depot and Circuit City.  The forthcoming IKEA is also heavily automobile oriented.  A key goal of the Mystic River Master Plan is to "decrease non-point pollutants presently entering the river." Automobiles are an important source of such pollutants, both in the form of oil runoff and as sources of oil and nitrate aerosols that can settle into nearby bodies of water and cause eutrophication there. To offset these conditions, the state should promote nonpolluting mass transit as an alternative to automobile transportation. For example, retail traffic may require transportation impact mitigation. The FEIR should give preference to mitigations that support mass transit, such as discounts and free delivery for mass transit riders. Similarly, preference should be given to supporting the new T stop over providing new parking places for automobiles.

Gasoline prices make this a particularly good time to promote alternatives to the automobile.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

David Dahlbacka

5-Jul-09