July 26, 2005: Air base plans get the final approval votes
Air base plan
2,855 homes, condos and apartments
2 million square feet of commercial space
18-hole golf course
About two dozen playing fields
700-plus acres of open space, including walking and biking trails
July 26, 2005
3-town sweep for base plan
It’ll be 3 years before shovel goes in ground, officials say
The Patriot Ledger
With the final town approval in hand, officials overseeing the billion-dollar redevelopment of the former Weymouth air station will start a tedious 3-year process of land transfers and environmental reviews before anything else can happen.
And it would be another year or two after that - 2009 or 2010 - before the first residents move in and business owners set up shop.
“Now the fun begins,” said David Hall, senior vice president for developer LNR Property Corp. “Or I should say, the fun continues.”
At the top of the to-do list is asking the Navy to hand over the remaining 800-plus acres that the federal government still owns at what had been the South Weymouth Naval Air Station.
The Navy closed the base in 1997 and it remains the largest piece of underdeveloped land on the South Shore. Economists and local officials say what happens at the base will impact the entire region for decades.
Base overseer South Shore Tri-Town Development Corp. will submit an application for that transfer this week, Executive Director Terry Fancher said.
The application will detail how the approved plan - which includes 2,855 houses and condos, 2 million square feet of commercial space and a golf course - will spur economic growth on the base and in the region.
The hope, Fancher said, is that the Navy won’t make them pay for the land. If it does, LNR could back out as the developer or Tri-Town could be responsible for paying the cost, which could cut revenue to the three towns - Weymouth, Abington and Rockland - that the base sits in.
In May 2003, the Navy transferred 549 acres of base land to Tri-Town at no cost.
But last year, reports surfaced of a new redevelopment proposal with more than four times the amount of housing than the previous plan. Because the no-cost transfer is based largely on job growth, the Navy balked at giving away the rest of the property for free.
Now Tri-Town and LNR will give it another try.
They hope to have title to about 320 additional acres by next spring, with the rest coming by the end of next year.
In the meantime, LNR and Tri-Town will submit information to the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs by early next year. That will trigger environmental impact reviews and lead to the state granting, or denying, licenses and permits for the project.
The lengthy process, on which the viability of the entire project rests, is expected to take at least 18 months.
“A lot has to do with how long the environmental review will take,” Fancher said.
LNR and Tri-Town will have to prove that it can get water to the base, build roads, ease traffic and protect wetlands and wildlife.
It will also have to clean up numerous contaminated sites on the base, all under the close eye of the Navy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Then LNR can start building the infrastructure, like water pipes, sewer lines and roads.
“When do you actually see construction take place?” Fancher said. “Late 2008, early 2009.”
Officials from Weymouth, Tri-Town and LNR say the state environmental review is one of the most important, if not the most important, parts of the development process.
Weymouth Town Councilor Arthur Mathews, who voted for the plan, said he’ll be at every state review meeting to make sure the developer is held to high standards. He challenged all the other councilors to be there as well.
Mayor David Madden added that the council’s approval of the development was an end to local approval, but was far from the finish line.
“This is really the beginning in many respects,” he said. “The plan is only a plan. All of this is a great milestone, but it’s really just the beginning.”
Air base reuse plan gets just the votes it needs to proceed
By MARK FONTECCHIO
WEYMOUTH - The redevelopment plan proposed for the former Weymouth air station needed the approval of eight town councilors.
It got eight.
Last night in the packed auditorium of Abigail Adams Middle School, the Weymouth town council approved the reuse and zoning plans for the base.
The vote was 8-to-3. Councilors Kenneth DiFazio, Susan Kay and Paul Leary opposed.
Now the plan will undergo review by state environmental agencies.
“Our work tonight is not over,” Council President Thomas Lacey said.
Councilors had a plan before them to build 2,855 houses and condos and two million square feet of commercial space at the former naval air base in South Weymouth.
The council also realized the heat was on since the plan last month won approval at town meetings in Abington and Rockland. The base encompasses portions of the three towns.
Almost 200 people, most of them union members eager for jobs the project would bring, squeezed into the auditorium where the vote took place last night.
“It’s not just about us getting work,” said Peter Bernazzani of Whitman, a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers. “We support the businesses in our area. The money stays here.”
When completed in 2017, the developer says the plan will create a community with about 7,000 residents, thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of vehicles entering and exiting the base every day.
It will change the landscape of the three towns forever.
For Councilor Joseph Connolly, who supported the plan longer than any councilor, it was worth it.
“Ideally, in a perfect world, we’d like to leave it as it is,” said Connolly, who lives about a mile away from the base. “It’s pristine, it’s beautiful, but that’s not the reality of this business world.”
For Councilor Kenneth DiFazio, who has attended most air base meetings for months and scrutinized every detail, it wasn’t worth it.
“Just because it’s good for Abington and Rockland doesn’t mean it’s good for Weymouth,” he said.
DiFazio, Kay and Leary said impacts on traffic, water and the schools would not be outweighed by benefits like revenue.
“I believe this plan is very well intended but not complete,” Kay said.
Those in favor said they were worried about what would happen if they didn’t approve it, and talked about the Navy possibly auctioning the land.
“Leaving the property alone to me is not an option,” Councilor Michael Smart said. “Development will happen there.”
Those opposed said the warnings were just false alarms.
Weymouth walks away with $13M from LNR
The Patriot Ledger
Just hours before a crucial vote on the former Weymouth air base was to take place, Weymouth officials came to agreement with the developer on a $13 million mitigation package.
That number was pared down from an original wish list of about $32 million, but the final figure is well above the $3 million Abington got and the $6.3 million promised to Rockland.
The mitigation payments are meant to offset the impact the redevelopment will have on the communities, and make voting for it more palatable.
Big-ticket items in the Weymouth package include $3.5 million for parks improvements over five years and $2 million each for improvements to Columbian Square and restoration of Legion Field.
Other items include $75,000 for school band uniforms and $15,000 for infrared goggles.
Weymouth Mayor David Madden, along with town councilors Thomas Lacey and Michael Smart, met in closed-door sessions with developer LNR Property Corp. over several weeks.
They finalized the deal yesterday just hours before the town council voted to approve a redevelopment plan.
Some other items:
About $1 million to replace a boiler at the Chapman Middle School.
$400,000 each for repairs to sidewalks and the Libbey Industrial Parkway.
$25,000 for new flooring at the teen center.
$30,000 for work at the Fulton School playground.
Mark Fontecchio may be reached by .
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