Last week’s council meeting was packed with constructive discussion and new policy orders. It was the first proper city council meeting since September 29th and there was certainly much to be discussed.
Silver Maple Forest
Although there were many issues on the agenda one was more prominent than the rest. Over the last couple of weeks crews have begun to clear large portions of the Silver Maple Forest in order to make way for a 300 unit 40B housing project. For many Cantabrigians the destruction of the Silver Maple Forest is nothing short of a tragedy and this common passion for environmental preservation has driven many to protest and some to act in civil disobedience. Most of the Councillors were equally upset and voiced the same concerns that were heard at public comment.
However, after lengthy discussion between the Councillors, the City Manager, and members of the Cambridge Conservation Commission, it became clear that there were actually very few options available to help counter the actions of the developers. As the Director of the Cambridge Conservation explained, the majority of the Silver Maple Forest is actually Belmont land and although a small portion of the forest exists within Cambridge’s borders, there are no plans to clear any trees there. Moreover, Director Letourneau went on to note that the land in question was actually private property and therefore there is little that a city could do without implementing eminent domain. For these reasons the defining mood of the meeting was undoubtedly “frustrated”, as almost every councillor expressed their frustration at the lack of options available to them. The Policy Order that was being considered was intended to ensure that the developers were contacted and made aware of the widespread civilian disapproval of the project and the protests and civil disobedience that resulted.
Ultimately, the councillors came to the conclusion that such a Policy Order was unnecessary as it became clear that the City Manager has already contacted the developers and conveying the same message. Instead, the Councillors decided that it would be best to create a factsheet on the issue in order to inform the public of the problems, its causes, and the precise measures that have been taken and can be taken by the City of Cambridge.
Grand Junction Pathway
The Grand Junction Pathway is one of the city’s largest current endeavors in bike safety and transit. At last week’s meeting councillors discussed the next steps that are needed to bring this plan to fruition. In light of MIT’s recent completion of their Property Feasibility Study for the pathway, councillors were interested in connecting with MIT in order to ascertain its timeline for construction. By sharing this information, Cambridge and MIT could then coordinate their construction efforts and timelines in order to make construction as efficient as possible. In addition to connecting with MIT, councillors agreed that it would be equally beneficial to connect with surrounding cities in order to coordinate efforts with them as well.