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Update on Webster Park CPA Aquisition of Forte Property

November 2003

This month will finally witness the culmination of a long process, the acquisition of the 1.1-acre property at 76 Webster Park in West Newton, directly adjacent to the Dolan Pond Conservation Area. A so-called "21E" environmental survey was completed recently and the final report was delivered on Monday, November 17. The closing on the property will take place by the end of November.

Bill Shaevel of the law firm, Shaevel and Krems, has volunteered his services on behalf of the Conservators and has been working with all the parties involved: the Forte family, the Newton Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, and the city's legal department.

A conservation restriction has been drawn up on the property and will wend its way through the approval process. Under the agreement, it is expected that, at the closing, the city will provide the funds to the Conservators and they will be signed over to the estate of Irene Forte. The Forte family's patience with the process is most appreciated.

Habitat for Humanity will most likely be conveyed the approximately 15,000 square foot housing portion of the lot to build an additional duplex unit which will be styled compatibly with the existing historic house. The original house will be conveyed by Habitat to the NHA as part of a condo agreement. Before that, there will be a hearing for a special permit, since there are a total of three units, one more than the two allowed by right.

Habitat has consulted with David Galler, a member of the Historic Commission, on the appearance of the new units and there is agreement on window styles. A new type of clapboard, Hardie Board, which holds up well, is being proposed for the exterior. The pro bono Habitat architect, Norberto Leon of the firm Stephian Bradley, has just come up with a design footprint for the new units with driveway and parking, which the Conservators will be reviewing. The boundaries for the housing portion will be put on the plan by the city surveyor and a subdivision into two lots will be pursued.

One of the main arguments in favor of the city's acquisition of the property at 76 Webster Park was that it preserved the biological diversity of the area, providing upland habitat different from the predominant red maple swamp-a different variety of trees, plants, and creatures. Losing this to development would have affected the health of the entire conservation area. In addition, the new conservation land allows observation into areas otherwise difficult to access. The open space portion of the property will eventually be conveyed to the Conservation Commission as an adjunct to Dolan Pond.

Recently, the NCSC's Teen Reach Program (in West Newton) donated the proceeds from a dance they held to Habitat for Humanity for this particular project and teens from the program will be volunteering when the Habitat build takes place next year.

Ted Kuklinski

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