Ward Street Grass Roots

A Hingham organization fighting for rational use of our Town’s resources

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Land Use

Ward Street Grassroots is concerned about the following aspects of the Turf Field project as it relates to the proposed use of 13 acres of natural habitat that is currently zoned as Open Space. One portion of the land, the field on Ward Street called Margetts Field, is currently being used by Hingham sports teams and others for day-time seasonal play. The rest of the land, including the inner meadow and surrounding woodlands, is used for more unstructured recreation such as walking, playing with dogs and children, bird-watching, snowshoeing, photography and much more. There is a marked nature trail that was developed by children at Plymouth River School many years ago. This open space contributes to the quiet, rural character of this part of the neighborhood – a welcome relief from the commercial development just a couple of miles away. We can not imagine it with the mature stand of trees removed, and the entire 13 acres covered in plastic, rubber, gravel and fenced.

The Planning Board will address these issues as part of its site plan review process, before issuing Special Permits A-1 and A-3. The Zoning Board of Appeals will participate in this process as well.

Please consider:

1. The acceptance of a gift that dictates the terms on which town land is used sets an unwise precedent. Priorities for the use of town land should be set by the planning board reflecting “community values” and the Master Plan for the Town, and not by donors representing their own private interests.  We are teaching our children about the importance of green projects in school but this is not a green project. Our job should be to protect the environment and assure fiscal responsibility. If this project moves ahead, we will be leaving our children with an environmental problem and a future financial problem

2. The planning board is mandated to prepare a master plan that is “designed to provide a basis for decision-making regarding the long term physical development” of the Town. No town-wide study has been done regarding the adequacy of the number and types of existing playing fields or the locations and types of additional fields that might be built or other steps that might be taken to increase the playing field options available to Hingham children. The proposed use contradicts recommendations made in the 2002 Hingham Master Plan.

3. The proposed use involves the conduct of a commercial business including the hourly rental of the turf fields to persons who may not even reside in the Town of Hingham and is not consistent with the residential character of the local zoning.

4. The planning board is mandated to examine “estimates of the cost” of all plans and proposals for the development of the town and details of scheduled expansion or replacement of public facilities and their “anticipated costs and revenues”. The planning board needs to evaluate the proponents’ claim that the project will be self sustaining in light of documented evidence presented by Ward Street Grassroots questioning their assumptions and suggesting a significant annual deficit as well as significant unfunded expense to replace the fields in not more than 10 years.

5. The planning board is mandated to outline policies and strategies for the protection and management of significant natural resource areas. That would include the adjacent wildlife sanctuary that will be disturbed by this project and Cushing Pond and the Ward Street wetlands that will be polluted by the runoff of chemicals used to treat the fields as well as by the crumb rubber components of the field itself.

6. The planning board is mandated to outline policies and strategies for the protection and management of existing recreational and open space areas. The area in question here is already used by town residents for skiing, walking, dirt-bike riding, playing with dogs and frisbees, bird-watching, nature activities and many other passive and active recreational activities. The area represents the last remaining area of public open space in this part of south Hingham which has been the subject of intense development in recent years. The existing natural grass field is the best-draining field in all of Hingham. The planning board needs to ask why would the Town replace the one natural grass field that is in the best condition when so many other fields in town have significant drainage problems and are otherwise in poor condition.

7. The planning and zoning boards need to evaluate the traffic impact of the project, keeping in mind the heavy projected use of the fields, the narrow width and rural character of Ward Street, the high incidence of accidents at the present intersections of Ward and High Streets and Ward and Cushing Streets and the impracticality of preventing on-street parking from late arrivals or persons who want to exit quickly. These all raise serious impediments to the safe and timely passage of emergency vehicles, cars and pedestrians.

8. The site plan review must assess a number of factors including the protection of adjacent properties (including their well water), safety factors, the adequacy of open space, the adequacy of plans for the disposal of refuse (including the field material itself which has to be replaced not more than 10 years after installation and cannot be disposed of in the town’s landfill), the impact on town resources (including fire and police as well as the town budget), and the impact on the character of the neighborhood. On all these factors, we submit that the proponents will not be able to carry their burden of persuasion.

9. The proponents intend to seek approval at this year’s town meeting of a warrant to amend the town’s long standing zoning bylaw to create a Recreational Field Overlay District for this parcel of land and then to apply to the zoning board for approval to build eight stands of 80 foot tall lights, which would be taller than the Portland Maine lighthouse and would be as high as the 8 story buildings at Linden Ponds. These would be out of place in Hingham and would radically change the rural character of Ward Street. The lights would illuminate the sky for miles in all directions and have an adverse effect on Glad Tidings Plain along Main Street and so many other treasured parts of Hingham.

10. The proponents are insistent on moving the project through the various town boards so that they can begin construction before the town meeting vote. On the one hand, they are “willing to take the risk” that they will win approval for the Overlay District and for lights. Yet on the other hand, the proponents stated at several earlier public meetings that they would abandon the project if the lights were not approved; without the lights the business plan needs complete revision, and the chances of financial success dim considerably. This strikes us as a risky scenario with the high likelihood that no one will be satisfied with this project in the end.

Ward Street Grassroots believes strongly that construction should not be allowed to begin until AFTER a Town Meeting vote. For all the reasons stated on this website, we believe that Hingham does not need turf fields or 80’ lights. We hope that the Planning Board insists that the WSTFF proponents follow the same protocols that any other resident would have to follow when proposing a major development, and that they look at how every piece of this puzzle has to fit in order for the project to be a success. After all, this plan would not be viable without the significant gift of land that the town is being asked to give in return.

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To learn more:
Read the Zoning By-Laws governing special permits on pp 5 – 10 here
Read more on the zoning overlay here
Read the revised By-Law Amendment Proposal here
• Read our Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the Proposed Amendment of the Zoning By-Laww: Recreational Field Overlay District here
• Read more from Nina Wellford on the results of the joint Planning ZBA meeting on March 15 here