Mike Zwirko Promises To Benefit Future Of Green Melrose: Letter

Mike Zwirko Promises To Benefit Future Of Green Melrose: Letter

These high school students can't vote, but they are making the most of their voice.

Sep 12, 2019 11:02 pm ET
Posted on
Melrose Patch

The following was submitted by Melrose High students Ethan Cesar, Alex Germain, and Dan Urchuk. Let your voice be heard by signing up for a free account and posting.

To the Editor,

The threat of climate change is more prevalent than ever, and as people who will be dealing with its repercussions the rest of our lives, we believe our input is necessary to how Melrose conducts itself in the future.

Melrose is not a major player in the climate change crisis, and the city has done a good job to reduce our wasteful practices. Under Mayor Dolan, the city pledged to become a NetZero community by 2050, and more recently, under Mayor Infurna, Melrose's Board of Aldermen passed a plastic bag ban.

The next mayor of Melrose needs to build on the city's past work to make sure our community continues its environmentally-conscious practices. For this job we believe Mike Zwirko will be best fit. His plans for future sustainability in Melrose are comprehensive and innovative, and will benefit our community for years to come.

Sustainability is very important to Mike Zwirko. Mike was at the forefront of our city's plastic bag ban as a member of the Board of Aldermen. As mayor, he wants to bring compost to the curbside, which will greatly reduce the amount of waste Melrose residents send to landfill every year. Additionally, Mike wants to hasten our efforts at achieving NetZero, the sooner we can neutralize our carbon emissions the better. Mike also wants to bring water access to Melrose's major parks and other areas of recreation. Those who frequent these areas can attest to how much litter is accrued in the form of single-use drink bottles, and Mike's plan will lessen it significantly.

We cannot vote in Melrose's upcoming election, but the future actions of our community are important regardless. There are five great candidates in our upcoming election, however we believe Mike Zwirko promises to benefit the future of a green Melrose the most.

Melrose High School students Ethan Cesar, Alex Germain, and Dan Urchuk

Mike Zwirko
Here's What Sets Mike Zwirko Apart: Letter

Here's What Sets Mike Zwirko Apart: Letter

"Mike cares about this community in a way that I haven't felt from many of our elected officials and people in city hall."

Sep 12, 2019 10:45 pm ET
Posted on
Melrose Patch

The following was submitted by Andrew Scott. Let your voice be heard by signing up for a free account and posting.

On September 17th I'll be casting my vote for Mike Zwirko for Mayor. Mike cares about this community in a way that I haven't felt from many of our elected officials and people in city hall.

A quick story: This past year took my wife and I on a parking journey we didn't expect. We unfortunately need to have two cars in order to travel to (and for) our jobs, but haven't been able to afford a place in town that offers us two parking spots. Due to the overnight parking ban, we spent the last four years moving our car every morning before 8am to and from a municipal lot using the overnight parking pass, carefully avoiding the "no parking" times. One day this year we heard (from a neighbor on Facebook of all places) that the city would start enforcing different hours at the municipal lots than what we had been informed of by City Hall. When we talked to city hall they didn't know or seem to care why the paper they gave us for years had stated that we could park until 8am, which was apparently false. This meant that we would now have to get up every day of the week to move our car out of the municipal lot by 6:00am. According to our city, because we can't afford a home with a personal driveway we are never allowed to sleep past 5:30am, and this made us feel very unwelcome in a city we had called home for many years. We reached out to a few elected officials, one of whom gave us a one-sentence answer shrugging off the situation, while another immediately told us we were wrong for bringing up the issue.

Mike Zwirko was the only person we reached out to who was actually willing to listen to our issue. We weren't completely on the same page at first, but as our conversation went on Mike listened and learned more about our situation. By the end of our meeting I felt like Mike truly understood our frustration in town, and was able to sympathise and discuss the possible solutions.The issue remained on his mind over the following week, and he ended up personally finding us a legal, dedicated place to park in town!

This is something that sets Mike apart: When you come to him with an issue, his very first instinct is to help you find solutions, not to say no, or that it's impossible -- and that's an amazing trait to have in a mayor.

His inclination to find solutions stems from his constant search for solutions in our city. He knows the city like the back of his hand, and he isn't just saying what he wants for Melrose, he's detailing how we're going to get there. To develop the city economy Mike will hire an Economic Development Director, adequately staff the Inspections Department, and amend our puritan alcohol restrictions. To improve our education Mike will substitute teach three times a year, hire an Inclusion and Diversity Director, and expand interdisciplinary learning. And to increase sustainability in the city Mike will build water fountains in our parks and fields, work on composting in our schools and businesses, as well as bringing the Community Preservation Act back to the table. Mike's goals are ambitious, and they all have a sturdy foundation and a clear path to completion - which as we've gleaned from the last mayoral debate, is incredibly
important to making strides in progress and stability for Melrose.

And the cherry on top, Mike already has a plan to give one parking spot back to Melrose! He has promised to give up the mayoral parking spot (who even knew that existed?!?) and designate it for veteran parking. Vote Mike Zwirko for Mayor on September 17th!

Mike Zwirko
Why I Want To Be Your Next Mayor

Why I Want To Be Your Next Mayor

I want to be your next Mayor because I have always wanted to build something and to do it in a collective fashion.

By Mike Zwirko, Local Official, Melrose Patch, Sep 9, 2019 11:34 am ET

It is the most often asked question, but also, the most important one: Why are you running for Mayor?

I want to be your next Mayor because I have always wanted to build something, to improve something and to do it in a collective fashion. I view the role of Mayor as being the CEO of a community in an occupation that demands "Swiss-army Knife" solutions; not just singular approaches to problems. A 21st century Mayor is no longer a political job; it is one of dynamism, agility and stamina. Political skills matter less and less for a Mayor as it is really a job filled with the nuts and bolts of administering services and executing on projects.

My approach to governing has always been the same: Be inclusive and engage with the public often. Be approachable and listen, because you are going to learn something. Focus on the details, because that is the best way to get results. And always be moving with energy and focus on the pursuit of progress. How I have governed so far as an Alderman is a direct window into how I will govern, as Mayor, going forward.

In 2015, I successfully ran for Alderman-at-Large and I am currently in my fourth year in that role. In 2018, I served as the Board's President during a time of transition in our city. In my time on the Board of Aldermen, I have been an active member, leading on initiatives and focusing on areas that have been ignored. I uncovered that we were two years behind on our statutorily mandated charter review and I filed an order invoking that the Charter Review Committee be constituted.

Working with the parks department, I found the location of the community garden that had been languishing without a home for years. Focusing on reducing waste and local ways to combat climate change, I spearheaded the effort to ban single-use plastic bags. It was hugely successful and passed unanimously. Finally, with the advent of recreational adult use marijuana coming to Melrose, I passed a rule that mandated 50% of all taxes received from the sale of marijuana be dedicated to education, public safety and substance abuse prevention efforts. Because if we are going to have this new product in our community, we want to ensure it pays for its impacts.

Melrose demands bold leadership and I will meet that challenge. Like many of the people I speak with, I am done waiting. It is time for Melrose to lead and move forward. I see Melrose at the crossroads of opportunity and obstacles. We have so much promise here before us, but we often can't get out of our own way; particularly due to the lack of leadership and political courage. Whether we are talking about economic development efforts, parking, traffic reduction or enforcement, addressing our public safety buildings or any work towards implementing the vision that is our Master Plan, we have not moved forward.

Why is this the case? Because for too long we have allowed the status quo to govern us. With the outcome of the override this past April, continuing down the path of more of the same is perilous. Regardless of whether you supported it or not, everyone is making the additional investment in our community. Because of this, we need a fundamental change in our approach to problems. We don't need more lists, we don't need more task forces, we don't need more meetings: we need action. A plan is nothing without action. Now is the time for action.

We have an opportunities out there that are ours to capitalize on. We can make government better, more responsive, accessible and accountable. We don't have to settle for the way it has always been and hope that things change. Instead, lets drive that change on our terms and demand it. More of the same is not a path towards prosperity, it is stagnant and our future can't afford it.

I hope you will support me, Mike Zwirko, as your choice for Mayor on September 17th. I'd greatly appreciate your vote.

Mike Zwirko
Let The Sunshine In: Public Access is Granted!

Let The Sunshine In: Public Access is Granted!

Mayoral Candidate Mike Zwirko Will Make Government More Responsive, Accessible and Accountable.

Posted on Melrose Patch:

Sep 2, 2019 2:04 pm ET

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously stated in 1913 that "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." Speaking mainly to vast political corruption in the early 20th Century, Justice Brandeis advocated for a more accessible government, because he saw this as the most effective - and trustworthy way - to make government more responsive to the people.

Throughout my career as Alderman-at-Large, I have tried to emulate the words of Justice Brandeis in my interactions with the public and department heads. I have made countless requests for additional information on budgetary items, enterprise fund data, committee minutes, as well as enhancements to our agenda items. On multiple occasions, I have hosted open and uncensored Q & A sessions with the public - during non-working hours - to bring my work as your public official to you. I do this because I feel very strongly about how government should function: under the sunlight. As Mayor, I will have the ability to go even further and I intend to do just that.

I will re-start the Mayor's podcast and create a virtual comment box for ideas from residents with responses from the Mayor's office. While the Mayor's Blog is helpful to advertise community events and City updates, it is a woefully antiquated means of communication. Love it or hate it, residents use social media. Government needs to go where the people are and do everything to be accessible and modernized. I will increase our presence on social media, with all departments, and have a more rapid response to issues and improvements ongoing in our community. I will continue to host regular Q&A sessions with residents and hold "pop-up City Hall" booths at the Farmer's Market and other locations outside of typical Monday - Friday City Hall hours.

The Planning Board is arguably the most important non-elected board in the city. The decisions they make have profound impacts on our neighborhoods. Yet they are huddled in a small conference room that can barely hold its members. Let alone the developers, their presentations, and members of the public who attend. We need to increase the transparency of the Planning Board by making their meetings recorded and televised on MMTV. Same goes for the Zoning Board of Appeals. From time to time the issues before these boards can ultimately move to litigation. Having a recorded transcript of entire meetings and statements is key to aiding litigation matters. Currently, we only have copies of minutes and recitations.

Finally, I will post real-time and historical budgetary information that will be available for download from the City's website. The ability to download this information will allow for aggregated data to be pulled and analyzed so trends and other findings can be reviewed. We have an amazing pool of talents across our community and I don't pretend to be an expert on everything. If we have residents who are willing and want to analyze and recommend suggestions about our budget or our process, I am all ears and I welcome the assistance.

A Mayor needs to visible. A Mayor needs to be active in all facets of administering the services provided to our community. No task is too small, and no challenge is too large. The more time a Mayor spends behind a desk, the more they will miss what is going on across the rest of the City with their own eyes and ears. Only when you have something to hide are you hesitant to let the sunshine in. Let's build trust, shine the light, and work together to improve Melrose.

Mike Zwirko
Mayoral Candidates Float Ideas, Talk Sustainability At Forum

Mayoral Candidates Float Ideas, Talk Sustainability At Forum

Mike Carraggi, Melrose Patch Staff, Aug 23, 2019

MELROSE, MA — All five mayoral candidates addressed the public in the same forum for the first time Tuesday night, talking about energy and sustainability issues in front of some 175 people at Melrose High School.

Jackie Lavender Bird, State Rep. Paul Brodeur and Aldermen-at-Large Mike Zwirko, Monica Medeiros and Manisha Bewtra took part in the forums, which was put on by groups that make up Sustainable Melrose. It's the second of three opportunities candidates will have to speak in such a setting; four of the candidates spoke at a Democratic City Committee forum in June and all five are invited to a forum put on by MMTV in September.

Moderator Jacob Stern posed five questions to the candidates, who each had two minutes to respond. The candidates were each given a 30-second closing statement.

"All of the candidates showed their intent to make sustainability a priority, although they certainly varied on how much of a priority it will be in their administration," Jeana McNeil, a member of the Melrose and one of the people planning the forum, told Patch.

"I appreciated that both Aldermen Bewtra and Zwirko made it clear they would lead the community in the right direction on sustainability, even if that means taking on thorny issues like revenue. I also liked that Jackie Lavender Bird and Rep. Brodeur spoke about integrating sustainability into City Hall with new roles and regular engagement with groups like the Sustainable Melrose Coalition."

Editor's note: This is part of Patch's ongoing mayoral coverage ahead of the preliminary election. This report is just one person's account of the forum. You can watch the full mayoral forum on MMTV here and individual statements here. Take the time to educate yourself on the candidates before the preliminary.

As is the case in such forums, there was some vague filler and some direct proposals. Some of bolder ideas were:

  • Zwirko said the city needs to produce less trash by looking at curbside composting, but that "we need to go even further and we need to compost food-waste at all of our schools."

  • Brodeur said too many people get in their car by themselves just to go to places like Oak Grove. He mentioned a "mini-carpool situation" but did not elaborate. He also mentioned looking at a senior citizen property tax exemption to sustain affordability.

  • Medeiros fired off a few ideas at the end of a question about making Melrose a safer, more walkable and bikeable place. Among them were potentially offering a shuttle during busy times and looking at building a safe route adjacent to the Oak Grove train tracks

  • Bewtra also flew through some ideas when asked about how to reduce waste generation, with mandatory recycling among them. "Changing behavior is probably the hardest thing to do," she said.

  • Bird, talking about cutting down on traffic, referenced the city taking back the Beebe School and allowing people to choose their neighborhood school as their first option.

The final question was about whether the candidates would support the Community Preservation Act, a property tax surcharge which has to be approved by voters and which the state would partially match. It helps fund open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation projects.

Bewtra and Zwirko both supported the CPA, while acknowledging it could lead to difficult conversations in the wake of this year's override. Both called not having the CPA in place a "missed opportunity."

"If you're afraid of having difficult conversations or if you're afraid to lead on questions ... about whether our community is going to move forward or preserve itself, then I don't think you're leading," Zwirko said.

Neither Medeiros nor Bird supported the CPA.

Bird touted her understanding of the budget and the city's "immense" borrowing capacity as ways Melrose can still fund projects that the CPA would.

"Melrose is just several months out of a very difficult decision to pass an operational override," she said. "I'm not ready to go back to the community to ask for an additional tax increase for the Community Preservation Act when the state is now only matching 13 cents on the dollar."

Medeiros said projects could be decided by the voters on a case-by-case basis.

"If we think it's going to be used to really protect open space, I think most likely it's going to be the people with the loudest voices who are going to get the money in that fund first, and that's probably going to be for buildings for public safety," she said.

Brodeur said he doesn't support the CPA currently, but "over the long term we really need to consider the CPA as an important part of our planning going forward." He said fiscal management of the money freed up via the override should be a focus.

There was talk of giving Sustainable Melrose a seat at the table, to varying degrees.

Bewtra, who said her time as a city planner lent itself to a lot of thought about smart growth, said her mayorship would see a Sustainable Melrose summit in early 2020, which would help give the city's climate action plan and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 goal "some teeth." It would also give action items to each of the groups in Sustainable Melrose, anchored by leadership at City Hall.

"I want to see is us have the political courage to go beyond the things that we know are our conveniences as consumers and leading those initiatives from City Hall," she said.

Bird said Sustainable Melrose should have a "direct line to" the mayor's office and said there would be quarterly meetings.

Medeiros advocated for bringing the discussions further into the neighborhoods with community meetings, reaching those who may not be educated on environmental impacts

"We have to meet people where they are, which means in many cases they're not necessarily going to be even in this room," she said.

There was discussion about the DPW director position, which Mayor Gail Infurna recently filled in an interim capacity after taking some heat for seeking a permanent hire before the end of her term.

"We have a huge opportunity for the next mayor coming in to name a DPW director who can fill the role with sustainability as being one of the core pillars of that job," Bird said.

Brodeur, who this week received an endorsement from the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said he was disappointed the job description for the DPW position didn't include anything about climate change or adaptability.

"We can't miss any opportunity to move forward," he said. 

Bird also mentioned the need to fill the role of recycling coordinator, which has fallen by the wayside due to what she said was budget issues.

Zwirko said the position had been budgeted for, but that leadership in City Hall didn't commit to filling the position after the recycling coordinator left last year.

The Vespa-riding Zwirko appeared most in his element. Touting his time at "the greenest college in America" — College of the Atlantic — he pitched himself as a problem solver who knows which problems to solve because he experiences them daily as a T rider and foot-trafficker.

"You want a mayor who knows what it's like to bike and walk throughout the city and know where some of the trouble spots are," he said.

Zwirko, who said in Monday night's Board of Aldermen meeting that it's past time to have to be urging people to stop using plastic straws, indicated his top priority would be sustainability.

"When we're talking about green technologies and sustainability, it has to be the first question asked in everything that we do," Zwirko said.

Mike Zwirko
Sustainability: It's all about the Green

Sustainability is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days and it seems to encompass everything: the food we eat (sustainably farmed!), the vehicles we drive (electric!) and even our clothing (recycled!). This is a good thing as we need to be more mindful of the impact we have on our environment in every way. However, a lot gets lost when we use the term "Sustainability" because it has become so ubiquitous; we no longer know what it means.

Climate change is real. It is proven. July of 2019 was the hottest July ever recorded on the planet. Our oceans are warming, weather is becoming considerably more erratic and damaging and our sea levels are rising. In addition, the human population continues to rise and so does our impact on the environment through what we eat, what we throw away and consume.

Over the past 10 years, sustainability has grown from individuals seeking to reduce their impact on the environment, to Fortune 500 companies looking to improve their bottom line. Municipalities, too, are doing the same. Especially in New England where our buildings and infrastructure are aged, there has been tons of investment into green technologies, materials and energy sources. Why is it so popular? Because it is all about the green. Money, that is.

Making Melrose a leader in sustainability efforts isn't a feel good enterprise; it makes fiscal sense! We are routinely asked to do more with less, but being sustainable actually allows us to stretch tax dollars further or reduce costs. Here is a perfect example: In a couple of years we will begin negotiations on our trash contract. The company we contract with bills us per ton of trash taken away. One of the largest items in our trash is food waste. It also weighs a lot and thus, costs us a lot of money to be hauled away and ultimately incinerated. So, why not bring composting to the curbside? It will lower our tonnage and our trash costs. And, we will prevent it from being incinerated and polluting our air and watersheds. It's a win-win!

Single use plastic is the new focus. It is a product that does not breakdown and it is everywhere in our oceans and our landfills. In the old mantra of green practices: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, the most important of those three is "reduce." Here in Melrose, we need to focus more on reduction. The best way to do this is to give people access to alternatives. If we put public drinking fountains at every park, we can begin a public outreach campaign to encourage residents to bring reusable water bottles to the parks during athletic, community, and other events. Take away the perceived need for a case of single-use plastic water bottles by providing access to a high quality source at no cost. Less plastic, more water. Another win-win!

Sustainability doesn't need to be thought of as some earthy crunchy lifestyle imposition on everyone. On top of it being the right thing to do, it also makes fiscal sense! What is the downside to reducing our carbon footprint by having an efficiently run municipal building that uses less energy and saves taxpayer money? Exactly, there isn't any. As someone who is responsible for appropriating tax payer dollars and critiquing our budget, I have a fiduciary duty to spend our tax dollars wisely. Spending our money on green cars, building products, operations, and infrastructure isn't just the right approach; it should be the only approach. We are running out of time and we need to be more aggressive in this area. By saving money on green technologies, we help combat climate change. Now that's a win-win!

Posted on Melrose Patch

Mike Zwirko
Mike Zwirko Lays Out Issues In Campaign Kickoff

Alderman At-Large Mike Zwirko officially launched his campaign to become the next Mayor of Melrose on Tuesday.

Melrose Patch
By Mike Carraggi, Patch Staff
Jun 7, 2019 5:35 pm ET

The following was submitted by Mike Zwirko for Mayor:

Alderman At-Large Mike Zwirko officially launched his campaign to become the next Mayor of Melrose on Tuesday, June 4th. Over 100 supporters filled the Great Room at Jack Flats Apartments to celebrate the kickoff. Zwirko delivered a rousing speech that emphasized the opportunity that the upcoming mayoral election provides for the city.

"We don't have to settle for the way it has always been and hope that things change," said Zwirko. "Instead, lets drive that change on our terms and demand it. More of the same is not a path towards prosperity, it is stagnant and our future can't afford it."

Zwirko laid out a future for Melrose centered around policy initiatives for economic development, sustainability, and education. "As Mayor, one of my first actions will be to hire an Economic Development Director (EDD) to work in our Office of Planning and Community Development," promised Zwirko. "The role of an EDD can work to bring in new businesses and even help support our Chamber of Commerce with new community events."

Zwirko also emphasized the importance on fighting climate change on a local level. "My administration will partner with the Melrose Energy Commission so we create a formal green plan intended to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050." The expiration of the trash contract in two years provides an opportunity to introduce sustainability into garbage collection. In order to do so, Zwirko said, "We will bring composting to the curbside, focus on reduction of waste and expand our recycling efforts."

Zwirko concluded by addressing what he views as the most important issue in the election: education. Noting that the mayor sits on the school committee, Zwirko called for updating school curriculum to emphasize interdisciplinary learning in order to prepare students for adult life. He also proposed hiring of an Inclusion and Diversity Director that covers all levels of Melrose Public Schools to ensure that this city remains true to its motto, "One Community Open to All."

Zwirko offered other policy proposals, but concluded on what establishes him apart from other candidates in the race. "My vision for Melrose goes beyond statements. I am putting forth real proposals that I intend to employ. That is what you should demand from your next Mayor: someone with a vision beyond the term itself."

Zwirko offered many other proposals that laid out his vision for Melrose, but the event was not entirely about policy itself - it kicked off with a heartfelt introduction by Zwirko's former Melrose Alliance Against Violence mentee, Adam Liebermann, who said, "Mike helped make Melrose better for me and that's why I'm confident he can make Melrose better for all of us as well."

If you are interested in learning more about mayoral candidate Mike Zwirko or want to get in touch with the campaign, visit www.zwirko.com.

Mike Zwirko
Letter to MassHousing on the Swains Pond 40B Development Proposal

April 30, 2019

Mr. Gregory Watson
Manager, Comprehensive Permit Programs
Attention: MH ID No. 1015
One Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

Mr. Watson,

We, Scott Forbes and Michael Zwirko, are elected Aldermen in the City of Melrose, MA. One of us serves as a City-wide Alderman and the other for Ward 7, which is the section of the City where the MassHousing ID No. 1015 is being proposed. We are submitting this letter as a formal comment response to the Site Approval Application Notification the City of Melrose received on March 18, 2019. The applicants have named this proposed project the “Swains Pond Development” and I will refer to it as such in this comment response letter. As outlined in this letter, the Swains Pond Development (“SPD”) is unsuitable as proposed for its density, public health, environmental and safety concerns and should be rejected for eligibility by MassHousing.

As detailed in the materials attached with SPD’s application, and stated in the “Evidence of Prior Contact with the City of Melrose” section of the Development Summary, one of the developers, Mr. Sean Szekely, outlined the historical timeline of discussions with the City of Melrose regarding the SPD. However, discussions with the City of Melrose had occurred much earlier than detailed by Mr. Szekely. In fact, when he purchased the land from the New Hampshire entity that acquired the land in auction a number of years ago, City officials were upfront and clear about the issues with development on that parcel of land. Although the Planning Board approved a 9-unit subdivision plan in the late 1990s, the subdivision was never constructed due to the difficulties related to the land, primarily wetlands and the topography, and the resulting financial implications. 

Mr. Szekley has experience with the requirements of the City of Melrose when he took over the development of the 8 unit subdivision off of Dexter Road. He was aware of these requirements when he purchased the property off of Swains Pond Avenue and the conversations had with City of Melrose officials regarding the expectations for development of the subdivision. The property is simply too difficult and thus too costly to develop, and Mr. Szekely knows these facts. 

When Mr. Szekely purchased the Dexter Road property in 2016, he was fully aware of slope protections and environmental concerns the City had raised. These same concerns are paramount with the proposed SPD. The City of Melrose Office of Planning and Community Development stated at the time that the “Planning Staff supports this 8-lot subdivision...At eight lots, the length of the road is reduced substantially and many of the more significant areas of sloped terrain are left untouched.” The new plan reduced blasting by approximately 90 percent and the amount of the proposed disturbance to sloped areas was decreased from 21,740 square feet to approximately 1,630 square feet. 

As you can read from the above, the slope disturbances and blasting reductions are precisely why the City went to Land Court in the first place. The proposed SPD is on property directly abutting the Dexter Road development and Mr. Szekely knows the environmental, slope protection and topographical issues in developing this tract of land. The slope and blasting concerns will be compounded with the proposed SPD. Since 2016, Mr. Szekely has been acutely aware of the City’s concerns and he has continually not acted in good faith with City officials or the residents of this neighborhood. It is clear that his intention has always been to maximize development in this section of Melrose with wanton disregard for the residents and the environment. His proposal for a 40B development is simply to procure a profit in expediency rather than look for alternatives that could be mutually beneficial.

In addition to the many development impact issues of this parcel of land, to say that this plan is akin to “smart growth” policies and practices is laughable. Over the past decade, the City of Melrose has created new enhanced zoning areas ripe for Smart Growth developments and has seen many successful projects. The SPD is much further from any true public transportation locations in Melrose. Citing one bus line stop and further stating the the MBTA Orange Line is nearly two miles away cannot declare this project to be “Smart.” In no way is it explained or detailed how the SPD will reduce dependence on private automobiles. The truth is, given the location of this site in a remote and rural area of Melrose, it will create a large automobile demand.

The environmental impacts alone are so large that it should be grounds for its rejection. The SPD application states that there is a wetland on the site. In addition to that wetland, there are numerous wildlife that will be severely impacted and their habitats forever destroyed. Within 800 feet of this development are three areas that are either designated as conservation land or parkland. The applicant counters these environmental impacts by stating the site will be professionally landscaped. Landscaping is not natural nor does it allow for animal habitats. Further, the applicant addresses the wetland issues by stating they will “protect wetlands by adhering to DEP stormwater management standards.” In Mr. Szekely’s development and construction of the Dexter Road property, he has already had to appear in front of the Melrose Conservation Commission to address issues with discharges into wetlands. For him to claim he will be able to adhere to DEP stormwater management standards requires more significant inquiry from MassHousing. 

In conclusion, we urge MassHousing to reject this application so it will allow for the City of Melrose and Mr. Szekely to continue discussions on this parcel of land, as there are many items to address. MassHousing’s goals - as outlined on your “missions & values” section of your website - state to “confront the housing challenges facing the Commonwealth to improve the lives of its people” and, offer “innovation and agility in the delivery of responsible lending products, housing opportunities and services.” Your values are stated as “Integrity, Excellence, Collaboration, Respect, Accountability, Service.” In being true to your missions & values, we ask that the SPD be rejected to allow Melrose the autonomy to improve the lives of our people, be responsible with housing opportunities and further collaborate. The impacts to the environment, the collateral damage from blasting, the strain on existing infrastructure in this location all should give MassHousing pause. Melrose has been a leader in creating ways to develop in thoughtful ways. We are not opposed to growth. We are so in this location as it strains credulity as to why this is seen as “Smart” and even appropriate. As Mr. Szekely’s timeline in his application details, it is clear that this project development has been in haste. A project of this magnitude, with all of its impacts, requires more conversation. Allow the City to have these conversations so that costly litigation, time, resources and energy can be spared.

With sincere regards, 

Michael Zwirko
Alderman-at-Large, City of Melrose
100 Derby Road
Melrose, MA 02176
(781) 662-1966

Scott Forbes
Ward 7 Alderman, City of Melrose
41 Mystic Avenue
Melrose, MA 02176
(978) 873-0916 

Sent via email and USPS Mail

Mike Zwirko