An Alternative View of the Proposed Acton's Kelley's Corner Infrastructure Project

On April 1, Acton Town Meeting voters will be asked to approve a proposed "25% design" for the Kelley's Corner Infrastructure project, and to authorize additional funding to "finish" the design. This will not be the final vote however for the project. There will be another vote in a year or so for/against the costs/authority to acquire ["take", via eminent domain] parts of land parcels in Kelley's Corner from business owners, and various design elements (ie. fancy street lights) that the state will not fund.

But the vote in April of 2019 is a key vote which could effectively finalize the design. It would "accept" the addition of key components which are required by developers who have stated an intention to build over a hundred luxury condos at the KMart parcel, and the developers who are building behind CVS.

There is much to like about this project. New sidewalks, benches, bike lanes… all good stuff, right? The artist renditions are really pretty, right? What could be bad about it? Please read on to find out some of our concerns.

Over the coming weeks, we will be helping voters understand aspects of the project which proponents may not be sharing. The biggest questions seem to be:

- are the residents/owners of the parcels in Kelley's Corner in favor of this project?
- is increasing the crossing distances worth the risk?
- do we want to speed traffic to help the state meet its traffic congestion reduction goals? - do we want to accommodate huge developers?

The Kelley's Corner Infrastructure project, in process for almost two decades, started out as purely an economic development play. More recently, proponents have rebranded the project as "necessary to achieve a walkable town center". The design presented in 2018 was presented as having been designed to accommodate the high density housing that proponents want at the KMart site.

That design was not accepted by Town Meeting. One reason is that the project wasn't what we voted for when we voted for the original funding. It was more car centric. See the differences here.

If the infrastructure project is built, will reduce the likelihood that we can control what goes on at the KMart parcel? Will hundreds of condos end up at that site? Originally, the project was presented as doing that. But now the proponents are trying to convince voters that the vote for the infrastructure project is "separate" from rezoning and development plans.

But can these actually be separated? when the infrastructure project was specifically designed to accommodate the developer's plans?

Once we pay for infrastructure changes that will prime that development pump, will we actually be able to control what happens at the KMart site?

These are questions that the proponents cannot answer definitively. They want us to take a chance.

Do we trust that the planners who have allowed Acton to become over developed will be able to get us what we want. Do we trust verbal assurances? Or are we giving away the game by approving such valuable infrastructure changes to a critical area of town without solving key issues first?

Town Meeting said no to this project already. Virtually the same project is being proposed, but is now being labeled "pedestrian friendly" and other attractive names, and it's being presented in a Town Meeting warrant article that only needs a 51% vote to proceed, instead of the 2/3 vote that was required last time, and which will be required to approve the eminent domain takings of the land in front of the businesses.

But the main goal, from the historical documentation is to speed up traffic and prime the pump for developers. Proponents will say that this is not the case and will offer different terminology: "ease regional congestion", "move traffic more smoothly and predictably", "make traffic more efficient", "facilitate attractive development", "create a walkable town center". However, the fact remains that the traffic will move faster, create more risks for pedestrian, and will make it much easier for large scale development at the KMart site and behind CVS.

The project would be good for cars driving through Kelley's Corner, most of which are from out of town. But is it good for walkers and the locals? Does it increase risk for the children and the elderly?

It would be good for developers. But would it be good for us?

We will be publishing more information here as we lead up to Town Meeting to help voters understand another view as to what is being "offered" to us. There is a "sales team" led by Town Hall staff, which is assigned to sell the project. They are taking no more feedback. No more design changes. The road to Town Meeting is paved in pretty pictures and sale pitches.

We aim to uncover the real motivations, the facts that create the basis for what is being presented.

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