Time to move on with Hendries

Commentary by April Anderson Lamoureux 

In some ways, the story behind the Hendries redevelopment project reads like a cheap novel worthy of a grocery store endcap. It’s got drama, intrigue and even a murder…of an already dead tree. At some point, many people in Milton just stopped listening, while simultaneously lamenting the dilapidated behemoth sitting in the middle of an otherwise revitalized business district. From a community development perspective, what has happened at this site is a disaster and we can be assured that no one will be looking at our handling of this project to develop a future best practice. The opportunity costs are huge and taxpayers deserve to know exactly what this mess is costing us.

The current tax bill for the Hendries site is about $10,000 per year. The permitted 40B is estimated to produce about $130,000 in property taxes once fully constructed. The proposed mixed use deal is estimated to produce $350,000 per year in property tax revenue. Clearly, the mixed use deal has a greater tax advantage for the community, which coupled with the fact that it’s the preferred alternative for neighbors, makes the mixed use deal a no brainer. The very deal that was rejected by the Planning Board in 2010. Had the Planning Board approved the mixed use project then, Milton would be about $1,000,000 richer today (setting aside 24 months for construction). Had Town Meeting approved the disposition of the town-owned portion of the building to the private developer in 2013, we would not be needing to spend $300,000+ now for demolition. We could do an awful lot with an extra $1,300,000.

Just last week Milton had another opportunity to right this ship. The Conservation Commission had the opportunity to approve the 40B site plan, and Selectwoman Katie Conlon testified at their hearing and asked them to do just that. She explained that approval of the site plan would unlock the mixed use development deal and enable the Town to proceed with the overwhelmingly preferred mixed use development alternative. The issuance of a site plan approval was well within the law and discretion of the Commission, but they actively chose not to do so in a 4-2 vote. In my opinion, the grounds for rejection are flimsy and more likely than not to be overruled by the state Department of Environmental Protection on appeal. So what did the ConComm gain from their action?

Well, they delayed the project for probably another year which means delaying any positive tax contribution to be gained by the property for several years. They threatened the potential for a mixed use deal at this site. And they demonstrated a distinct lack of understanding about the consensus opinion around Milton that this drama needs to end. They also demonstrated that ConComm, as it’s made up today, is incapable of working in concert with the Selectmen to achieve good things for our community.

What happens next is anyone’s guess but residents need to understand how the ConComm’s actions are impacting us all. The Prop 2 ½ override request is less than 12 months away, and it will be interesting to see how taxpayers feel about being asked to pay more when there have been revenue generating opportunities in recent years that various town bodies have actively rejected.

I still believe that the Selectmen have an ability to correct this debacle. I want them to direct the ConComm to reconsider their vote. And if that is not possible, then I want them to formally support the developer’s appeal of the ConComm decision and ask DEP for an expeditious review. I want them to do what it takes to salvage the mixed use deal, but if they cannot, then I want them to make sure the 40B project moves forward swiftly. I also want the Selectmen to appoint new Conservation Commission members who can fulfill their obligation to protect our natural resources while also being able to see the forest through the trees enough toward the best interests of the community. And because we all have a role here, I really want taxpayers to speak up and join me in saying “Enough is enough.” It’s time for us all to move on.

MyTownMatters welcomes commentary, letters and comments from readers. Views expressed do not necessarily represent the opinion of MyTownMatters. You can email letters and commentary directly to frank@mytownmatters.com. 

  33 comments for “Time to move on with Hendries

  1. Elaine Craghead
    May 19, 2015 at 7:22 am

    I totally agree, April, and I believe that the majority of residents do, too. Thanks for bringing clarity (and sanity) to an issue that should have been settled years ago.

  2. Jay Fundling
    May 19, 2015 at 8:39 am

    April, thanks for this article. One part I’m confused on:
    “The Conservation Commission had the opportunity to approve the 40B site plan … [which would] enable the Town to proceed with the overwhelmingly preferred mixed use development alternative”
    Can you explain this more? I thought 40B and mixed use were two different projects. How does approving the 40B lead to a mixed use project?

  3. Kristine Hodlin
    May 19, 2015 at 8:45 am

    AMEN……..My husband and i purchased our home on Maple St in 1990. Nothing has operated at the Hendries site since just after we moved in – 25 years ago. We have lost significant opportunity and tax revenue at this location, let us all PLEASE move forward.

    I am going to call and email each selectmen to do just as Frank suggests and i urge you all to do the same. Thank you Frank.

  4. Michael Balfe
    May 19, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Well said. It is way past time to move ahead on this site.

  5. Ingrid Avalos
    May 19, 2015 at 9:40 am

    In order to make an informed decision it’s important to fully understand both sides of the story. By reading your article I have a better understanding of why it may be a good idea to move forward with this, but I didn’t get a sense of what the grounds for rejection were (other than being flimsy in your opinion). It would be great if you could elaborate a bit more on this. Thanks!

  6. Steve Morash
    May 19, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Thank you April.

    There is enough blame to go around on this project for all involved.

    Let’s work to do what April suggests here. It will be a benefit for all, developers, neighbors and town.

    And, Frank, many thanks for providing this forum.


  7. Terrence McNeil
    May 19, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Amen is right! So much other progress in that neighborhood from new and longtime business owners while they live in the shadow of the biggest eyesore in town.

    This weekend the Globe had a great article about transit oriented developments in the works along the Ashmont line stops in Dorchester. The City of Boston is embracing these projects for the transformative impacts they’ll have on the surrounding neighborhoods. Many here in Milton, and the Selectmen, seem to share a similar vision for this site, situated adjacent to a trolley stop in one of only two business districts in town. Turning this vision into a reality (and a tax producing one at that) is long overdue.

  8. LeeMichael McLean
    May 19, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Thank you, April, for speaking up. I wish I had been able to be at ConCom as well to voice support for this project–we need more progressive neighbors like you to show up at these meetings to demonstrate support for good ideas (my understanding is this 40b approval was a reasonable backup plan requested by the developer in case the mixed use falls through AGAIN). As others have noted, so much water under the bridge already and blame to go around. Let’s show the community that our boards, commissions and committees can work together to get a vibrant mixed use project done in one of our few commercial gateways. And let’s do it now. I’m looking for direction from the Selectmen to ensure a coordinated approach; please let me know how I can help.

  9. Joe Grogan
    May 19, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Completely Agree Aprill, we need to move forward on this. It is unfortunate that a consensus could not have been had on the original plan, 36 owner occupied units. Lots of blame to go around on everyone involved for being where we are now but at the end of the day, finish this and move on.

  10. Tom Callahan
    May 19, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Chapter 40B and mixed use development are indeed compatible. While most 40B’s are residential-only developments, there is nothing that prevents a mixed-use property from being developed under Chapter 40B. There is hope that the Hendries building could be one of those examples.

    On another matter, according to Frank’s reporting on the ConComm meeting “the principal reason for denying the permit was a failure to satisfy the Commission’s desire for open space.” It doesn’t appear that it was a dispute about the amount of open space but rather the configuration of that open space. Very disappointing.

  11. Caroline Sweeney
    May 19, 2015 at 10:41 am

    This is getting ridiculous. Another year looking at that awful building??? It’s time for town government to get their s*$! together & tear this building down. It looks awful in an otherwise nice area. Makes me embarrassed to call Milton home. I have lived here my whole life & it has gone on long enough. Thanks for an informative article.

  12. Peter Jackson
    May 19, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    I appreciate opening up a discussion of the sorry state of the Hendries Building and site and the redevelopment process. And I agree that it’s past time to find a way to move forward. The issues have been legion and difficult. Please be careful not to assign blame only to town officials. It takes two cooperative parties to achieve a successful project and that has not always been the case here.

    I still hope for a quality transit oriented mixed use development at this site. It’s time to make it happen.

  13. Kathleen Corliss
    May 19, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    The ConCon serves as an environmental guard. Their guidelines are not determined by the wishes of the citizens or the selectmen. Their decision not to approve is based on substance not presented here. Insisting that they change their decision or over-riding that decision is a slippery slope for Milton, a town that has so much to protect, environmentally. Let’s stop blaming the ConCon for doing what they have been charged to do.

  14. Ted Hays
    May 19, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you April for your clarion call. I hope it is heard by all parties. I would like to clarify the action you ascribe to Town Meeting in the fall of 2013. Town Meeting, unfortunately, did not have the opportunity to approve the disposition of the town-owned portion of the building to the private developers. Rather, the Warrant Committee recommended and Town Meeting voted to approve the passage of two articles which jointly enabled the acceptance of bids from any party by the Board of Selectmen on their RFP for the sale of the town-owned parcel. Against the RFP-stipulated minimum bid of $240,000, the current developers submitted the sole offer of $1,000. After protracted negotiations the bid was ultimately rejected in November, well after Town Meeting.

    The Warrant Committee has been consistently supportive of any article or request for demolition funding in our hopes to move this process forward to actual revenue realization. However, the need for an operational override goes well beyond the potential annual tax contribution of a successful development at the Hendries site. Your point on voter attitude is well-taken, though I believe that the Town can and will separate the consideration of funding requirements for good governmental and educational services from the frustrations of thwarted development. Thanks again for your commentary; I admire your concern.

  15. Peter Hunt
    May 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    April’s comments are spot on.

    This is a building that has been a blight for years. Hurdle after hurdle for this project just to tear down an abandoned building never mind developing it. After watching the meeting on Milton public access, I realized the one hurdle remaining is a Tree. The Conservation Commission is still stuck on a tree that was rightly or wrongly removed with out written permission. Who knows or cares who was right about that at this point.

  16. Jane Bonus
    May 19, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    honestly, the government’s active support of an eyesore, potential public health risk and tax vacuum is baffling. I can’t conceive of what anyone has to gain from that building as-is! milton is a proud town — please practice what we preach and bring this nonsensical chapter to a close.

  17. Kip Brockmyre
    May 19, 2015 at 3:30 pm


    We’ve lived here for over ten years. The site has been an eyesore for all of that time. I hope and expect the selectman will have the influence to remedy the situation. This town deserves better than what is at that corner and certainly deserves better from our elected officials; the area should have been developed years ago.

  18. Steve Morash
    May 19, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I’m hoping someone can help me out here.

    I thought I read in a Town Meeting Article in the last year, ta definition of abandoned property.

    Could someone with expertise in this matter provide a definition?


  19. Bob Schmidt
    May 20, 2015 at 8:39 am

    From what I’ve read in the past, this whole situation is nothing more than a hissy fight between a contractor and members of the town government. The contractor chops down a tree without “permission” so his development plan gets the shaft. On and on it goes until somebody finally goes through puberty and becomes an adult.

    Might be a long wait.

  20. Dick Burke
    May 20, 2015 at 10:57 am

    There are six interested parties in this ongoing saga.
    The developer, the Selectmen, Planning Board , The ConComm, the neighbors and everyone else.
    Those of us in the “everyone else ” category are the ones that have the most to gain or lose in this situation. all of the other groups have similar but potentially competing interests that have resulted in absolutely nothing, except the removal of a tree, happening at a site in one of our smallish business districts that is also a gateway to Milton.
    Forget the loss of tax revenues and the visual blight on a neighborhood, think about the future and what a project that meets the needs of all parties can do for the Town.

    all interested parties need to get into the same room and agree on a good and fair deal to all involved, thinking about those of us in the forgotten “everyone else ” category.
    This is the right time to get a deal done, so those who are and need to be involved have to get to work and get a deal done.
    Nothing less is acceptable

  21. Michael Chinman
    May 20, 2015 at 11:56 am

    “all interested parties need to get into the same room and agree on a good and fair deal to all involved”

    That’s already happened, more than once. And then Connelly reneges.

    This is not about a tree . . .

  22. Dick Burke
    May 21, 2015 at 8:53 am

    You appear to be very knowledgeable about these negotiations.
    What happened , who was involved and how long ago did this all happen ?
    I agree , it is not about a tree, per se, but this enforcement order issue seems to be a current sticking point.

  23. craig macnaught
    May 21, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    Mr. Burke you would better serve your readers if you went to Town Hall and read the Rizzo report on the environmental issues at the site. The issue of a mixed use development was not allowed by the developer to be considered.

    He requested an up or down vote on only a 40 b housing project.He spent the last year avoiding the environmental issues
    He wanted to take his case to the DEP to seek if he could overturn the Milton Conservation on the major environmental issues at the site not mixed use development.

  24. Jerry Connelly
    May 22, 2015 at 10:48 am

    The conclusion of the Rizzo report is that a “permanent solution” has been found and that there is no use limitation on the property for future development. It is a closed case at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Any development of the site , residential or commercial will require an updated site assessment from a licensed site professional (LSP). This is typical for any lending institution to require for a construction loan and permanent financing. Mr. MacNaught and the Town Planner Bill Clark raised this “red herring ” issue during the timeframe of the Conservation Commission hearings in an effort to have the Commission to deny the application. The result of the discussions during the hearing regarding the Rizzo report was that an LSP would be used to provide a site assessment for review before any ground work would start on the site. However, Mr. Mac Naught and Mr. Clark were successful in getting the denial vote that they desired in my opinion. Also, the entire Rizzo report is a public document that is available on the DEP website , the conclusions of the report are very clear to read and understand. Unfortunately, the result of the Conservation Commission’s decision is another delay towards the redevelopment of the site.

  25. Frank Schroth
    May 22, 2015 at 11:09 am

    A brief note to readers: Mr McNaught is a member of the Conservation Commission. Mr. Connelly is a prinicpal of 131 Eliot LLC, owner/developer of the Hendries site.

    The Rizzo report being referred to was an environmental analysis of the site done in 1997. Here are two documents:
    Phase I Completion Statement and TIER Classification submittal, 131 Eliot
    Limitations & Conditions, 131 Eliot, 8-11-1997, RTN 3-14151

  26. craig mcnaught
    May 22, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I have lived in the Milton Lower Mills area for 48 years. I truly desire to see the gateway to Milton improved. I did not conspire with anyone regarding this project. I am a proponent for the project. I am aware that the Neponset river is 195 feet from the project site and down gradient form the site. I am very concerned that on page 15 0f 206 contains the statement that in essence the the contamination contain in the LMR and site is contained by only the building foundation.The applicant now seeks to remove that foundation. I was appointed to my position to protect all the the environmental concerns in the town of Milton not just a portion. My term on the Conservation Conservation will expire on May 31, 2015. Good Luck

  27. April Lamoureux
    May 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    There have been millions of square feet of development proposed, permitted and constructed on far more complex sites than this site over the last decade. None of these other projects were easy. None of the parties involved were in love. Many of the sites had some form of environmental contamination, as so many urban and suburban redevelopment projects do. And every one of these projects (and every other real estate project proposed in the Commonwealth) goes through some form of negotiation at the local level and it’s not always nice or fun. However, it gets done. Why can’t that happen here? Something is very broken in this process.

    Thank you for the links, Frank. Very interesting material for those of us with a particular interest in brownfields redevelopment. I sat on the state’s Brownfields Advisory Board for years and I now sit on the MassDevelopment Board of Directors, which is the quasi public agency responsible for funding brownfields assessment and remediation in our cities and towns. I’ve seen a lot of these issues in my professional life and this one sounds exactly like every other small or medium sized urban redevelopment project. It’s not as complicated as we’re trying to make it out to be. There are clear paths forward.

    As I stated before the ConComm at the hearing: The redevelopment of this site -whether 40B, mixed use or some new project- will improve the environmental integrity of the parcel. Last time I checked, that was the ConComm’s mission. If environmental integrity was our primary concern, there are plenty of environmental reasons to get this project going immediately.

    I stand by original opinion: We can look for roadblocks for the next decade OR we can put on our thinking caps, leave the personalities and historic baggage at the door, and hammer out a solution. I am done with finger pointing and drudging up reasons to say no. Our community needs some leadership to find a way to YES.

  28. Dick Burke
    May 22, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for your grenerous advice , but my issue is not narrowly defined by the enviornmental issues that may or may not be associated with this site so I may not be rushing to Town Hall to read the Rizzo report.
    If there are issues then I want the developer, the Con Comm and Planning Board to identify them , debate them and deal with them and move development of this parcel forward to the next level. As I think I heard at the last Con Comm meeting , Chairman Kiernan proposed a joint Planning Board and Con Comm meeting with the developer to find a agreeable solution . Let’s put history in the past and get this project moving in the right direction.
    I think i like the general idea of a mixed use /condo development as a use but a 40 B also has potential and maybe the way to go.
    In any event , let’s get going

  29. Jerry Connelly
    May 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    In response to Mr. MacNaught, you were standing on our property at the corner of Eliot St and Central Ave with the Town Planner, Bill Clark, during the timeframe of our NOI with the Conservation Commission. After that day is when the “red herring” about oil became front and center. The statement on page 15 that Mr. MacNaught is referring to is from the Initial Site investigation . It was a determination that the foundation contained the oil spill from spreading after evaluating the test borings that were performed as part of the investigation.
    Subsequent to these findings, An RAO,(Response Action Outcome) was filed with DEP and the Town of Milton which spells out what remediation actions were taken and the results from the remediation. ALL the contaminated material from the lower machine room was removed(dirt and water) and confirmatory samples were taken to ensure the work was complete. This was explained to the Commission in detail and Mr. MacNaught still insisted there was a problem. Mr. MacNaught is not a proponent of the project, he voted against it. We had agreed that we would not remove the foundation until a licensed site professional has performed an updated evaluation. Still a no vote from Mr. MacNaught. Our position is that the Conservation Commission made a poor decision and did not apply the Wetlands Protection Act in a fair and equitable manner and that we meet the regulations under the Wetlands Act for the Commission to approve our development.

  30. Michael Chinman
    May 22, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    “There are clear paths forward.”

    April, of course there are! That’s *exactly* the position the chair of the Planning Board took, literally imploring the developer to work *with* the Planning Board to get a mixed-use development approved and constructed. That cooperative spirit, to get things done, is exactly what we want our public officials to do.

    The developer refused.

    The owner of Hendries, who obstinately refuses any path other than capitulation to his demands, is the obstacle to development, is the cause of the continuing blight. You could say being obstinate in his demands is his right as the owner, and I’d agree with you. He has proven himself, however, over a decade and a half, to be utterly incapable of getting this important development done (while multiple other large developments just a batted-baseball away have been planned, approved, constructed, and occupied). The continuing blight, the lost taxes, the nonproductive use of the site, none of these are in the public interest. I agree, let’s stop worrying about blame and find a solution. That solution is changing the ownership: eminent domain.

  31. Terrence McNeil
    May 23, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Eminent domain? I assume that’s a joke. The only thing likely to drag this out longer would be carrying out an eminent domain taking and slogging through the inevitable multi-year lawsuit that the owner would file (and which would be costly for the town). And no new developer would touch the site with a 10 foot pole if it were taken by eminent domain.

    We are the closest we’ve ever been to getting something at this site, let’s figure out how to move forward, not stall any development for another decade.

  32. Jim Finnigan
    May 23, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    So it all comes down to mixed-use or nothing right! It’s clear that the owners have been jerked around enough that they have gone in a different direction. I think there’ s enough blame and stubborness to go around here. Remember, it takes 2 to tango and if I’m not mistaken, the town owns some of this property…and it can’t even get its own permission to demolish it’s share of the property. The one thing I see in common with all the potential development in this town is town government itself. This is an embarrasment and it’s time to work together because something is better than nothing in this instance. We all deserve better!

  33. Dick Burke
    May 27, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Is there any reason that the Town does not demolish their building at the Hendries site ? The cost would be an appropriate use of free cash and then serve the owners with a demolition order, which they will probably appeal, but at least someone will decide , if in fact , the developers building is a safety hazard and requires demolition.

    We seem to be going no where fast in this process and at the very least we will have removed our portion of an eyesore and the developer will have to address their portion on their own or in court.
    We need some movement , the Town;s strategy appears to be flawed.

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