My comments below are intended to support all of the town officials, employees, volunteer committee and conservation staff members who strive to preserve Mashpee’s natural resources.
Mashpee has a choice to make. The orchestrated promotion to fast-track the Mashpee Commons Expansion Plan is underway in lightning fashion and urgency. It stands in stark contrast to the anticipated decades-long trek (led by Andrew Gottlieb) to have essential sewer services fully built out. How can this paradox be explained? Only financial interest and the history of implied disregard for our natural resources can explain the compelling incentive to go big on expanding the size of Mashpee at this time.
The timely reclamation of our depleted natural resources, the real benchmark for Mashpee, must come first. This is the true value proposition to choose for Mashpee. The town should not consider or even think about embarking on this enormous Mashpee Commons expansion until the town is sewered.
Will the town try to sponsor and abet more boom growth and at the same time rectify the accumulated environmental damage that it has presided over for the last 40 years? With the present mindset, it is evident that Mashpee does not have the resolve to quickly address the nitrogen/phosphorous issues and that is why it has been sued in court to force this issue. Namely, the suit tries to puts the brakes on more damaging development. Only a building moratorium and permitting restrictions will change the calculus for ramping up the timeline and demand for full sewer services.
Thus, sewering of Mashpee in the next five years, not in distant decades, should be the imperative. However, the existing (staged) sewer implementation plan will prove to be too little, too late. It must be completed before marine life and diversity is extinguished in our embayments and before residents near freshwater ponds are exposed to public health issues from bacterial outbreaks.
The Mashpee Commons Expansion request should be shelved, as it will only add more demand for infrastructure, consume immense oversight and compound the burden on existing natural resources and services. To reiterate: What is progress for Mashpee? At what point does Mashpee become overbuilt and its natural heritage and beauty forfeited to the lure of insatiable growth? When will conservation have ascendency over new ground breaking?
We know the Mashpee Commons expansion will construct 1,700-plus new upscale homes, clear-cut and scrape a wide swarth of forested habitat, maybe add a hotel, and launch 1.2 million square feet of new mall space, with voluminous lots of parking for new shopping visitors. Much of the proposed densely configured construction is situated in close proximity to the traffic rotary circle and Route 28.
The notion the project will have little or no congestion or environmental impact is not credible. Sure there will be walkway paths. But there will also be additional thousands of newly parked cars to pick up groceries, millions of new gallons of treated wastewater effluent that will require offloading somewhere, expanded transfer station facilities, more fresh water demands, more commuter traffic, et cetera. Will you have to plan your trips to get across town?
Who will benefit? The only clear benefit will rest with the developers and commercial interests, who can make the numbers work and pivot to the next and the next deal. That is their business. With town approval for this development and with permits in hand, these principals have options. They may well sell out to the next owner for a windfall like to a Blackstone hedge fund who buys new housing units by the thousands: https://www.wsj.com/articles/blackstone-bets-6-billion-on-buying-and-renting-homes-11624359600. The town, on it own accord, should sponsor subsidized housing needs and not try to syndicate this task out to the developers.
As a resident, if you personally think the new development will enhance your feeling of well-being and satisfaction, then support it. But if you think the town’s priorities need an immediate mid-course correction to focus on our long-overdue environmental recovery, then please let our town officials know of your concerns for the future. Much is at stake.
Donald E. Barton