Letter to the Editor: Waltham residents deserve an inclusive and transparent process for planning the future use of the Fernald property.
In December 2014, the state simultaneously sold the Fernald land and Medfield State Hospital respectively to the City of Waltham and Town of Medfield. Since that time, Medfield preserved and protected the buildings, provided public access, sought significant public input, hired a professional planning consultant, formally engaged the public in abundant dialogue and completed a Master Plan which they are in the process of implementing.
Waltham, on the other hand, left almost 100 buildings, many with historic designations, unprotected from weather, over growth and vandalism for almost 4 years. Virtually all of the buildings have been vandalized, damaged or burned. The city has demolished a number of these buildings, removed an underground storage tank and funded design work on restoring wet lands, a legacy that hardly compares with Medfield.
The Council’s request of the mayor to commission a comprehensive environmental study and hire a professional planning consultant have not been pursued or funded. A partial environmental study of 50 of the 200 acres was undertaken in connection with the High School feasibility study, which was never completed.
The coalition of Waltham civic organizations known as the Fernald Working Group has worked tirelessly to encourage the city to create and implement a real Fernald Master Plan based on community involvement and managed by qualified professionals. Together, they developed a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) which was based on the highly successful Medfield model and includes a citizens committee similar to the successful Inflow & Infiltration and Zoning Adhoc Committees.
Waltham residents deserve an inclusive and transparent process for planning the future use of the Fernald, the same way Medfield achieved its Master Plan with a qualified, experienced, competent and collegial professional planner rather than the mayor’s intermittent approach. The future of this 189.7 acre campus, a National Historic Landmark, is vitally important to all the Citizens of Waltham and deserves a professionally developed and competently managed comprehensive master plan to achieve the best possible outcome for the City of Waltham.