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June 16, 2005
May 12, 2004 (Bedford Online)
Letter - 2004

February, 2004
Letter - 2003
April 11, 2002
May 9, 2002
June 6, 2002
August 8, 2002

The Editor - The Minuteman
According to Land Court Judge Leon Lombardi, the case against the AvalonBay project in Bedford was the first to bring evidence of the risks of mosquito-borne diseases into his courtroom. He heard testimony from Dr. John Edman, now at the University of California, but formerly a University of Massachusetts professor who had studied Commonwealth mosquitoes for 22 years, that the drainage design and the population density of the AvalonBay project will attract new mosquito species to Bedford. These features of the project pose special public health risks because of its proposed location adjacent to Bedford’s Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, known to breed mosquitoes that transmit Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, and probably West Nile Virus. Professor Dickson Despommier of Columbia University School of Public Health, the expert witness hired by AvalonBay, agreed with Dr. Edman.

The public health issues are complicated, and science has failed to provide hard statistical evidence to quantify the increase in health risks associated with land development near known mosquito-breeding wetlands. If the AvalonBay project is built as proposed adjacent to a White Cedar Swamp, and surrounded by grassy wetlands, it will provide an ideal opportunity for a public health agency such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor mosquito populations, the health of the residents of the AvalonBay project, and the health of the community at large, including neighboring Concord, Carlisle, Billerica, Lexington and Lincoln. In so doing, the necessary statistics could be compiled to predict and prevent future public health problems associated with domestic land development. Such a prospective study of public health problems is a rare opportunity and could arguably justify AvalonBay’s project because of increased health benefits for future generations.

An analysis of the problems of predicting epidemics in a recent issue of Science emphasizes the importance of diseases that escape from animals into humans. Once in humans, more adaptations by the disease-causing agent allow it to become even more infectious to humans. Recent well-known examples are SARS and AIDS.
SARS and AIDS are both caused by viruses that have long persisted in animals without killing them. The evidence is convincing that the virus that causes AIDS, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), arose from a virus that has infected chimpanzees for many decades, but does not cause AIDS in those animals. Efforts of U.S. scientists to use chimps to test vaccines against the AIDS virus support this concept because although chimps are readily infected by HIV, and the infection persists, the infected animals do not develop AIDS. This is an example of a virus that jumped from animals to humans, mutated slightly to improve its multiplication rate in humans, and is now transmissible from humans to humans. Unfortunately, unlike the original chimp hosts, HIV causes AIDS in humans.

SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, evidently arose from a virus that infects Chinese civets, and possibly other animals, but does not cause respiratory distress in those animals. Once in humans, it mutated slightly so it could infect other humans, and in this way resulted in an outbreak of human disease, frequently fatal.

The same is true of West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, both mosquito-borne diseases, both of which persist in some bird populations without causing serious disease. But when transmitted to mammals, or to more susceptible bird populations, these viruses cause epidemics, with significant fatalities.
Massachusetts ranks second or third in the nation in human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, a disease that kills many of its victims, and leaves most of the remainder with severe neurologic deficit. Florida ranks first. Since 195? Massachusetts has faced two epidemics of EEEV, one of which was averted in 197?? by a massive, state-wide, helicopter application of pesticide to kill mosquitoes. From 196? To 1981 there were __ cases of EEEV, but from 1982 to the present there have been --- cases. Mosquito experts believe the increase is likely due to land development adjacent to White Cedar Swamps.

Bedford has a 200 acre Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and a history of EEEV infection, including a child in the 1980s. White Cedar Swamps provide the specific tree-root environment necessary to breed Culiseta melanura, a mosquito that transmits EEEV from bird to bird. A second mosquito, such as Aedes vexans, Coquitilled pertubans……. that feeds on both birds and humans is necessary to transmit EEEV from an infected bird to humans. Such “domestic” mosquito species are attracted to dense human communities, which do not now exist in Bedford, but which would be created by the proposed AvalonBay project. Moreover, the drainage plan proposed for the project will provide new breeding habitat for such “domestic” mosquito species, further increasing the public health risk.

Judge Lombardi did not disagree with the opinions of these experts, even though in his ruling he misquoted one of them, but he cited the “ lack .

Ann Kiessling-Cooper
Citizens for a Safe Bedford
53 Concord Rd

February, 2004: The Editor - The Minuteman
AvalonBay’s motion for an unprecedented $870,000 appeal bond was denied on Jan 26 by the same Judge, Leon Lombardi, who decided that we did not prove we had “standing” to bring the AvalonBay project to Land Court. His decision reads: “Assuming it has the authority to require a bond..., this court considers the appropriate test to be whether the appeal is frivolous or vexatious.... Being intimately familiar with the record of the instant action, this court cannot find plaintiffs’ appeal to be frivolous. Although Avalon may consider any further delay to be particularly vexatious, plaintiffs are entitled to pursue an appeal of the judgment to the extent permitted by law. Based upon the foregoing, the appeal bond motion is denied.”

This decision is wonderful news not only for Bedford, but for citizens everywhere in the nation who challenge the safety of projects proposed by large corporations taking undue advantage of “affordable housing” statutes. It comes on the heels of a similar AvalonBay defeat in Superior Court. A citizens group in North Andover filed an appeal against a permit granted to AvalonBay by their Zoning Board of Appeals, but that Judge also ruled the citizens didn’t have “standing” to file the appeal. The citizens appealed that decision and AvalonBay filed a motion for an appeal bond of $450,000. That motion was denied by Superior Court Judge Whitehead.

Therefore, AvalonBay’s aggressive legal actions against citizen groups have brought about two fundamentally important case laws in Land Court and Superior Court that support the concept that the rights of citizens to pursue appeals of judgments outweigh business losses. This is the turning point all communities have hoped for. It is doubtful this was AvalonBay’s intention.

From this day forward, Zoning Boards of Appeal decisions will not be the defining factors in community land development. Flawed decisions will be challenged by citizen groups. We are proud to have helped establish this important case law, and hope that Princeton Properties takes heed, but our fight is far from over. As long as AvalonBay insists on building the dense luxury apartment complex approved by Bedford’s ZBA, we need everyone’s help to pursue our appeal. If we win the appeal, Judge Lombardi will have to review the evidence presented in court that Bedford’s ZBA overstepped its bounds in approving the project that poses public health and safety risks which outweigh Bedford’s need for affordable housing. If we lose the appeal, we will appeal that decision in Superior Court. We fully intend “to pursue an appeal of the judgment to the extent permitted by law,” and we have a strong case.

But we need help to continue, we must raise $30,000 by the end of February. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who responded to our recent mailing by sending letters to politicians and contributions to us. To help and/or get on our mailing list, call 275-1246. Make contributions to: Citizens for a Safe Bedford or Hemenway and Barnes and mail to PO Box 1028, Bedford.

Ann Kiessling-Cooper, PhD
Citizens for a Safe Bedford
53 Concord Rd

The Editor - The Minuteman
We greatly appreciate the letters of support with contributions to the legal costs of the appeal against the AvalonBay project. Since these have come in the midst of the holiday season, these responses reflect the concern of Bedford residents for the serious safety issues associated with the project’s size and location, and the resolve of the community to continue to defend itself.

The appeal we filed in Land Court in January, 2002, has delayed the project for two years. After five days of testimony, Land Court Judge Leon Lombardi decided we did not prove we had “standing” to bring the case before him. We believe we did prove we have “standing” to bring the case to court. With the help of Bedford residents, we are appealing Judge Lombardi’s decision.

The appeals process could delay the project another three to four years because two appeals are possible, the first to the Appeals Court and, if we lose that, the second to the Superior Court. If we win the appeal, the case goes back to Land Court for a ruling on whether or not the serious traffic, pedestrian safety and public health issues associated with this dense, luxury apartment project outweigh Bedford’s need for affordable housing. The evidence presented in court seems overwhelming that they do.

Given the strong community resistance, the cost of the measures to mitigate some of the traffic safety problems, the increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases to the residents of the project and the community at large, and an additional delay of four years, the hope is that AvalonBay will propose a far less dense development plan with no detention ponds to provide new mosquito habitat.

More than 200 Bedford households have helped support the court fight against AvalonBay. We are hopeful that number will increase to at least 500. This would lessen the burden of the legal costs to each household as well as prove to all land developers that Bedford will vigorously and relentlessly defend itself against unsafe projects. Please join us. We need to raise $33,000 by mid-January or the bull-dozers will appear in March.

If you have contributed before, please do so again and recruit at least one other new supporter. Checks may be made payable to Citizens for a Safe Bedford or to Hemenway and Barnes, and mailed to Citizens for a Safe Bedford, Bedford PO Box 1028.


Ann Kiessling-Cooper
Citizens for a Safe Bedford
53 Concord Rd

 


April 11, 2002
Letter to the Editor
Avalon has Scoffed at Conservation
Bedford Minuteman

According to Gene Clerkin, in a letter to the Minuteman last week, the Bedford Housing Partnership hopes "...to reach at least 10 percent affordable housing within the next three years. We currently have 4,621 households of which 5 percent qualify as affordable. We have 216 affordable units in the pipeline, including 139 from Avalon at Great Meadow, 14 from the Village at Concord Road, 60 from the VA Hospital Shelter for Homeless Veterans, and three from the Bedford Housing Trust. Once the current pipeline receives building permits, we will be at 9 percent affordable housing, and approximately 50 units short of our goal."

This statement misrepresents Avalon-at-Great-Meadows which is 104 luxury apartments and only 35 "affordable units." A quirk in the Chapter 40B guidelines may allow all 139 units to be credited against Bedford's "affordable housing quota," but this does not balance actual housing needs. A year ago, during an April, 2001, public hearing of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Gene Clerkin outlined Bedford Housing Partnership guidelines, and commended AvalonBay for being a responsible developer acquainted with Chapter 40B procedures. Perhaps in response to this public support, AvalonBay pledged $100,000 to the Duplex Task Force for a "buy down" of an "affordable housing duplex" if their project goes forward. But in the interim, AvalonBay has not upheld Gene Clerkin's views about responsibility. They have not designed the project to mitigate the serious safety, health and environmental problems revealed during the review process.

At the same April, 2001, public hearing, Selectman Joe Piantedosi introduced a letter from David Henley, Mosquito Control Program, which expressed concerns about the project's proximity to the White Cedar Swamp and mosquito-borne diseases. Those public health concerns were again highlighted at a meeting in October, 2001. They have not been addressed. The proposed site also abuts sensitive wetlands, among the "10% most valuable in Bedford" according to an environmental study. AvalonBay consistently ridiculed the Conservation Commission's concerns during the public hearings, and has now appealed to the State to overturn Bedford's ConsCom's Conditions for the project. Moreover, the serious traffic and pedestrian safety problems with proposed entrances/exits on Concord and Davis Roads, both far too narrow and unsafe for such a large development, also remain unsolved.

Because this project would be a disaster for Bedford, we filed an appeal in Land Court. AvalonBay's aggressive response to our appeal may have already cost them more in legal fees than their pledge to the Duplex Task Force. They have deposed us for many hours and researched our backgrounds in detail, suggesting an unlimited legal budget for defense of this luxury development. If this project is to go forward in Bedford, a safe location needs to be found, because with the support of Bedford residents, we intend to defeat the current proposal in Land Court. It will take considerable effort, but we believe that the serious health, safety and environmental problems with the proposed location clearly outweigh Bedford's need for the 35 affordable housing units.

Ann Kiessling-Cooper, PhD
53 Concord Rd
Citizens for a Safe Bedford


May 9, 2002
Letter to the Editor
Battle against Avalon continues
The Bedford Minuteman


Our thanks to the dozens of Bedford residents who have contributed to the legal fund for the appeal against Avalon-at-Great-Meadows.

Some residents have contributed more than once, obviously because they recognize that by working together, Bedford can provide affordable housing without the safety, health and environmental risks posed by the large AvalonBay project off Davis and Concord Roads.

Four of us have now been deposed for hours by a team of AvalonBay attorneys. As the fourth deposition progressed, in the opulent conference room of AvalonBay's Boston law firm, Goulston and Storrs, located at Rowes Warf, it became apparent that AvalonBay feels threatened by the notion that Bedford as a community is opposed to the location of this project and is determined to maintain control of its community planning.

The AvaalonBay attorney repeatedly fired questions at the youngest member of our appellant group about the fund-raising flyers we have circulated, which were forwarded to him from New England Nurseries and Old Colony Homes. His questions about the flyers were aggressive as if they represented Civil Disobedience against AvalonBay, which, in many respects, is colonizing Massachusetts. According to state records, the Virginia based company has built two communities, assumed ownership of three communities, and proposed building nine more communities with state support. Like the colonialists of yore, this has been highly profitable. According to their website, AvalonBay was the most profitable Real Estate Investment Trust in the US in 2001.

They maintain a cadre of salesmen, engineers and attorneys well versed in Massachusetts Chapter 40B affordable housing law, originally intended to provide state financing to developers willing to limit profits in order to ensure housing for persons of all incomes in all Commonwealth communities. The concept is good. What was not anticipated was that developers would take advantage of weaknesses in the law to build highly profitable luxury projects in violation of local zoning laws.

A form of rent control on 25% of the units qualifies the entire project for Chapter 40B financing. Objections by local zoning boards are generally overturned by the Massachusetts Housing Authority because of the "presumption" that meeting quotas for affordable housing is more "consistent with local needs" than are community zoning laws. Fortunately, the law clearly states that affordable housing quotas do not outweigh health, safety and environmental concerns, which form the bases for our appeal against the Concord/Davis Road location.

We anticipate establishing a Land Court Case Law precedent that "affordable housing" should be especially free of health, safety and environmental problems in order to protect lower income persons.

It is true that a contribution from every Bedford household may be needed to ensure our successful opposition to this new form of Colonialism. Checks made payable to "Hemenway and Barnes" may be mailed to Citizens for a Safe Bedford, PO Box 1028, Bedford. The ongoing support from Bedford citizens suggests that this year's Pole Capping ceremony commemorated Bedford Civil Disobedience against modern day Colonialists as well as those of yore.

Ann Kiessling-Cooper, PhD
53 Concord Rd
safebedford@stersol.com

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June 6, 2002

State not takingWest Nile serious enough
Guest Commentary
The Bedford Minuteman

An outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) or West Nile Encephalitis (WNE), terrible brain diseases carried by mosquitoes, would devastate Bedford. In addition to the tragedy for the victims and their families, the value of living, working and doing business in Bedford could decrease dramatically.

Massachusetts ranks second in the nation in incidence of EEE. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics (www.cdc.gov), Massachusetts reported 4 cases of EEE from 1964 to 1981, but 18 cases from 1982 to 2001, approximately one per year. Last year's victim was a child in Canton. The cause of the more than four-fold increase in recent years is unclear, and has occurred despite vigorous mosquito control efforts. Adults generally die of the disease, but some children survive, most of whom suffer severe neurologic disorders. The incidence of the disease is undoubtedly underreported because the test is performed only on persons diagnosed with encephalitis. EEE virus is transmitted principally by Culiseta melanura, a long-lived mosquito which lays its eggs in standing water in dark places such as the root hillocks of swamp trees.

Because of their location, Cs. melanura larva are not susceptible to standard larvaciding methods. Instead, if necessary, Cs. melanura populations are controlled by pesticide spraying of adults. Aerial spraying is necessary because road-side spraying has limited penetration into swamps. Cs. melanura feeds on birds which are not usually killed by EEE infection. This situation is similar to Yellow Fever, another mosquito-born disease which is deadly to humans but not to the monkey hosts which reside in tree canopies. Ironically, the limited host range and specific requirements for breeding actually enhance the conditions necessary for disease transmission to humans because pockets of EEE infected birds can occur. Such pockets increase the opportunity for other mosquitoes which bite both birds and humans, such as Aedes canadensis or Aedes abserratus to transmit the disease to humans.

Obviously, as noted by the CDC, the opportunity for human infection increases as humans encroach upon mosquito breeding grounds. Bedford's White Cedar Swamp is a known breeding ground for Cs. melanura, Aedes canadensis and Aedes abserratus. A Bedford baby was infected with EEE in the early 1980's, before rigorous mosquito surveillance was established in the town. The child lived until the mid-1990's in need of continual care. His case was studied by public health officials who determined the cost of his care was 2.8 million dollars before he died.

Because of the specific breeding requirements of Cs. melanura, the water level in the White Cedar Swamp generally supports only a spring hatching of mosquitoes. Females may lay eggs later in the summer, but they may not hatch until the following spring when the water rises again.

The swamp is routinely monitored by the Eastern Middlesex Mosquito Control Program and pesticide control is carried out as needed. Any change in the current status, such as increases in water levels, even transient, in the Swamp, or increases in human exposure could obviously tip the balance and result in a human outbreak.

There is no cure or vaccine for EEE in humans. If the Swamp becomes a public health threat, it could be subjected to drainage and reclamation practices and we could lose a valuable and rare environmental resource.

West Nile Virus is new to the Western Hemisphere. It entered New York in 1999, killing 7 residents and hospitalizing 59 others in only 8 weeks. The New York strain of virus was traced to Israel, where it caused an epidemic in 2000 which infected at least 417, hospitalized 326, and killed 35 people.

All killled victims were older than 50.

WNE entered Massachusetts in 2000 and killed a Bedford horse that year and a Woburn man in mid-October, 2001.

The incidence of WNE in birds, horses, mosquitoes and humans in 2001 far exceeded the Massachusetts Department of Public Health predictions. According to their website (www.state.ma.us/dph/), a report delivered to the Public Health Council and Commissioner Koh in April, 2001, predicted limited disease in localized areas of the state. Surveillance mechanisms and guidelines were reportedly in place to warn Commonwealth residents in areas of risk. The report was seriously in error.

By October, 2001, thousands of birds had died, especially crows. Both mosquito and bird surveillance revealed nearly state-wide spread of disease, in sharp contrast to the Public Health predictions. Dozens of infections in horses, including Bedford and Carlisle, occurred and at least three people were hospitalized for weeks, including the Woburn man who died. Many more people were undoubtedly infected but experienced lesser symptoms because the risk of developing encephalitis is lower with WN infection than with EE infection.

According to the guidelines presented to the Public Health Council, we passed from Level 4 Risk Category, reported in the Minuteman August 30, 2001, to Level 5 Risk Category when, in addition to WN positive birds, the State Laboratory also detected positive mosquitoes and horses. This occurred in September, 2001.

Five responses were mandated by the state Public Health guidelines: (1) Intensify public education, (2) Multimedia press releases, (3) Mass Department of Public Health to provide daily updates to affected communities, (4) Special messages for areas with vulnerable populations, and (5) Advisory information provided on spraying. We passed from Level 5 Risk to Level 6 Risk, "Public Health Alert status" when a laboratory-confirmed, locally acquired human case was reported. But, the alert was not issued.

In fact, because only persons with clinically diagnosed encephalitis were eligible for testing, it was not possible to issue state Public Health Alerts last year. It takes a couple of weeks to develop encephalitis.

Test results were not available for a few more weeks. This is why the Woburn man fell ill in September, died in October, and test results were released in November. Several Massachusetts Public Health officials were authors on the report that monitoring bird infections better predicted human disease risk than monitoring mosquitoes. The first WN positive bird in Massachusetts was reported mid-July.

The Woburn man fell ill within the 44-day guideline suggested by the report, clearly a better indicator of disease risk than waiting for a horse or human infection.

A fundamental problem is the newness of the WNE epidemic. Which mosquitoes carry the disease is not known with certainty. Until more is known, the safest course of action is to limit human exposure to mosquitoes.

The lack of coordination between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, land development companies and environmental groups will undoubtedly lead to more WNE deaths. For example, since many of the WNE deaths will be birds, it isn't clear at this time whether the Audubon Society should support or oppose mosquito control measures on Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

What is clear is that new epidemics require new public health safety measures. The public should be informed that surveillance methods may not predict risks in time. All land development projects must be designed to not increase mosquito-born disease risks, just as they must comply with the Wetlands Protection Act. This is standard practice in countries with endemic mosquito diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Existing Public Health laws grant Health Officials (Commissioner Koh, 250 Washington St, Boston, 02108) and local boards the authority to immediately impose such review processes, which would not impact most projects. With Bedford's history and ongoing risks, Bedford residents, businesses and town officials should demand such safety measures before tragedy strikes again.

Ann Kiessling-Cooper, has a doctorate in biophysics, is an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, and is a resident of Concord Road, Bedford.

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August 8, 2002
Avalon Donation a Small Token
Letter to the Editor
The Bedford Minuteman


The statement "If Avalon happens then we'll be near 10 percent," credited to a representative of the Bedford Housing Partnership by reporter Laura Thomas in last week's Minuteman, has disappointed and angered the hundreds of Bedford residents who understand and oppose the serious, unresolved problems associated with Avalon-at-Great-Meadows. The large, luxury apartment project, proposed near the Concord Road curve around St. Michael's Church, is threatening Bedford because for the past 33 years, Bedford has not complied with the Massachusetts Chapter 40B regulation that 10 percent of housing be "affordable." Chapter 40B is a well-meaning law designed to protect the rights of all income persons. The fact that the law is being taken advantage of by large developers, like AvalonBay, is the very reason it is being amended. Their large, luxury developments place an immediate strain on all community resources because they bypass local zoning laws. Profits from their luxury developments do not stay in the community.

AvalonBay, the publicly traded, Virginia-based land developer, has pledged $200,000 to the Bedford Housing Trust. Their proposed luxury apartment project will pay more taxes to Bedford than the current property owners. But these sums of money are a tiny fraction of what the developer expects to distribute to stockholders. According to AvalonBay projections, the project will immediately yield on the order of two million dollars a year in income ($23, 390, 234 for the first 11 years). Subtracting expenses, including large AvalonBay developer's and contractor's fees, they anticipate profits of approximately half a million dollars a year (6,079,735 for the first 11 years). Once the Massachusetts state financing debt is repaid, their yearly profits will rise to three million dollars per year. The pledge to the Bedford Affordable Housing Trust is clearly a very small token.

Not only will the proposed project not alleviate Bedford's affordable housing problems, but it will plague all Bedford residents with serious safety, traffic and health problems because of its size and location. Members of Citizens for a Safe Bedford are working hard to eliminate the risks posed by this large, luxury development, and ensure that AvalonBay, not Bedford taxpayers, will be held responsible forever for all problems should part of the project proceed. Bedford cannot afford increased flooding, traffic, pedestrian and mosquito breeding problems. Our opposition to AvalonBay, made possible by the contributions of dozens of Bedford residents, has halted the project. We are eager to present this project's many, serious problems to a Land Court Judge who we believe will be more likely to rule against the project because of the changes in the state law. Given the wealth of the developer, help from every Bedford household is needed to ensure that we are fully prepared for the Land Court trial in October, 2002. Please contact us if you wish to help: PO Box 1028, Bedford; 781-275-3471; or safebedford@stersol.com.

Ann Kiessling-Cooper, PhD
Concord Road

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