bgsa logo and link to homepage

Land Protection

Like many communities close to Boston, Brookline continues to experience increased levels of development and with it the loss of open space. While 26% of land in Brookline remains “open” less than half of this land is permanently protected. Relatively large tracts of land owned by educational, religious, agricultural or other private interests can still be found, particularly in South Brookline, however much of this land will most likely be developed over time. In addition, areas in more densely populated sections of Brookline such as Coolidge Corner, Brookline Village and Washington Square are continuing to see increased development, creating stresses on over-used parks and open spaces. Over the next several years Brookline GreenSpace will be working to find ways to help protect or increase open space for the benefit of the community. Below are several strategies we will be pursuing.

Green Space - An Essential Resource
Green space serves the whole community. Parkland is not free land… be used as surplus land when the need arises.

Well-designed, accessible open space is crucial to public health, supporting a physically active and healthy population. Additionally, there are links between open space and climate change and a healthy environment. Green space improves air quality and reduces the growing problem of the urban heat island effect. Increased urban greening helps reduce the negative impacts of stormwater pollution and flooding, both of which will likely worsen with climate change. Green space helps protect wetland resources. Open space strategies can even help reduce energy consumption.

No one in Brookline will benefit from reduced open space. The taking of open space will come with many negatives, is often irreversible, and will not solve immediate problems. A no net loss of open space is the only forward-looking policy that protects Brookline’s quality of life and environment.

Reducing open space has implications for years and generations to come. It does not make our community better.

Brookline needs a land acquisition fund that allows the purchase of private property when community commitments require additional space (the Open Space Plan recommends additional 35 acres of open space to meet population demands). Intelligent planning for the future would include such a line item in the Town’s annual budget as well as other strategies to fund land acquisition.

Very careful analysis of Town and school needs, basic assumptions about our goals, and alternatives must be part of any major decisions. In the current case of deciding about the need for additional school space and appropriate educational approaches, every venue, program, and possibility should be examined before decisions are made that impact the majority of Brookline residents, our health, and that of the environment. If after examination of the school program, the need for increased classroom space is determined; this still is not a reason to diminish open space. Alternatives to such drastic measures can be found with creativity and flexibility and smart planning. It is hard to re-think our starting points, to consider educational options not previously considered, to think outside the box; but within the scope of the possible, let’s never rush to a solution which includes giving up the green spaces that add so much to the quality of our lives.

Parkland is not free land because it is owned by the Town. Parks, fields, natural areas provide for citizens young and old; they are essential. The solutions to town problems do not lie in the reduction of green space.

Broookline’s 10-year comprehensive plan has made several recommendations for zoning changes that would have a beneficial impact on open space. Examples of these include:

  • the creation of an “open space” zoning district (similar to commercial or housing districts) to be used as a further protection on public parks and open spaces;

  • the adoption of open space requirements for commercial development;

  • adoption of a greenway buffer zone on designated roadways;

  • open space residential cluster subdivision zoning;

  • planned development district overlays for specific large properties with conservation value to help ensure appropriate development; and

  • increased setback requirements on properties abutting sanctuaries.

Over the next several years Brookline GreenSpace Alliance will be working to adopt some of these zoning changes.

Conservation Restrictions
Conservation restrictions are an important tool that allows a private landowner to donate the development rights to their land to the town or other nonprofit entity. Conservation restrictions can be particularly valuable to help preserve open space while providing tax incentives to the donor. Brookline has developed an appropriate conservation restriction policy to promote a CR program to landowners who have properties with high conservation value (such as those with significant trees, located on a scenic by-way, near a water source etc). For information on the town's policy click here. Information on the Massachusetts Conservation Land Tax Program can be found here.

There are several properties in Brookline, most notably Allandale Farm, the only working farm in the Boston/Brookline area, that provide great benefit and value to the community. Protecting Allandale or some of the other large institutional properties with conservation value in Brookline will require direct acquisition or acquisition of a conservation or agricultural restriction. With land values so high, this would take a combination of significant private and public financing. Currently the Town of Brookline has an open space trust fund, but no funding mechanism is associated with it. Brookline GreenSpace will be working with the Town and members of the community to identify the most effective funding strategy for building this public source of financing for open space protection in Brookline.