On the morning of March 27, a press release titled “After Months of Scandals, Waltham City Council to Hold Community Hearing on the Fernald Developmental Center” was distributed by Jonathan Paz, a founding member of “The People’s Fernald Working Group” and former Waltham City Councilor. Paz publicized this announcement before the citizen input hearing on March 27 regarding “the future of the former Walter E. Fernald Development Center property,” hosted by the Waltham City Council.

According to the email, “This meeting … marks a significant milestone in response to the advocacy efforts of the People’s Fernald, a citizen initiative advocating for a transparent redevelopment process at the historic property.” This initiative has been calling for a “transparent redevelopment process” regarding the national historic register property that spans 196 acres. As a part of their mission, the group has hosted community forums, “providing community education to hundreds of Waltham residents about historic properties whose fate has been shrouded in secret amid multiple scandals in recent years.” 

The release provided a list of the attendees’ hopes for Waltham. They called for a halt of the “current efforts to construct an amusement park at the edge of the grounds; commit to a sitewide investigation into the possibility of unmarked graves at the property; and open up a transparent, accountable community process after a decade of secrecy and political giveaways at the site.” A member of the People’s Fernald Working Group stated, “The people of Waltham deserve a clear master plan, budget and input to the process.” 

The center was the “first public institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” and closed its doors in 2014. The city purchased the site from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that same year. Since then, it has been shrouded in scandal “following revelations that the City of Waltham allowed vandals to ransack tens of thousands of patient records left behind by the Commonwealth and spent millions of dollars of taxpayer money intended for preservation to demolish historic buildings at the site.” 

Waltham has faced backlash in recent weeks from its own Conservation Commission, “which alleges that the City is knowingly filling in existing wetlands to build an amusement park at the edge of the campus and [provides] insufficient and inaccurate documentation in an attempt to continue filling in the wetlands.”