Anyone who has passed by Wilson Farm in the past few months (or been stuck in the line of traffic extending up Pleasant Street from the farm’s parking lot) has surely noticed the old, white Greek Revival standing high on a hill overlooking the triangle at Pleasant and Watertown, which seems to have appeared out of nowhere. 

The house has actually been there since at least the mid-1800s (the oldest record of it is a map from 1848), but until recently, it was obscured from the road by acres of trees — mature pines, oaks, maples, the occasional cherry. 

The trees have been cleared to make way for a new housing development known as Linc Cole Lane, which will include 9 new single-family homes, expected to list for around $3 to 4 million dollars each, plus the big, old house, which will be divided into 3 units, including one moderate-income unit. The developer, Todd Cataldo, is a prominent local builder known for luxury developments. 

69 Pleasant Street / Credit: Toby Sackton

The new subdivision was granted a special permit for a site sensitive residential development by the Lexington Planning Board. But residents say the construction has been anything but sensitive — to either the natural environment or their complaints about noise, air quality, and, some allege, damage to their homes. 

“Nothing that has been done at the site could ever be considered ‘site sensitive’ using the English definition of that phrase,” said Jamie Frankel, who lives nearby. 

The frustrations began when the trees were chopped down, revealing the old house, which now looked plunked on a bald, hilly lot. Neighbors were taken aback by what they saw as “clearcutting” of a wildlife habitat that helped absorb heat and carbon and would take decades to replace. 

Then, one day in January, neighbors heard the first blast. Houses rattled, dogs barked, and neighbors texted each other wondering what had happened. 

The property sits on a ledge made mostly of granite and silica, and, in order to create a suitable plot for the new development, workers had to break through the rock by drilling holes in the ground and dropping explosives into them. That first explosion was just the beginning — since then, neighbors say, the blasts have been felt twice a day, most weekdays, for more than five months. 

A blast at 69 Pleasant Street / Credit: Lauren Feeney

“Two times a day, you’re on a zoom call for work, and you get this jolt — it’s like an earthquake going through the house,” said a neighbor, who preferred not to use a name. Another neighbor describes “massive dust clouds completely enveloping our property” every time the blasts go off, and worries about the health risks of breathing in all that particulate matter. (Several people we spoke to for this story asked to remain anonymous because they anticipate the possibility of legal action in the future).  

In the Moon Hill neighborhood, a historic district of 20th-century modern houses perched on the same ledge as Linc Cole Lane, many fear the blasts could damage their homes. Two local residents told LexObserver there were cracks in the foundation of their houses, which they say weren’t there before. “These are beautiful, historic homes,” one neighbor said. “Somebody’s gain can’t be somebody else’s loss.”

Three weeks after the blasts began, the developer filed a noise mitigation plan. The plan describes a “sound suppression berm” – basically a 10-ft tall mound of dirt — intended to contain the noise. According to the town’s noise control by-laws, the maximum noise level should be kept to under 85 decibels at the property line, but a neighbor measured levels higher than 100db during the blasts, occasionally reaching closer to 125. (The decibel scale is logarithmic — an increase of 10db sounds about twice as loud to the human ear). Chronic noise at that level can increase the risk of stress and its related ills — hypertension, stroke and heart attacks. 

When neighbors reported high decibel levels, they say they were told that their measurement instruments weren’t sufficient. When they complained of loud noise before 9:00 am, they were informed that “rock breaking” is only permitted between 9-5, while “rock crushing” is permitted beginning at 7:00 am. This distinction did not feel particularly meaningful to neighbors, who have begun referring to the site as a “quarry.” Many began to feel like their phone calls, emails, and even video evidence were being ignored. 

“The building commissioner has a certified noise level meter, he has been out on the site and did not record anything higher than 85,” said Town Manager Jim Malloy. “Any time there’s a construction project there’s going to be noise,” he said. “We do recognize that it has caused issues for these neighbors.” 

“The town’s Noise Advisory Committee surveyed 21 Massachusetts communities and found that Lexington’s noise control bylaw was more permissive than other municipalities, and that the Town frequently receives complaints from frustrated residents regarding noise pollution from construction projects,” said Town Meeting member Matt Daggett, who himself lives within range of the jolts from 69 Pleasant St.

Town Meeting revised the noise control bylaw in 2020, establishing stricter limits on when certain types of construction can take place and setting requirements for noise level mitigation. “After five months of daily ledge work at the 69 Pleasant Street development and no noise mitigation through the use of portable sound barriers, it is clear that the amended bylaw is not working as envisioned and needs to be revised.” Daggett said. Malloy says he put together a working group to review the noise bylaws that will hopefully come before Town Meeting in the fall. 

There is some evidence of clear but minor violations of the existing bylaws — a blast that went off before 9:00 am, hammering on a weekend and on President’s Day, a federal holiday. (Malloy said the workers didn’t realize it was a holiday and stopped once police arrived in response to a complaint; the resident who called the police disputes this). 

But the bigger issues are whether the spirit of the law is being respected, and whether the existing bylaws are strong enough. The project also raises deeper questions about how to balance the need for housing and development with environmental concerns and quality of life for residents. 

After more than five months of almost daily explosions, neighbors say they haven’t heard any blasts in the past few days, but have no idea if and when they might start again. And they are still waking to the sounds of trucks rumbling and rock crushing, walking their kids to school through clouds of dust, and looking out their windows at an enormous heap of rubble. 

“I moved to Lexington many years ago because of the wooded nature of the town, its proximity to Boston and Cambridge, and the size and supportive nature of the community,” Frankel said. “I would hate to see this change into a town that welcomes excessive development and an increased tax base over the values and concerns of residents.”

LexObserver reached out to the building commissioner and developer but did not get a response by the time of publication.

Join the Conversation


  1. I find it ironic that the town passes an electric leaf blowing requirement and eliminating gas powered mowers for the “environment” but let’s a high income builder literally rip out thousands of trees and sends billions of particles of rock from blasting into the air. COMPLETE hypocrisy in this town…I guess money talks. Pathetic.

    1. The new town bylaw that phases out gas leaf blowers does not include any phasing out or elimination of gas mowers.

    2. I could not agree more…well stated! The clear cutting of that property is a catastrophe.

    3. Robin, there is no irony or hypocrisy here. I think you are conflating different issues and different groups of people.
      There is no monolithic “town”. Town Meeting, our elected representatives, passed a phased ban on gas-powered leaf blowers. The Planning Board (elected) and the Building Office (employed) “let” the developer do this in the sense that they determined these plans were not restricted by current regulation.

      The outcome is appalling, but it’s important to understand how the sausage is made if we are to prevent reoccurrence.

      1. Daniel,what difference does it make that Town Meeting and the planning board are elected since there is no opposition to these officeholders when they run for reelection as was the case with the planning board and in many precincts for town meeting in the last election? I would gladly have considered voting for other people to sit on the planning board in particular if that had been an option. As long as we continue to have the same people in office, these problems will continue to occur.

      2. As a resident of Drummer Boy Condos for over 20 years, I have learned to appreciate nature, the quiet that surrounds me and the continuity of a lifestyle that delivers what I had hoped for. I truly sympathize with all those burdened by the broken promises and disruptive living conditions that you are suffering with. All the obvious lies are a representation of broken promises and all for the sake of a developer and the few wealthy families that will be living there. Oh yes, and money. Times have changed. This town has changed. Nothing matters except the money.

  2. Thank you for the detailed coverage of this issue. The loss of trees and the air and noise pollution over many months has been disturbing to everyone who lives in the vicinity. Besides the house-shaking blasts mentioned, there is noise throughout the day from the rock crushing, conveyer moving of the rocks, and trucks coming and going to transport the rocks. It’s baffling to me how what I thought was an environmentally conscious town could have approved this project in the first place and then allows the noise and pollution to continue on this scale. If you haven’t seen the area being discussed, I recommend driving or walking by. You’ll see why neighbors are calling it a quarry.

    1. Jane, I agree completely. I’m lucky to be far enough that what I hear sounds like a train in the distance, but I would hate to be nearby, and I don’t understand how our town let this happen. Old trees that are not in danger of falling on houses should not be cut, as they store huge amounts of carbon above and below ground that gets release if they are taken down. Shame on Lexington for allowing that, and for subjecting citizens to major air and noise pollution.

      And thanks to the Lex Observer for an important, very well written article.

  3. Disgusting Hey don’t we need trees and nature where are the naturalists???
    Ohhh guess it does not matter when there is Green Cash to be made. Sad

    1. We (the naturalists) are here, fighting.
      I started right around when these trees came down. We have over 1,000 signatures on a letter to the Select Board. We’re working on making changes to the Tree Bylaw and the (poor) enforcement of it.
      We’re still losing, and 69 Pleasant is but one highly-visible example of what is happening all over town. But we’re trying to turn things around.
      Please get involved if this matters to you. If we don’t run our own government, the people who stand to profit the most will gladly do it for us.

  4. The article states that “Three weeks after the blasts began, the developer filed a noise mitigation plan.”
    The Town of Lexington Noise Bylaws can be found at
    Paragraph 80-8 (i) Noise mitigation plan for construction clearly states:
    A noise mitigation plan shall be required prior to the issuance of a building permit …
    How was construction allowed to start with out the filing of a noise mitigation plans?
    The article also states “When they complained of loud noise before 9:00 am, they were informed that “rock breaking” is only permitted between 9-5, while “rock crushing” is permitted beginning at 7:00 am.”
    Paragraph 80-4 (iii) Prohibition of excessive or unwarranted noise states:
    In addition …, blasting and the use of powered equipment used in the breaking of rock and pavement, including but not limited to hydraulic or pneumatic hammers, by contractors and residents is permitted on weekdays only between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. and is not permitted on Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
    We all have a pretty good understanding of what constitutes a “blast”. In the process of blasting rock, some rock will break while some will be pulverized (crushed?). Blasting was used to break and crush rock.
    It seems to me that the town is not enforcing its bylaws at the Pleasant Street construction site. Who has the responsibility to know and then see that Town bylaws are enforced?

  5. Thanks Lauren for the article. I think we all are for development when it’s done in a truly site sensitive way. I don’t want to sound like a NIMBY complainer; developers should be allowed to practice their trade. But a project of this earth-altering magnitude just doesn’t belong in a wooded glade. If you find that a plot of land in a neighborhood full of trees requires five months of dynamite to make it flat enough to put McMansions on, then this is not land you should put McMansions on. If you REALLY want to build on it, you may need to do what the previous generations of modernist developers did in Moon Hill and Peacock Farm and build WITH the land, not in spite of it.

  6. It is so sad to see the number of trees that are being chopped to have massive constructions / developments!! Specially in iconic / historical places in this town. Does the town really care about what the residents think about these changes to re-consider permit approvals or is this “ influence” of powerful developers that can do whatever they want $$$ ?

  7. Thank you Lexington Observer/Lauren for the article. Our “neck of the woods” has endured construction for a few years now, beginning with Mass Avenue/Pleasant street crossing on one end and the massive Waterstone construction on the other. And now it is 69 Pleasant street. Unabated heavy truck traffic, the ceaseless piercing beeps of trucks and construction machinery starting at 7 in the morning, the endless random blasts, which are particularly hard on startle prone persons, a beautiful forested area that has been clear cut, all have reduced our quality of life. An entire hill has been erased! The habitat of wildlife has been destroyed and the animals displaced. How all this has been facilitated in a Town professing a high quality of life and especially the preservation of trees, is beyond belief. All this comes on top of a systematic process of taking down smaller houses and replacing them with McMansions, year in and year out! How, may I ask, does the creation of more multimillion mansions help facilitate the acknowledged need for housing the working middle class in this Town?
    Is this really where Lexingtonians want to go? And is there not anything we can do about it?

  8. That clear cut looks awful. And we lost it all for 9 new McMansions. Several years ago there was a lot severals trees away from us – they blasted through the ledge for weeks. It is hard for me to believe that that doesn’t affect the houses / buildings around it. That photo of Pleasant street looks very similar to 75 Outlook – a disaster zone.

  9. Mr Cataldo undertook similar destruction of 3 forested acres on Reed Street (where there was one old house in the middle of all the woods) and spent several years removing all the trees, blasting ledge and then over many months operating huge rock crushers (aka “jaw crushers”) to process the massive boulders unearthed from the blasting. Finally, having defeated the natural landscape, he has built 5 very large $2.9+ million McMansions on the cleared property that is now Kay Tiffany Way. This desecration shouldn’t have been allowed, but there was nothing the neighborhood could do to stop it. We just had to put up with the unrelenting noise. It’s too late for these two pieces of town open space, and for all those trees, but perhaps our outrage will finally reach the ears of the town decision-makers.

  10. How do these certain developers continue to get permits after demonstrating such blatant disregard for the town, it’s history and it’s environment? John Hilton’s comment above is spot on- but it seems clear why no one runs for these seats. The way decisions are handed down demonstrates the board is deaf to resident’s opposition. The most recent zoning change, which expands by-right zoning to 227 acres, instead of the 80 requested by the state, was opposed by many in town, who preferred a slower process. Instead, we can expect that the 227 acres will get the same rubber stamp treatment as Pleasant Street. Residents can and should demand a vote to overturn that decision. We’ve had ample opportunity to assess the Planning board’s judgement to take away their carte blanche.

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