Friday, June 18, 1999
Boards' approaches differ on plans for road off Kimball
Minimizing damage to sensitive wildlife habitat and avoiding burdensome future maintenance costs was the focus of conservation commission deliberations during the most intense public hearing of a long June 10 evening. Faced with a docket bursting with ten Notices of Intent (NOIs) commissioners gave closest scrutiny to a second-round proposal for construction of a subdivision road that would impinge on a wetland in an area under permanent conservation restriction.
Owner John Swanson and Tall Pines Realty Trust were proposing a 750-foot roadway to access a four-house subdivision behind the Swanson home on Curve Street. On May 24, the planning board had indicated a preference for an 18-foot subdivision road which would have to meet strict highway standards over a narrower, less restrictive common drive.
Stamski and McNary engineers Beth Schultz and Jody Minkle presented an imposing drainage system for the road, one that called for six catch basins and extensive infiltration trenches to catch and direct rainfall toward a large detention basin. Concerned that the town would be inheriting drainage structures which might present future upkeep problems, commissioner Tricia Smith noted that "infiltration ditches are notoriously difficult to maintain over time," and asked how the engineers could be certain that most of the silt was removed before the water entered the trenches. The answer was technical, if not totally satisfying to the questioner.
Abutter Steven Spang quizzed the presenters about the amount of tree clearing involved, and Minkle confirmed that under the present plan, heavy machinery would have to be employed within the buffer zone. Spang then asked if it would be possible to run the trench parallel to the road and keep it out of the wooded area. Schultz was willing to consider the possibility. Pressing his case for protection of rare wildlife, particularly the yellow-spotted turtle, Spang asked if curbing could be eliminated along the sensitive stretch, so animal movement would not be seriously restricted. Schultz replied that this would have to be a planning board decision.
Commissioners also expressed a decided preference for a narrower, less invasive roadway that would allow for downsizing of the drainage infrastructure. Smith reiterated her concern about the expense both to the applicant and later to the town, that the complex drainage system entailed. "Certainly it would be more environmentally friendly if the infrastructure were reduced," she concluded. Commissioner Steven Hinton seconded her observations, saying, "I agree with Tricia that less is better."
The board voted to send two representatives to the planning board's June 14 meeting to explore the possibility of a compromise approach. The hearing was thereupon continued to June 24 at 9:15 p.m.
Schultz had a busy first-time appearance as a Stamsky and McNary engineer as she presented preliminary plans for seven of the smaller lots at the rear of the Buttrick Woods conservation cluster off Concord Street. The lots were laid out along two common drives that met in the middle to form Buttrick Lane. Generic specifications were presented for home sizes of 100 by 40 feet, spaced to keep planned construction as far away from the wetlands as possible. This was the plan that had been approved by the planning board on February 22.
The seven NOIs called for a varying degree of work within the wetland buffer zone. Most of this "conditionable" activity involved a portion of the driveway, a well, parts of the house, roof-drain dry wells and associated grading. The first plan caused little comment; the public hearing was quickly closed, and a standard order of conditions was issued.
The second lot elicited some concern because of the flatness of the probable back yard where the land approached the wetland. Commissioners were worried about usage patterns that might encourage gardening and plush lawns at distances of less than 25 feet from the resource area. There was a brief exchange of preferences as to the kind of visible barrier that should eventually follow the prescribed hay bale line. One member hated fences and loved boulders, while another contended that fences present great landscaping possibilities. Unable to reach consensus on this weighty issue, the commissioners voted to leave it up to the developers to propose a permanent barrier that could pass muster with conservation administrator Katrina Proctor.
The next four NOIs were similar to the second one, but none could be conditioned because the septic systems had not yet been approved by the board of health. Therefore, all four were continued to a future meeting.
The seventh lot was approved as presented and a standard order of conditions was issued, but with specific instructions as to placement of the haybale line. However, Smith did not miss the opportunity to observe ruefully that, "As usual, whenever we get a plan from Stamski and McNary, they never feel obliged to show us anything outside the buffer zone," even if it might impact the overall environmental outlook.
Former White property
The board took final action on an NOI from Robert Guernsey, the new owner of the White property near the center of town on Bedford Road. The applicant explained that plans for the driveway had changed, and the new specifications called for moving it to the other side of the house. This approach will save a large tree and keep construction as far out of the 25-foot barrier to the wetland as possible on the 1.7-acre lot. The hearing was closed and the plan conditioned to protect all trees within that buffer zone.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito