Friday, July 16, 1999
Homeowner alert: before you work in the wetlands, check with ConsCom
Bureaucratic mix-ups sometimes have an agreeable ending, as one Carlisle couple discovered. Samuel and Suzanne Pietropaolo, new owners of a house and lot on Maple Street, innocently began a major clean-up of their property this spring, only to be informed by conservation administrator Katrina Proctor that their activities constituted an infringement of the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act and the Carlisle Wetland Bylaw. As a consequence, they were ordered to appear before the conservation commission.
Readily conceding that almost the entire property lies within a 100-foot wetland buffer zone, Samuel Pietropaolo apologized for undertaking the work before requesting a public hearing to describe exactly what work was contemplated. However, he indicated good intentions by adding that concern for the wetlands had led the Pietropaolos to consult an arborist, a landscaper and others on how to accomplish the project with the least disturbance to the resource areas. Further, a set of photographs established the fact that the work planned would probably benefit the wetlands in the long run, since it involved clean-up of a veritable "landfill" of decayed trees, metal frames, concrete posts, creosote-soaked telephone poles and other debris, some of which had even found its way into the wetland.
Visibly softened in their attitude, the commissioners took considerable time to explain the importance of members knowing the specific wetland boundaries and of future contractors being supplied with a clear demarcation of work limits, because of the close proximity of the resource areas. Further, the commissioners need to know exactly what vegetation the owners wish to remove, which areas will be replanted and which will be allowed to naturalize once the debris is removed. They pointed out that herbicides, fertilizers and even lime can be dangerous to wetland species and to water quality in an entire watershed. Therefore, the hearing was continued to July 1 to allow the applicants to prepare the requested data.
On the appointed date the Pietropaolos arrived armed with a wetland demarcation map prepared by engineer David Crossman, photographs and work plans for the four areas that required clearing and a plan for indigenous plantings drawn by landscape consultant Cynthia Seavey. They assured the board that no heavy machinery would be used within the 25-foot boundary that is considered critical to wetland health and that only secondary growth would be removed.
Satisfied, the commissioners closed the public hearing, issued an order that referenced each of the applicants' documents and wished them well with what would clearly be a full summer of work.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito