Friday, March 17, 2000
Fines imposed on 1 River Road
The conservation commission has slapped a dual fine on Boston Gas Company and Chip Orcutt, owner of property at 1 River Road. The site was turned down last year as a possible cell tower location, in part, because it contained an illegal underground oil tank. Once the offending tank had been removed, Orcutt contracted with the utility to install a gas line to the small business office on the property.
At its March 9 meeting, the commission levied two $1,000 fines because of the utility's failure to file the required application for permission to construct a gas line within the wetlands buffer zone until 30 days after the work had actually been completed. The company's delinquency was brought to the commission's attention by Orcutt after the fact. The owner reported that his agreement with Boston Gas had indicated that all necessary permits would be obtained before construction began, and that he had not realized until a month later that they had not met the requirement.
A gas company representative explained, "This was a rush job.We didn't realize we were in the buffer zone." Commissioner John Lee asked blandly, "What did you use for a plan then?" Caught off guard, the agent admitted, "We eyeballed it.It's sad to say, it was an oversight." Lee followed up with the comment, "It seems odd to me that you would do a job without a plan." The agent's final attempt was, "We didn't see it as a job, but as a service."
Following the exchange, conservation administrator Katrina Proctor said the commission's decision should rest on a determination as to whether or not the commission would have approved the plan, had it been submitted in timely fashion. Board member Jo Rita Jordan declared that, at the least, the commission would have insisted on conditions for construction, while commissioner Sylvia Willard said the issue was that ConsCom was given no choice in the matter.
Regarding the matter of punishment, commissioner Eric Jensen insisted the gas company should be made aware that its sloppy procedures would not be tolerated, while Jordan questioned whether legal responsibility could be transferred from owner to contractor.
As to the amount, Proctor informed the board that under the Wetland Protection Act (WPA), the board could levy a $25 fine for the first day of the offense, $100 for the second and up to $300 for each day thereafter. Commenting that both parties had committed a violation, Chair Carolyn Kiely suggested fining both. Lee obliged by moving that a relatively modest $1,000 be assessed on each, and the motion passed unanimously.
Nathan Lane resident stumped
The second applicant of the evening was a sprightly new homeowner and mother who wanted to remove some mature trees, their stumps and brush between her house and the nearby wetland. Liz Price of Nathan Lane explained that she was worried about trees falling on the house and also wanted her children to be able to play in the back yard. "It's not an enormous area," she commented, adding that she was new to the suburbs and knew nothing about WPA issues. "I don't feel that I'm doing something bad," she pled.
Commissioner Jensen then took time to explain both the habitat and aesthetic issues involved. Most important was the fact that trees and shrubs keep fertilizers and other contaminants out of the wetland, so if the board should okay the removal, they would insist on revegetation. As for other considerations, he reminded her of the historical significance of white pines in New England, concluding, "They really are magnificent trees." Commissioner Tom Brownrigg added a little pressure saying Price already had a beautiful front lawn and, if the property were his, he wouldn't worry about the back.
Comments from Willard and Lee confirmed that the board would want to see a landscape plan to include the planting of large shrubs before making a decision. "I want to tell you we probably will not okay removal of the stumps in any case," Lee warned. The public hearing was continued to 8:30 on March 23.
In response to frequent protestations of homeowners when confronted with WPA requirements, and to better inform the public about the imposition of fines (such as those imposed recently on Boston Gas Company and Jonathan Sachs) for failure to follow prescribed procedures, the board approved distribution of two informational documents. One will be given to all new homeowners, while the other will remind area contractors of their responsibility to inform clients concerning the law.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito