Friday, May 12, 2000
ConsCom denies Acton Street plan: cites self-imposed hardship
If any doubt remains about the dimensions of the present building boom in Carlisle, a glance at the Carlisle Conservation Commission's April 27 agenda will remove it. The list of action items contained four new Notices of Intent, one amendment to a previous notice, three continuances of public hearings (two of which concerned major subdivision proposals) and one Request for Determination as to whether a Notice of Intent (NOI) would be required.
Acton Street plan
The most challenging of the nine applications was a continued public hearing on a proposal by Steve Cote to build a single-family home accessed by a roadway crossing the resource area in two places and requiring 7,800-square feet of wetland fill. The property, which is located off Acton Street abutting Jack Valentine's farm, has a tangled history. A similar plan was proposed by Nashoba Trust in 1997, but it was then and still is considered a "limited project" since it requires more than 5,000 square feet of wetland alteration. This means the applicant must prove that there is no alternative route for reaching his upland parcel. The first time around the lot was a larger piece of land, and a second approach was a distinct possibility, but the application was dropped. In the intervening years, the lot was subdivided, apparently by the present owner, thus closing off any alternative access route and creating a legally defined "hardship" situation. However, since this appeared to the commission to be a self-imposed hardship, the project became a "discretionary permit" and the commission was not obliged to approve it.
From the first, commissioner Claire Wilcox was firm in her opposition to such an extensive wetland disturbance for construction of a single house. All commissioners, with the exception of Eric Jensen, were reluctant to overlook the self-imposed problem, fearing the establishment of a damaging precedent. Said chair Carolyn Kiely, "Speaking as an attorney, once we let this go by, the floodgates are open!"
Kiely's reference to floodgates brought a warning from abutter Valentine that nearly every spring "tremendous flooding occurs here." Turning to Cote and referring to the hardship claim, he commented, "You have backed yourself into a corner and it's not the commission's job to pull you out of it."
There was a unanimous vote to close the public hearing. Wilcox then made a motion for denial on the basis of the amount of fill required, extensive alteration of the wetland and a self-imposed hardship situation. The vote was five in favor with Jensen abstaining.
Species movement an issue
at Great Brook cluster
Bouncing back and forth between the planning board and ConsCom, Albert Gould and Betsy Goldenberg returned for a continuance of their NOI for an eventual ten-house conservation cluster off Rutland Street. The NOI involves construction of a subdivision road, drainage provisions, stormwater management facilities, wetland alteration and a wetland replication area.
Engineer Gary Shepard presented revised plans that established a cistern requested by fire chief Bob Koning. The reservoir would be located in the buffer zone under the 100-foot causeway that crosses the wetland at the entrance to the development. Shepard explained that this unusual placement was chosen because it would not cause additional wetland disturbance and would avoid destructive blasting. Conservation administrator Katrina Proctor asked if this was the first place in Carlisle where this solution was chosen. Shepard didn't know but assured her that it had been successfully employed elsewhere.
Following their weekend site walk at the proposed development, commissioners appeared to be satisfied with the planned wetland replication area that had concerned them previously. However, commissioner Steve Spang returned with increased skepticism about the ability of wetland species to move from one side of the divided wetland to the other for feeding and breeding activities. "Nothing can go through the 12-foot wall and culvert," Spang declared. "You have impacted the resource area in a major way. I believe you could maintain the required hydrology factors and protect the passage of species at the same time." Saying that he would be satisfied with any solution that would allow wetland species to migrate between the two parts of the wetland, he did suggest a number of small tunnels through the barrier.
Proctor recommended that the state Natural Heritage Program be consulted on the matter, while Gould offered to check with the manufacturer of the culvert "to see if a passageway can be created." The hearing was continued to await final action by the planning board May 8 and to receive comments from Natural Heritage.
Curve Street cluster
The commission took a second look at specifications for the 110-acre conservation cluster off Curve Street proposed by Paul and Helen Hart. The present notice covers only the common driveway with its grading and drainage system. Seventy-eight mostly wetland acres will be deeded to the town for conservation. Engineer George Dimakarakis of Stamski and McNary indicated that one of three cisterns requested by the fire chief had been moved further from the wetland and a two-car parking area added to give access to the town's open space acreage.
Both commissioners Spang and Tom Brownrigg regretted that the commission's area of authority does not extend to certain isolated wetlands on the parcel that constitute critical habitat and are obvious breeding grounds for amphibians. Dimakarakis pointed out that those areas are untouched and no drainage is directed toward them. At the request of Proctor, the engineer agreed to ask the owner to allow certification of a vernal pool to protect it in the future.
Following a statement by Kiely that, "We know this road is going to happen whether we like it or not," the board voted to issue an order of conditions.
Red Fox garage
Engineer Scott Indermuehle presented drawings of a detached garage and driveway, installation of drainage improvements, stone retaining walls, terraces, walks, a screened pergola and landscape plantings at 45 Red Fox Drive. The owner, Andy Hajducky, collects automobiles and needs a 40-by-40-foot garage to store them. The complex drainage system is designed to improve what has always been somewhat of a problem area. The building itself will be 75 feet from the wetland at its closest point and landscaping will reach to the 50-foot line.
Abutter Ed Rolfe was worried about run-off contamination, pointing out that one-third to one-half of the property is "impervious surface." However, Spang appeared to speak for the commission when he observed that the new drainage system would minimize run-off and improve the overall situation. The hearing was closed and an order of conditions issued.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito