Friday, May 19, 2000
Homeowner learns tough lesson on wetlands laws during construction
It isn't often that a transgressor turns himself in to a regulatory board, but that is what happened here two weeks ago. Homeowner Kieran Nunan of Maple Street walked into the Carlisle Conservation Commission office and invited administrator Sylvia Willard and former administrator Katrina Proctor to inspect his property. This they did and determined to Nunan's dismay that fill from a construction project on his lot had been deposited in an area that gave strong evidence of being part of a wetland.
Although Nunan was accompanied to the ConsCom's May 11 meeting by attorney Howard Hensleigh, the latter urged his client to present his own case, telling the commissioners, "I thought you'd prefer to hear the owner himself rather than a lawyer." And indeed, Nunan was an effective witness in his own defense.
The homeowner told the board that he "had intended to do right" and had studied maps of the area and even checked his deed history for any indication of prior conditioning, before starting the project. Unfortunately, he had come to an erroneous conclusion. Convinced there were no wetlands on his property, though a map showed some on his neighbor's plot, he started construction of an addition to his house. Clean fill from the initial excavation was piled in a corner of his property. While talking with his contractor, Nunan decided to check at the ConsCom office to make certain his activity was legal, with the results chronicled above.
Although indications are strong that existing and/or proposed construction is within the 100-foot buffer zone of a wetland, exact delineation of that resource area must await examination by an environmental engineer. With all construction activity halted and a serious violation admitted, Nunan was now asking that the two aspects of his case be treated separately, i.e.:
· that the commission give specific instructions for the proper and quick removal of the illegal fill, and
· that he be permitted to continue construction of the addition to his house as soon as possible in order to alleviate what was becoming a financial and family hardship.
After renewed assurances from Willard that the property owner had been "extremely cooperative" from the start, commissioners moved to remedy the situation without penalty. First, the boundaries of the presumed wetland must be flagged. If, by any chance, no wetland is found, Willard will go out and give the Nunans a clearance. In the meantime, the applicant will prepare a Notice of Intent that will include an accurate map of the parcel with the wetland boundary drawn in by a wetland engineer. Once the wetland has been confirmed, a backhoe will be used to pull out the offending fill and pile it outside the buffer zone. Finally, the NOI for home construction will be heard at the May 25 ConsCom meeting.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito