The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 16, 2000


In some areas, tree-cutting and burning spells trouble with ConsCom

When is a soggy area on your property a legally protected wetland? Answer: when the rise and fall of water, the nature of the soil and/or the type of vegetation tell an expert from the local conservation commission that it is. Once again this last week, a Carlisle resident has found herself in trouble by assuming she knew the answer to that deceptively simple question.

Following up on complaints about wood-cutting and burning on a Nowell Farme Road property, conservation commission administrator Sylvia Willard visited the owner, walked the plot in question with her and concluded that indeed a wetland had been disturbed. Owner Jean Buckborough, in turn, asked to appear before the commission to describe what had happened.

At the June 8 conservation commission meeting, Buckborough began with the assertion that "the wetland developed since we bought the property." She further declared that there existed a lot of deadwood in the area in question and so, when "another party" expressed interest in cutting some of the remaining trees, she had agreed. Subsequently, 13 pine trees along the road were removed, with the burning taking place in the spring. Willard then pointedly inquired whether there were or were not skunk cabbage plants and ferns in the disputed area. Buckborough admitted that there were, but pleaded ignorance of the significance of that or other legal requirements.

Commissioner Claire Wilcox said she was more concerned about the burning than the cutting, and then undertook to explain what made the apparently inadvertent violation a serious matter. She informed the owner that when other citizens come before the board with requests to alter conditions within a wetland or its 100-foot buffer zone, "We often haggle over what can and can't be done, so when someone does it on their own, it creates a problem." Commission chair Carolyn Kiely seconded her colleague's unease, noting, "I too am worried about fallout from this." The board decided to schedule a site visit to assess the situation before resuming the discussion at their July 13 meeting.

Hut on Bedford Road

A second question as to what is or isn't a wetland was raised when a neighbor of David Duren on Bedford Road lodged a complaint about his locating a removable Quonset hut next to a small pond on his property. Willard reported that the structure was placed about 75 feet from a pond that Duren said he had dug some time ago as a fire pond. The board asked that the owner file a Request for Determination, which would describe what had transpired in more detail and determine whether a Notice of Intent (NOI) was required or not.

Construction on Curve Street

Joseph Salvucci represented himself in submitting a Notice of Intent to add 1,160 square feet of impervious surface to an existing house footprint on Curve Street. Construction would include a shed, house addition and porch. A map showed all structures to be within the buffer zone, but the owner explained that the work would not increase the area of disturbance, because it would take place between wings of the present residence.

The relatively new owner declared, "I want to make sure I am not causing any possible future problems, because I hope to live in this house for the next 20 years." Willard replied that her concern went back to the time the house was built in 1980, because the wetlands were not flagged across the property line. A site visit had revealed that backwash from the swimming pool was flowing out within 20 feet of a wetland. Salvucci noted that, when he had emptied the pool, the water disappeared within a few feet, owing to the nature of the soil. Commissioner John Lee, who was also familiar with the site, confirmed that it is "excessively well-drained," like other lots in the vicinity. Thereupon, the commission voted to issue a standard order of conditions, pending receipt of a file number from the Department of Environmental Protection.

House on Swanson Lane

Joseph March of Stamski and McNary received a relatively rapid approval of an NOI submitted by David and Christy Erickson for construction of a house and septic system on Swanson Lane. The 5.5-acre site is accessed by a common drive across a delineated wetland. The house itself will be partially within the buffer zone, while a pool and backwash system remain outside. March assured the commissioners that a natural buffer of trees would remain untouched. Nevertheless, Wilcox worried that a later owner might be tempted to extend the cleared area further toward the resource area. March offered to put in a line of boulders to discourage such an occurrence, and a condition to that effect was included in the final order.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito