Friday, September 22, 2000
Varied cases and decisions at ConsCom hearing
The conservation commission's reactions to five of the eight applications brought before them on September 14 ran the gamut from amusement to annoyance to undisguised satisfaction.
River Rd. restoration approved
The most welcome proposal came near the end of the four-hour session when current School Street resident Ashley Stephenson rolled out an ambitious plan to restore a neglected homestead at 397 River Road to its original dignity. In a period when familiar landmarks are often transformed beyond recognition or erased completely to make room for present tastes, the applicants' proposal hit a responsive chord among commission members.
Stephenson and his wife Laurel propose to remove a 2000-square-foot addition that is deemed out of character with the original style of the house and replace it with a smaller, architecturally compatible structure. The existing entrance, which ends in a circular drive, will be retained. After plying the new owner with numerous questions, the commission issued a standard order of conditions, which will go into effect pending receipt of approval from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program or the expiration of a 30-day reporting period, whichever comes first. (That commentary is required because of the existence of a vernal pool approximately 146 yards from River Road and well away from the dwelling.)
Steeple's next journey downhill
New owners Bonnie and Gabor Miskolczy sought approval for their plan to continue the progress of the former St. Irene steeple to its final location on Cross Street. Admitting that the project "might yet be known as "Bonnie's Folly," the determined rescuer said she would welcome any suggestions or help with the problem of getting the seven-foot-square base with its 21-foot-high steeple to its final home.
The Miskolczys hope to move the structure from its present resting place at the head of their driveway down a steep incline to within the 100-foot buffer zone of a wetland and man-made pool. They described a tentative plan to attach wheels, lay a plywood roadway down the hill, and control the descent by means of a sturdy tractor. They garnered an offer of personal assistance from commissioner John Lee after board approval had been voted.
Cutting and burning still unresolved
A less congenial hearing followed, as the commissioners returned do the unresolved issue of illegal tree cutting and burning within a 100-foot wetland buffer zone and inside the resource area itself. Jean Buckborough of Nowell Farme Road had explained in previous appearances that the wetland had developed after the family purchased the property and that she had been ignorant of the legal requirements under the Wetland Protection Act.
Her husband Burt Buckborough represented the family at the September 14 hearing, apparently expecting that an ex post facto Notice of Intent (NOI) filed by his wife would prove satisfactory. However, chair Carolyn Kiely declared the document to be "misleading," noting that the accompanying map did not reflect what she had seen on a site visit, and failed to show trees having been cut within the wetland even though stumps were easily visible.
Annoyed at the inaccuracies, Kiely suggested that a fine might be in order. Lee noted that the commission had been "pretty tough" on others who had transgressed in the past, and asked for more detailed specifications. Former Commissioner and neighbor Claire Wilcox spoke up from the audience, asking that the trunks and slash be removed from the wetland by hand. Noting that the live canopy over the resource area was now gone, she asked if the commission would have approved the work had it received a proposal before the fact. All six commissioner gave a decided "no."
After considerable discussion about the possibility of an enforcement order and/or a fine, and several expressions of contrition on Buckborough's part, the commissioners ordered the filing of a new NOI at the next meeting. In addition to an accurate depiction of the damage, the document must specify what remedial steps will be taken, including hand-removal of slash, placement of haybales, and a specific planting plan for the buffer zone.
South St. addition continued
The commission also continued the case of Manuel Crespo, who presented specifications for an addition to a single-family home on Cross Street. The homeowner explained that the whole house is in the buffer zone, but there would be little new disturbance of the site.
The applicant introduced a plan for a garage that had not been included in the original filing and would add 700 square feet of construction within the buffer zone. When discussion and questions established that the specifications for the garage would alter the original filing for the addition, Lee advised the applicant to resubmit a coordinated plan at the next meeting, including an enlarged map showing contours, the tree line and proper siltation barriers.
Eagle Scout to improve Great Brook Farm trail
Board members also approved a proposal from Eagle Scout candidate Brad Vetter for re-routing of a part of the Tophet Loop trail at Great Brook Farm. Displaying pictures of two eroded areas, Vetter recommended closing off the existing path that goes over a vulnerable glacial esker and blazing a new one along the bottom of that feature. When commissioner Tom Brownrigg expressed concern about erosion into the nearby swamp, park superintendent Ray Faucher assured him that the new trail would be contoured to prevent outwash.
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