Friday, November 24, 2000
ConsCom reluctantly approves more Hart Farm lots in wetlands buffer zone
As three more plans for lots in the Hart Farm Estates conservation cluster off Curve Street were added to the four approved at public hearings on November 9, conservation commission misgivings became increasingly evident. Several lots in the development extend into the 100-foot state-mandated wetlands buffer zone, where activities must be supervised by the local conservation commission. At their November 16 session, the commission approved two lot plans and continued the public hearing on a third to December 7.
The first Hart Farm map presented by Stamski and McNary engineer George Dimakarakis showed a generic single-family home of 4800 square feet, located inside the 100-foot buffer zone of the nearby wetland. A driveway and associated grading brought the total area of work to 9200 square feet inside the zone and within 25 feet of the resource area at its closest points.
Owing to the high water table, this residence, like most of the proposed homes in the development, will require a mounded septic system in front with a larger buildup for the house itself, to accommodate nine-foot high basement ceilings. As it is, the engineer noted that the lot is seriously restricted because of planning board cluster requirements.
Commissioner Christine Gaulden made it clear that she wanted to see a line of boulders roughly following a section of the haybale line and in addition suggested a deed restriction that would permanently prohibit any activity beyond that point. Developer Michael Kenny remonstrated that he found it "somewhat unfair for you to be so categorical in saying there shall be no activity whatever in that area." He insisted that he knew landscapers who could look at the situation and come up with ideas that would actually enhance the wetlands and their immediate boundaries. In any case, he felt the commission could postpone a decision until final plans for each house came up in the future.
New commissioner Jonathan Beakley asked what action the board could take if a future owner did violate an order of conditions designed to protect the wetland, once the commission had given the original proprietor a certificate of compliance for completion of construction. Member John Lee explained that the commission could ask the owner to correct the violation and, in his experience, people had cooperated, thus obviating issuance of an enforcement order. He then asked Dimakarakis if the size of the house under consideration could be reduced to make the lot less tight.
Planning board liaison Louise Hara asked Kenny if there were any legal mechanism for changing the development's private covenant which, among other things, mandates a house size of at least 3500 square feet of heated area. Kenny found this unlikely, saying," This being New England, I doubt you could ever get 12 owners to agree on anything."
At that juncture Lee described the project as "full of extreme negatives," and "the opposite of what one is supposedly trying to do with a conservation cluster." Deploring the fact that the commission had no legal grounds to deny the application, even though they didn't like it, Gaulden declared, "This is an example of why we need revisions to our Town Bylaw," a sentiment seconded by Lee who elevated it to "a shining example." The reference was to the fact that Carlisle's Wetland Protection Bylaw, unlike those in many other Massachusetts communities, does not give the commission the power to go beyond the broad state statute and declare an absolute no-build zone immediately bordering a wetland. All they are authorized to do is set enforceable conditions as to how construction is to proceed.
Under these circumstances the commission issued a standard order of conditions with the proviso that "one-cubic-yard boulders be installed at the haybale line to mark a "continuing no-work zone." Kenny interjected, partly in jest, "Can't you make that a "no-work contemplated," zone? In the end, Lee abstained from the otherwise unanimous approval action.
Protecting a view
The next Kenny application covering Lot 5 called for generic house construction that required 13,500 square feet of work in the buffer zone. After a period of intense perusal of the specifications, board members, led by commissioner Eric Jensen, asked if the house could be turned so as to reduce the amount of work in the sensitive area. Dimakarakis defended the proposal on the basis of protection of the wetland from potentially damaging drainage. However, when Jensen suggested that a rearrangement could get almost all construction out of the buffer zone, Kenny joined the group at the table for a look at the options. The clincher came when Hara, in professional life an architect, commented, "This is the only house in the cluster that can really enjoy a view of the open space; what you have done takes no advantage of that." Kenny listened with increased interest before agreeing to a continuation of the hearing to December 7 to allow for reconsideration.
A third Kenny Notice of Intent to construct was quickly approved and a standard order of conditions voted unanimously.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito