Friday, March 30, 2001
ConsCom ponders beefed-up bylaw
The Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) devoted a major part of their March 22 meeting to a discussion of revisions to the town's wetland protection bylaw as submitted for inclusion in the May 14 Town Meeting Warrant. They addressed a number of comments received from readers of the proposed amendments that have been posted on their website at www.carlisle.org/conscom. Concern has been expressed, by both attorneys and lay citizens, because two special categories of projects had not been expressly exempted from the bylaw, and it was felt they should be.
The first such category, the so-called "limited" projects under the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act (WPA), includes a few generally prohibited undertakings that are exempt from rules that normally apply to construction in wetland resource areas. The most common of these special projects allows a landowner to fill more than the established limit of 5,000 square feet of wetland, in order to reach otherwise buildable upland, as long as no other means of access is available. At the request of the commission, Greg Peterson drafted a sub-item to Article 5 exempting these state-defined projects from the provisions of the bylaw.
The second such category refers to specific exemption of "works performed in the course of maintaining, repairing, or replacing, but not substantially changing or enlarging, an existing and lawfully located structure or facility used for residential purposes or accessory to residential purposes," to quote a second sub-item from Peterson. After some discussion, the commissioners voted to accept the two changes as proposed. In the hope that these additions could be inserted in the warrant at this late date, they authorized conservation administrator Sylvia Willard to forward the request to the selectmen.
Turning to reactions from lay citizens, the commissioners identified a need to allay fears that they might be too tough in their application of the expanded oversight powers sought in the proposed bylaw. Commissioner Jonathan Beakley said the board should be clear about the extent of the authority they are seeking, and equally clear about the very real public benefits to be realized from it. The proposed increases in ConsCom jurisdiction add "isolated land subject to flooding" and vernal pools to the wetland features protected under local bylaw, and allow the commission to designate "undisturbed, vegetated" buffers within the 100-foot area surrounding all designated wetland resource areas.
The commission was unanimous about the need to propose a draft of the regulations they plan to formalize and submit to required public hearings following Town Meeting. They agreed they should include guidelines for the extent of the no-build, vegetated areas to be maintained within the 100-foot buffer zone surrounding wetland features. Under the proposed bylaw, this buffer zone is designated as Adjacent Upland Resource Area (AURA). It has the same dimension (is contiguous with) the 100-foot buffer zone that surrounds all wetland features enumerated in the WPA, but allows for inclusion of the two features they propose to add and the increased local protection afforded by the strengthened bylaw. Commissioner and bylaw advisory committee member Christine Gaulden volunteered to develop draft regulations.
Commissioner Eric Jensen's suggestion that the commission develop a "question and answer" article for publication in the Carlisle Mosquito was enthusiastically endorsed. The queries will be drawn from those posted on the website, received at the ConsCom office, or heard Saturday mornings at the transfer station.
In other business, the board considered a continued Notice of Intent (NOI) from Luc and Marie Wathieu of North Road, who have applied to build a one-story barn to house bicycles, chickens and perhaps a pony. Engineer Bill McNary was happy to tell the board he had succeeded in pulling the barn footprint back from a position four feet from the wetland to one 22 feet away. The plan also included a paddock within 18 feet of the resource area, which would require clearing of hardwood trees "but will spare one significant pine tree."
Commissioners were "uncomfortable" with the plan for a paddock so close to the wetland, and since the pony is not presently a fact, suggested that they might approve the barn now. When and if the animal is about to materialize, the Wathieus would need to return to discuss the paddock. However, they were warned that manure would need to be removed daily, and there was no assurance of a positive decision at that time.
Abutters James and Bridget Saltonstall and Larry Bearfield appeared for a second time in opposition to farm animals being housed so close to a wetland because of the danger of nitrogen overload. Mrs. Saltonstall asked what precedent there was for structures so close to the resource area. Commissioner Jo Rita Jordan said that, in her experience, the closest was ten feet. Then she added, "All I can say is, 'vote for our bylaw change, if that bothers you.' "
A standard order of conditions was approved for the barn alone.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito