Friday, January 18, 2002
Streams and swimming pools occupy ConsCom
Five seemingly prosaic applications for building in 100-foot wetland buffer zones served as springboards for discussions of streams and swimming pools at the conservation commission's January 10 meeting. The most productive was a Notice of Intent (NOI) from Robert Guernsey, who sought approval of plans for a sewage disposal system that "shoehorned in" between a ledge and an abutting well at the last house before the Billerica line on Rutland Street. Only 1,320 square feet of buffer area were to be disturbed and they lay within the flagged area of the old system.
The project appeared to present no problems until conservation administrator Sylvia Willard pointed out that a brook on the property, which appears on the U.S. Geological Survey maps as "intermittent," is flowing steadily right in the middle of what is supposed to be a technical drought. Adding that the stream is not big enough for the project to run up against the Massachusetts Rivers Act, she felt it warranted keeping an eye on in the future.
ConsCom to monitor streams
The ensuing conversation about the survey's shortcomings and the inevitably dynamic nature of water resource features led to a proposal that the commission monitor all mapped streams in order to verify and remain up to date on their environmental status. The idea met with unanimous approval and launched a year-long project to do just that. The town was divided into eight geographic areas with each member committing him or herself to check and keep a photo diary of the status of the streams in their assigned locales. While so engaged, they will also record the life cycle of possible vernal pools. The resulting data base should save time, help protect water resources and resolve nagging questions that arise in the course of NOI deliberations.
Another item that brought conjectures about the future was the continuation of a hearing on construction of a covered, closed-system swimming pool that required 11,500 square feet of work in a buffer zone. The engineer for owners James and Linda White was George Dimakarakis from Stamski and McNary, who had been asked to consult with building inspector Bob Koning concerning the safety of a hydrostatic release valve that assures that the level of the pool will always be above the unusually high ground-water level at Hart Farm Estates. Because the 130-acre development is in a rare species area as designated by the state Natural Resources Program, pools like this must also include a 12-inch-high concrete "reverse batter" barrier installed as part of the required safety fence, to keep creatures like salamanders, turtles and tree frogs from falling in the pool and drowning.
How many swimming pools?
Noting that there is already evidence that construction at the development has increased the water content in the surrounding wetlands, commissioner Jo Rita Jordan expressed growing concern about the amount of water that up to 20 potential swimming pools of the size contemplated in this case might displace into the wetlands. Dimakarakis doubted that there would be anywhere nearly that many pools and, taking out his calculator, arrived at the conclusion that ten such facilities would add only 32,000 cubic feet of water or .02 inches when spread out over the entire 130 acres. In spite of some lingering concern, the commission issued a standard order of conditions with the addition of the pool and fencing requirements listed above.
Three more applications were submitted and approved for the following residents: Marty and Catherine Galligan of South Street, Carlisle center residents Thomas and Kimberly Ratcliffe and Sunset Road homeowner Steve Golson. The Galligan proposal called for addition of a garage and sunroom, "to make our affordable house into a less affordable one," and relocation of the existing driveway to improve an exit that has poor sightlines.
The Ratcliffes described a 790-square-foot addition, 80 feet from the wetland, in the triangle between Concord and Church Streets. All construction will take place in what is a flat lawn area with no wildlife habitat.
The Golsons, represented by Stamski and McNary engineer Joseph March, who assured the commission that, "This is a nice simple one for you," called for replacement of a failed septic system. To everyone's sorrow, a site visit had already established that two huge pine trees would have to come out, as no other solution was possible.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito