Friday, September 26, 2003
Enforcement problems swamp Conservation Commission
The Conservation Commission usually operates as a regulatory body responsible for the implementation of the Wetland Protection Act (WPA) and the Rivers Act, but at its regular meeting on September 18 last week, the commission found it necessary to plunge into four enforcement matters arising from violations of WPA regulations.
Land fill in a buffer zone
The first enforcement action concerned activity in the buffer zone at 44 River Road on property owned by Dr. Dana Booth. Booth's neighbor, Joseph Campagna of 964 Bedford Road, brought the matter to ConCom's attention in a letter dated July 28. Campagna wrote that "tens of thousands of cubic yards of material" had been dumped into low areas of Booth's property over the past six years and that dumping occurred routinely and almost daily for much of the year. Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard contacted Booth the same day. He had not seen the Campagna letter, which had been copied to the Selectmen , so Willard read it to him on the phone and arranged for a baseline inspection the next day and a site visit on July 31 with Conservation Commissioner Tricia Smith. After inspecting the site, they recommended that Booth have the wetlands flagged and that core samples be taken to determine depth of fill and also for determination of soil type. Booth retained David Crossman of B & C Associates in Hudson to do this work. Crossman met with Booth and walked the property on August 8, and his report was the subject of discussion at the September 18 meeting.
Crossman stated that there has been activity in the buffer zone, with about 90 cubic yards of fill deposited in a finger of land about 4 to 5 feet wide that connects with a small pond and a bordering vegetative wetland extending into the pond area. Booth, whose goal was to obtain a flat place for his woodpile, had been advised that as long as he stayed behind a certain area he would not require ConsCom approval. "I'll do whatever remediation you want." he said. Crossman recommended pulling back all the fill so the underlying soils can be examined to determine where the hydric soil begins. The work was scheduled to be done before the October 9 ConsCom meeting. After stating that Booth's attitude was "exemplary," ConsCom voted to issue an enforcement order with the condition that Crossman monitor and supervise the work. No other ConsCom involvement was deemed necessary. Susan Campagna, in her husband's absence, read a statement from him that talked about "flagrant and arrogant violations of town bylaws" which was a statement that had been made about Campagna himself when the trees on his property at the intersection of River Road and Bedford Road were cut without permission two years ago.
Construction in conservation restriction easement zone
David Kelch, representing the town's Conservation Restriction Advisory Committee which advises ConsCom on the status of conservation restrictions, advised ConsCom that a basketball court had been built on resticted land and that a well had also been placed in the restricted area. The conservation restriction easements were defined in the original Tall Pines subdivision and the engineer was asked to provide visual aids demarcating the restricted area. This was not done and property owners Dennis and Linda Chateauneuf were unaware of the conservation restriction easement and did not know that the court and well were in violation of an existing restriction. Its existence had not been explained to them when they received their deed.
Commissioner John Lee suggested that the well and court issues be separated, since the well was not on record as a permitted well and the permitting needed to be settled with both the well inspector and Board of Health (BOH) before ConsCom could take any action. The well discussion was put off until October 23, when BOH would have had time to investigate and respond
With regard to the basketball court, ConsCom felt it was "in a difficult situation" but were agreed that the court should be removed and the disturbed area returned to its natural wetland state. Since it could probably not be removed and revegetated before winter, the committee thought it would be reasonable to settle on having the court out and restoration complete by this time next year. The Chateauneufs were agreeable, and ConsCom set an early March date to meet with them and discuss their plan.
Unpermitted construction in buffer zone
The third enforcement issue came to Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard's attention during a resource area determination study on Cross Street when she observed unpermitted grading within 100 feet of a wetland. She also found that trees had been cut, and construction within the buffer zone was well underway on Berry Corner Lane on property owned by Michael and Laura Baliestiero. ConsCom action was impeded by the fact that wetland flags had been removed and that there is no agreement on the wetland line established previously by two scientists and a third wetland review of the wetland boundary. Commissioner Tricia Smith said the only way to tell if wetland exists on the parcel is to do soil testing. She recommended a peer review and getting the wetland delineated as soon as possible. Baliestiero, who had come to the meeting to discuss a notice of intent for the construction in progress, had no problem with the wetland review but wanted to get the work in progress and grading completed before winter. ConsCom scheduled a site visit on Saturday, September 27.
All-terrain vehicles on conservation land
A final enforcement problem was brought to ConsCom's attention by Police Chief David Galvin, who had noted all-terrain vehicle use on the Greenough Land. The vehicles, which are forbidden on conservation land, have been coming in the back entrance from Billerica.
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