Friday, June 25, 2004
Pathway committee gets OK from Conservation Commission But it could have been otherwise
Representatives of the Pedestrian & Bike Safety Advisory Committee, who had reason to anticipate a relatively easy time before the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom), found themselves in a very different position at the June 10 meeting. Mary Lynn Booth and recently-elected Selectman Deb Belanger were seeking a Negative Determination of Applicability, which would permit them to proceed with the Bedford Road leg of the pedestrian/bike path from the Center to Kimball's Ice Cream stand. Instead they found themselves uncomfortably close to incurring the cost, in both time and money, of filing a Notice of Intent (NOI). They narrowly avoided the situation on a split vote of the commission.
"Making great progress"
The discussion started affably with Belanger reporting that the project was "making great progress" toward a goal of reaching Kimball's sometime this summer, and ConsCom members smiling and voicing encouragement. Then she explained that the committee had abandoned the original plan to build a bridge over a small pond near the road, deciding rather to lay the path around it.
Tom Schultz, one of two recently appointed ConsCom members, just back from a Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions class on wetland regulation announced, "I think this does require a NOI." Chair Tricia Smith commented that she hadn't felt that the proposed construction would be sufficiently intrusive to require a NOI, and that the Commission could control the project sufficiently by monitoring a Negative Determination of Applicability. To the surprise of some, Schultz's assessment was seconded by veteran Commissioner Tom Brownrigg, who pointed out that the boundary of the nearby wetland had never been established. "It's only about 21 feet away if you just eyeball it," he said, adding that he wouldn't want to condition the project without knowing where it was. Smith responded that if the Commission required an NOI in this case, consistency would demand that they do the same when the Trails Committee or Great Brook Farm State Park wanted to lay a board walk over a wetland in the woods.
The obvious differences of opinion led Smith to walk over to the files, pull out a tome containing the Wetland Protection Act regulations and whip through the pages vainly seeking a resolution, and saying, "I'm concerned because I'm afraid that there are other people who want to make it easier and safer for the public to get from one point to another who won't be able to do it because of the cost of obtaining a wetland delineation [about $1,000 to $1,500]." Brownrigg countered with a statement opposed to any sort of "double standard."
Setting a new precedent?
Belanger, who had remained silent to that point, then asked, "If the Trails Committee can put a walk across a wetland and not have to do it [obtain a NOI], and we are proposing to go around the water, not through it, where's the logic?" Again stressing that she didn't want to see the project terminated because of cost, and that it was possible the Commission might have been "delinquent" when it first considered the project, Smith concluded by commenting that she couldn't see that having a NOI would change the final conditions for the work.
Joining the discussion late in the game, Commissioner John Lee weighed in with the observation that he could not see classifying the project as a major disturbance, that the area had already been disturbed through agricultural use, and finally that the Commission was well aware that the pathway committee's work had been done "very carefully" to date.
The room was very quiet as Smith called for a vote on a motion from Lee to issue a Negative Determination of Applicability. The motion carried four to two with Schultz and Brownrigg still opposed.
© 2004 The