Friday, November 12, 2004
ConsCom reviews plans for two developments
In two public hearings on October 28, the Conservation Commission took a preliminary look at a 22-acre development off Concord Street and okayed access plans for a more modest project off Russell Street. The larger parcel is owned by Buttrick Woods developer Bruce Wheeler, while the second involves the first of two potential building sites recently acquired by George D. Lemonias.
22 acres on Concord Street
The Wheeler filing was an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation (ANRAD), which constitutes a preliminary assessment of the nature, location and exact dimensions of wetland resources on the property. Agreement on those basic parameters determines the extent of the commission's jurisdiction as the project unfolds. Specific construction plans are submitted and assessed at a later date.
Stamski and McNary engineer George Dimakarakos presented delineation documentation developed by wetland specialist David Crossman. His specifications showed Bordering Vegetated Wetland, Isolated Wetland Subject to Flooding (IWSF) and an "intermittent" stream.
According to the engineers, the stream should be considered intermittent because it does not appear on the United States Geological Survey (USGS) map, and its drainage area is less than one-half a square mile. They also stated that the isolated wetland did not hold enough water to meet state jurisdictional standards.
In part because abutters believed the brook to be perennial rather than intermittent, thus giving it a 200-foot buffer zone rather than the 100-foot wetland requirement, and because a new standard has been adopted by the USGS for determining the status of a stream, the commission asked for a peer review of Crossman's ANRAD findings. Also, Commissioner Tom Brownrigg indicated the possibility that the IWSF was actually a vernal pool, which would afford it added jurisdictional protection. Chair Roy Watson announced that the commission is asking Ecotech Wetland Delineation Consultant John Rockwood to review Crossman's documentation at the applicant's expense, and Wheeler agreed. The two consultants scheduled a joint site walk to determine the final wetland boundaries.
When Watson sought comments from the audience, Attorney Michael Epstein spoke up for the abutters, asking if they could hire their own delineation expert if they were not satisfied with the conclusions reached by Crossman and Rockwood. Responding, "Who is more concerned than you people as abutters," Watson welcomed their input, but warned that hiring their own expert would be expensive, and that the commission had sought Rockwood's opinion because they have found him to be "a consummate professional." Since Epstein left the question of a third consultant open, Wheeler granted permission for that person to accompany Crossman and Rockwood on their joint site walk.
Finally, Watson told Epstein there would probably be a second walk if disagreements arose, and their representative would be welcome to accompany commission members at that time. The owner approved a continuation of the hearing to 9:15 p.m. on November 18.
Two lots on Russell Street
The second hearing concerned a Notice of Intent from Lemonias to proceed with construction of a driveway, part of which would be in the 100-foot wetland buffer zone. The rest of the work fell outside the commission's area of jurisdiction, but the location of the drive presented serious drainage problems, as was admitted by Lemonias's engineer, Dimakarakos.
The driveway entrance to the standard two-acre lot was located at the junction of Russell and School Streets and across the road from the steeply sloping terminus of Bellows Hill Road. Asked to comment on the proposal, Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard expressed reservations about runoff, since rain water presently flows down Bellows Hill Road, with a major portion going straight across the other two streets and down the precipitous driveway slope. Dimakarakos admitted, "We, too, are concerned," and proceeded to explain the engineering Stamski and McNary was recommending to handle the problem.
Commissioner Tom Schultz asked why the applicant couldn't have put the driveway on the other side of the parcel, thus missing the buffer zone completely and avoiding much of the drainage problem. As presently planned, water would flow to an endpoint within 43 feet of the wetland. The engineer insisted that the flow was less of a problem than that presented in other projects the commission had approved, and that he could see little reason for concern about harming the wetland.
Abutter Mark Struss entered the discussion with a suggestion that the owner put a common drive for both the standard lot and the potential 4.8-acre pork chop lot on the other side of the property, thus solving several problems concurrently. Dimakarakos dismissed that approach once and for all as involving "safety problems."
After studying the specifications intently and stressing that construction on such a problematic site would have to be undertaken "very cautiously," the commission closed the public hearing. The Order of Conditions required the applicant to check with the conservation administrator regularly during the course of construction and monitor all siltation barriers whenever stormy conditions are predicted.
© 2004 The