Friday, February 4, 2005
ConsCom, neighbors object to clear-cutting, buffer zone intrusion
A storm of criticism greeted a site development plan for Lot 3, Koning Farm Road at the Conservation Commission's January 27 meeting. The seven commissioners and a large neighborhood delegation listened as Stamski and McNary engineer Tim McGivern presented a proposal from Lemonias Development, Inc. that involved a house, deck, septic system, retaining wall and grading. The ambitious project specified 22,000 square feet of work within the 100-foot buffer zone and indicated double that square footage of tree removal on the heavily wooded lot. Included in the earth works was reduction in the size of a small hill.
"Lawn area sells"
When the engineer described a haybale/silt-fence barrier 25 feet from the wetland and an intention to clear-cut the property from the front of the lot to that line, Commissioner Tom Brownrigg inquired how many of the mature oak and white pine trees would be removed and why. McGivern declined to guess but indicated that clearing was what the client wanted. Peter Lemonias then spoke for himself, declaring that customers find a clear, flat yard desirable, adding the frank assertion that, "Lawn area sells." Chair Roy Watson questioned the developer's logic, noting that most of the people he knows originally moved to Carlisle because they loved the quiet, tree-lined ambience.
Commissioner Tricia Smith said she was most concerned about the amount of soil disturbance. "Why is there so much grading around the house," she asked. McGivern answered that the level of the house was designed to obviate the need for a pump-type sewage disposal system. Other board members pursued that angle, indicating that the site choice for the septic facility appeared to be driving the location of everything else. McGivern explained that the location was picked because "a certified tester" said it was the best place, and the chosen area perked well. However, when asked how many sites were tested, he admitted that no others had been investigated. Whereupon Smith, speaking as an engineer herself, said she found site development based on such limited soil testing to be "inadequate" and in the long run "not fair to the buyer." Observing further that all testing firms have to be certified, and some do the job "quick and dirty" while others do it right, she concluded, "You seem to be clearing it, just to get a big, flat backyard," to which Watson added that the proposed demolition of part of the hill would increase drainage, and thus siltation and asked what measures were planned to remedy the threat.
After studying the site specifications again, Smith suggested that the septic system be moved to a flat area on the other side of the lot, so that the house could be sited to fit the lot, and the hill wouldn't have to be disturbed. The engineer again indicated that his client was happy with the plan as presented, and the hearing was opened to comments from the audience.
Abutters want visual protection
Abutter Paul Ho of Judy Farm Road expressed his opposition to the plan as presented. He related that when two previous lots on Koning Farm Road were developed, a team arrived on the scene with chain saws and dynamite and proceeded to remove trees wholesale. He said the process ruined the outlook from hid house, destroyed his privacy and diminished the value of his property. "No consideration was given to the abutters, and now they[the present applicants] want to do the same thing.
Watson commented, "Unfortunately our jurisdiction does not extend to visual and aesthetic factors; it is limited to wetland and water resource protection only." The next speaker, Judy Farm Road resident David Kulik, was aware of the limitations on ConsCom authority, but said he shared Ho's views on the visual effects and wanted to express support for neighborhood opposition. He was followed by Heald Road neighbor Helen Young, who said she wanted to see the wetland protected and trees preserved as fully as possible. A final comment came from Simon Jensen-Fellows who gave "total support" to what his colleagues had said, observing that, "The woods in this area are used by the public at large, and I'd hate to see this volume of trees cut down."
Addressing first the abutters and then the applicant, Watson said he was troubled because the commission felt an obligation to the homeowners and also troubled "by the sense that you [Lemonias] have a plan, and that nothing will change it." Lemonias remonstrated, declaring, "I didn't ever say that." After a pause, Watson continued with the observation that trees play an integral part in the water resources of the area and that clear-cutting would change that drastically.
"It's not a thoughtful site plan; it's too destructive."
Commissioner John Lee suggested that Lemonias bring in a plan showing what modifications he might be willing to make and asked him for a continuation of the hearing until then. Adding teeth to the request for a continuance, Smith announced, "I can't support this plan as it stands. It's not a thoughtful site plan — it's too destructive." It was recommended that Lemonias get his consultants to go back and reconsider the design to show "minimum intrusions" into the buffer zone. Lee made the request for changes more meaningful when he observed, "In all my years on the commission, we've never been presented with a plan that showed so much intrusion into the buffer zone. If we were to approve this as presented, we might as well close up shop."
Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard informed all concerned that the high water testing period for this year starts on March 1, which led Lee to comment that the applicant could retest and return with a sufficiently modified plan. Although several commissioners urged him to give himself enough time for development of an acceptable alternative, the applicant would agree only to a continuance to February 10.
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