The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 18, 2005

News

ConsCom, developer at impasse over buffer zone

The second installment of a continued public hearing on February 10 failed to bring agreement between the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) and developer Peter Lemonias. Following a rather confrontational session on January 25, Lemonias and Stamski and McNary engineer Tim McGivern had been asked to return with "a more acceptable alternative proposal" for development of Lot 3, Koning Farm Road. The application called for construction of a house, deck, drywell, retaining wall, and grading, with 22,000 square feet of work within the 100-foot buffer zone of a Bordering Vegetated Wetland (BVW). Also included was the clear-cutting of a considerable portion of the lot to provide a large flat backyard.

The Commission had been unhappy with what they considered overly destructive intrusion into the buffer zone, the effects of clearing over 44,000 square feet of woodland, excessive grading around the house, and increased siltation caused by reduction of a small hill. They suggested "siting the structures to fit the lot rather than altering the lot to fit the structures."

McGivern opened his second presentation with a summary of the positive changes made to the original proposal. He had decreased the area of work within the buffer zone from 22,000 to 15,000 square feet. A two-to-one slope had been replaced by a terraced stone wall with steps, thus reducing the danger of drainage into the resource area. Finally, the haybale lines had been moved ten additional feet from the wetland.

On the minus side, from the Commission's point of view, the revised plan did not call for relocation of the house and/or the septic system because the engineer and the client found the original plan "optimal," and the large cleared area in the rear indispensable. Furthermore McGivern reported that he had found three site plans in his company's files "with a similar amount of intrusion into the buffer zone," which had been approved by the commission. "We feel this plan will meet Wetland Protection Act regulations and is therefore approvable," he concluded.

Commissioner Tricia Smith took immediate issue with McGovern's conclusions. Reading from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rules, which clearly described the harm that can be done to wetlands through the use of fertilizers and other chemicals on extensive lawns in close proximity to resource areas, she advised him to review the rules in detail. She added that the DEP regulations create a "presumption" of damage that must be overcome by clearly stated proof that their project as proposed will not cause such harm. McGivern repeated that the Lemonias plan did not threaten private wells, affect ground water, or in any other way affect the public interest.

Watson backed Smith by stressing that the Commission needed more than the engineer's "opinion" to overcome the state's presumption that 15,000 square feet of "alteration to the biological area" in close proximity to a wetland would not be deleterious. In addition, he asked to see the three approved plans referenced by McGivern as showing similar intrusion into the buffer zone. McGivern did not back down, but described the revised application as "typical in the Town of Carlisle."

Turning to Lemonias, Watson repeated that all he was hearing was the applicant's "opinion" that his NOI was approvable as it stood, with no scientific analysis to prove that claim. Therefore, he was suggesting a peer review by a disinterested wetland expert, promising that if the peer reviewer found the application to be approvable, he for one "would vote to approve it in a heartbeat." Commissioner John Lee seconded the request for a review, which he described as standard procedure in cases where expert analysis was called for.

Lemonias observed that he would like to have been told about the review earlier in the game and refused to consider it. Reminding the Commission that he had already reduced the amount of clear cutting by 35 feet, he offered to install a boundary of large boulders to mark the permanent end of any future development within the cleared lawn area, but declared that to be his final concession, rose from his chair, and departed.

With the distinct probability of a denial of the application being considered at the next meeting, to be followed by an equally probable appeal by the applicant, the board tapped Smith to write a draft document giving the Commission's rationale for such action, if it indeed proved necessary.


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