Friday, November 4, 2005
Town boards confer on Greystone drainage problem
Communication between town boards took a step forward at the Conservation Commission's October 27 meeting, where a memo from Planning Board Administrator George Mansfield was the major topic for discussion. It contained a request for input on two issues concerning the design and maintenance of a drainage system for the proposed 15-unit Greystone Crossing Conservation Cluster off Cross Street.
Planning Board approval of this Special Permit requires that 30% of the 47 acres involved must consist of "open space that serves one or more natural resource objectives." Because the Greystone Crossing plan now under consideration by the board is designed with three man-made "pocket wetlands," which fall in whole, or in part, within the designated open space parcels, board members questioned whether such "constructed" entities might disqualify them as open space. After a brief deliberation, the commission agreed that because these drainage features comprised a minor percentage of the acreage involved, they shouldn't create a problem. However, Commission Chair Tom Schultz later stressed that this opinion did not signify that pocket wetlands would always pass muster in future cases where different factors might be involved.
A response to the board's second query, which concerned oversight of the major drainage facilities as well as the pocket wetlands, proved more difficult. The proposed special permit will include an operations and management plan and a common driveway maintenance agreement to be carried out by the Homeowners' Association. The Board was seeking the Commission's opinion about the feasibility of the homeowners performing the required annual inspections and maintenance procedures applicable to the drainage system, especially since the pocket wetlands are due to be located in part on town-owned open space.
As it happens, the applicant William Costello had addressed the problem in a preliminary appearance before the Commission in September, suggesting that maintenance of the drainage facilities be mandated in the Owners' Association bylaw and appear in each registered deed. The Board's memo added the information that he had later proposed that a fund be created by assessment of an annual maintenance fee on each lot owner, sufficient to generate a reserve account for future construction expenses. But the Board was anxious to get further ideas from the Commission as to what provisions could be built into the maintenance agreements at this juncture to preclude headaches for the town in the future.
Citing problems encountered over time in the Tall Pines subdivision, Commissioner Tricia Smith expressed a desire "to avoid responsibility for these structures at all cost," and suggested that there be two classifications of open space. One, which would consist of the area immediately surrounding the pocket wetlands, would be signed over to the Homeowners' Association, and the remainder granted to the town. Commissioner Roy Watson said he worried whether the Association would do what they were supposed to, especially when money was involved. Planning Board representative Louise Hara said a fee of $500 per homeowner per year to cover common drive expenses had been proposed, but Watson laughed, estimating that this amount would just about cover the cost of snowplowing, leaving little or nothing for drainage system upkeep.
Stamski and McNary engineer George Dimakarakos was far from enthusiastic about creating two categories of open space, saying that it would produce a "ragged" plan. Nonetheless, he conceded, "I can do whatever you want."
Following brief exploration of the possibility of turning all the open space conservation easements over to the Association, both the Commission and Hara agreed that the town should maintain control of the major open space parcels containing popular trails, roadway buffers and striking rock formations. Thus the Commission's final recommendation to the Planning Board was that the pocket wetlands be allotted to the Association, with the town holding the major portion of the open space parcels. The final decision rests with the Board.
Asked who would monitor fulfillment of the Association's obligations, Schultz explained that once the project secures the Board's Special Permit and comes before the Commission for their final approval, they can include a condition in their order requiring an annual report from the Association, detailing what has been done. If it is not received in proper form, enforcement procedures could be implemented.
Final Commission consideration of Wetland Protection Act aspects of the Greystone Crossing filing were continued to November 8, at which time the Planning Board's work will probably be complete.
© 2005 The