Friday, June 30, 2006
Projects near wetlands line up for ConsCom approval
If the Conservation Commission hoped to reduce the number of "continued" hearings choking their June 22 docket, they found themselves stymied. In fact, they only succeeded in adding one more to the list for July. The new item involved a State Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) landscaping plan for the "duck pond" at Great Brook Farm State Park. The other four continuations, while worthy of a progress report here, remained unresolved.
Purple loosestrife at Great Brook
In the unavoidable absence of her DCR biologist, Project Manager Anne Monnelly presented a Phase 2 Plan for landscaping in and around the small pond near the entrance to the park. She reported that Phase 1, completed in 2002, had resolved the storm water management problem there, but that an incursion of purple loosestrife was now threatening the health of the pond. So the state was proposing to remove the invader and replant the shoreline buffer zone with native vegetation. The work would also include removal of sandy deltas that have remained in the pond itself, following completion of Phase 1.
Recognizing a problem with which the commission is all too familiar, Chairman Tom Schultz asked, "And how do you propose to get rid of the loosestrife?" Monnelly replied that though she was not a biologist, she understood that the modus operandi was to apply an herbicide like Roundup to the offending vegetation as soon as possible, while being careful to protect smaller patches of laurel and high bush blueberry. Commissioner and Alandale Farm manager John Lee suggested gently that he feared an immediate application would be too early in the season to be effective. That being beyond her area of expertise, Monnelly said, if it were true, her team would be willing to wait. At that point Commissioner Tricia Smith introduced a more serious problem, noting that ConsCom has turned down several requests to use herbicides on private property and that she was reluctant to see it used in this case. "With a very public situation like this, careful supervision is needed," she said.
Monnelly observed that the DCR had consulted the Nature Conservancy as to what to do, and they had recommended the use of herbicides. To which Lee responded that he would like to know under what circumstances the Conservancy uses herbicides and suggested that it was probably on a large area. He recommended that DCR consider a "torching" method for their much more limited patch. Saying that she would be glad to ask her team to look into other approaches, Monnelly agreed to continue the hearing to 8:30 p.m., July 13.
Well testing at Coventry Woods
The Commission first heard a presentation on the installation of five test wells at the 40B site off Concord Street, on May 18. The Comprehensive Permit for testing issued by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) called for a 48-hour test resulting in a flow of at least 9,000 gallons per day to serve the drinking water needs of the 41 proposed housing units. The applicant was predicting a flow of over 10,000 gallons per day.
At that first session the commission asked many technical questions about the procedures and monitoring to be used. They expressed particular concern about what would happen to the water produced in the pumping operation and had serious doubts as to whether the monitoring of the impact on nearby wetlands and on ground water resources would be sufficient. They were also unhappy that the applicant's well construction expert, Donald Provencher, seemed to be telling them different things about future irrigation facilities than he had described to the Board of Health (BOH). These and a number of less important issues were then carried over for further explication at the June 8 continuation.
At the June 8 session, the commissioners were careful to explain to Provencher and Stamski and McNary engineer, Richard Harrington, that approval of the test procedures for drinking water supply would in no way imply sanctioning of the over-all water supply specifications for the development. They listened to expressions of deep concern from abutters Alex Parker and Heidi Kummer as to the possible impact on their wells, not only from the tests but primarily from the proposed steady draw-down of underground water resources both during and after construction.
After assuring the abutters that approval of the drinking water test was just a first step and that evaluation of the full water supply plan would require a second rigorous Notice of Intent (NOI), the commissioners voted to close the public hearing but left issuance of the Order of Conditions for the June 22 meeting. Thus at last Thursday's session, Harrington was duly presented with the official order "for the well-testing phase onlynot to be considered approval for a permanent water supply." Added to the commission's 45-item Standard Order were the following:
• The area between the siltation barrier and the wetland is considered a "No Work Zone."
• Prior to the onset of work a detailed tree protection plan shall be submitted and approved by the Conservation Commission.
• Before the order can take effect, a discharge point for the water pumped out will be indicated on the official plan and its location be approved by the conservation administrator.
• The administrator will have to perform a pre-construction visit to the site to approve the test installation prior to its operation.
Habitat findings stall Page Brook Road project
Proposed construction of a family dwelling, a retaining wall and utilities on a lot off Page Brook Road was further complicated by the verification of the existence of two vernal pools on the site. Under an agreement between applicant Richard Buck and the Commission at a continued hearing on June 8, peer reviewer Dr. John Rockwood revisited the lot and reported unequivocally that there were two certifiable vernal pools and that the area must be considered "qualified wildlife habitat" requiring evaluation by the state's Natural Habitat and Endangered Species Program. The only good news for the applicant was that the disputed flood plain elevation as shown on project documents was correct.
Since the Board of Health is currently considering whether to grant the applicant's request for a variation in its regulation requiring new septic systems to be installed outside the 100-foot buffer zone of a wetland, the Commission voted to send a copy of Rockwood's report to that Board. Commissioner Tricia Smith advised Harrington to "work in tandem with both Boards" so that their decisions are not contradictory.
Harrington was able to establish that the proposed lot has the required frontage. However, since the construction plans include work within both the 200-foot Riverfront Area around Pages Brook and a 100-foot wetland buffer zone, the commission chose to await the Board of Health's decision, and the hearing was continued to 8:30 p.m., July 27.
No resolution of Bedford Road impasse
The Notice of Intent to build a single-family house within both a Riverfront Area and a wetland buffer zone was first presented at a May 25 hearing, continued to June 8 and finally continued to June 22 where it has remained in limbo. Owners Edward and Linda Fields of 333 Bedford Road and their engineer George Dimakarakos are trying to win approval of that plan, although two alternate approaches exist that would not require work within either restricted area, but which they maintain would involve economic loss. This assertion is still questioned by commission members, first because it includes the cost of a cistern which may or may not be required by the Fire Department and second because Commissioner Kelly Stringham and others question whether the possible alternative plans would devalue the existing house as claimed by the applicants.
Citing a DEP web site comment that the proposed plan "does not meet the performance standards" in the pertinent regulations, the commissioners advised their colleagues to await the formal DEP evaluation, and Smith advised Dimakarakos that she, for one, considers the proposed dwelling to be far too large for the lot. Chairman Tom Schultz agreed, and the hearing was continued to 9:30 p.m., July 13.
Wilkins Hill presentation postponed
At the applicants' request, this hearing too was rescheduled for 8:30 p.m., July 13.
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