Friday, August 4, 2006
Wetlands mapped on town's largest private landholding
A first step may well have been taken toward major development activity on the western side of town. The Conservation Commission first received an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation (ANRAD) for 133.5 acres of undeveloped land between Westford and Curve Streets at its May 25 meeting. The filing aroused immediate public attention because the property, which is popularly referred to as the Wilson Land, ranks among the top three parcels in the town's Protection Priority List that appears in the 2005 Open Space and Recreation Plan.
At that hearing the representative of the applicant, Wilkins Hill Realty, agreed to a review of the wetland resource boundaries as shown on maps prepared by Stamski and McNary. The reviewing team was to include A&C Wetland Biologist David Crossman, ConsCom Peer Reviewer Dr. John Rockwood of Eco Tec and Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard, plus a one-day visit from a DEP representative. The team's report was duly acknowledged at the commission's July 25 meeting.
Spokesman Rockwood told the commission that the team had spent more than three days "tuning and re-tuning" the plans. Some jurisdictional areas (those falling under the Wetland Protection Act) were added, some removed. They checked and re-checked over three miles of flagging, even finding upland islands within the wetlands. There were many ponding areas, some clearly certifiable as vernal pools and habitat areas. Summing up his impressions, Rockwood said, "It's an interesting site, and it will certainly be interesting to develop."
One question that remains to be resolved is the status of a stream shown on the U.S. Geologic Survey map as "perennial" but which the team suspects is "intermittent." Rockwood recommended that, should any dry sections of the stream show up in late summer, Willard take at least four photographs to prove the case one way or the other. In the meantime the stream will be treated as perennial and thus as having a protected Riverfront area. Stamski and McNary engineer George Dimakarakos did not feel that its status would have serious impact either way.
Among a number of significant aspects of the property is a Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program NHESP designation of what appears to be the entire tract as "core habitat." Former Commissioner Tom Brownrigg was again present in the audience to urge his former colleagues to ask the (NHESP) what endangered plants and animals are known to be there. The state is reluctant to make the location of rare species public, but Rockwood said the information is available with a little digging, and in any event the facts would surface when development plans are filed. It is also of note that the tract contains three permanent Conservation Restrictions (CRs) and one 30-year CR that expires in June of 2007.
The commission closed the public hearing, but postponed issuance of an Order of Resource Delineation which gives them three weeks to study the report and draft the approval document. All that such an order indicates is that the commission accepts the boundaries of the resource areas as shown on the project maps, and delineates their areas of jurisdiction once actual development plans are filed.
© 2006 The