Friday, December 22, 2006
ConsCom rules on two tough cases
The Conservation Commission issued year-end decisions on two environmentally challenging construction projects that have been the subject of intense evaluation over recent months. Applicant Neils Larsen, formerly of Carlisle, received final approval of plans for a dwelling on a four-acre lot off Concord Street. The news was less welcome for Richard Buck, whose Notice of Intent (NOI) to build on a Page Brook Road site was denied.
Larsen plan approved
The problems confronted in the Larsen project were reflected in the ten-page Order of Conditions that accompanied the approval document. The original site plan from engineers Stamski and McNary showed 1.6 acres of wetland resource area that contained a large vernal pool, 2.2 acres of wetland buffer zone and small areas of upland. Since the vernal pool area was classified as wildlife habitat under the state Wetland Protection Act (WPA), a Wildlife Habitat Evaluation was required and was duly performed by B. & C. wetland scientist David Crossman. Also, because of the vulnerable nature of that resource, Dr. John Rockwood of Eco Tech Consulting was retained to review Crossman's appraisal and offer further suggestions for protection of its habitat values. Rockwood seconded Crossman's generally positive evaluation, but offered 29 recommendations. These were either incorporated in the final site plans and/or reflected in the commission's November 30 Order of Conditions.
In addition to the commission's standard specifications for protecting wetland resources from avoidable disturbance or alteration, the Larsen Order contained unusually strict requirements related to the Vernal Pool Habitat and the invertebrate wildlife (mole salamanders, frogs, etc.) which depend on it for successful breeding. To cite just one example of the scope of the listed precautions: "In order to protect wildlife and/or other vernal pool species [plant life], artificial outdoor lighting shall be equilibrated to currently available low intensity, solar powered lighting [and shall be] aimed toward the surface of the driveway." Another class of imperatives is included to make it more likely that the specified protections will be maintained "in perpetuity." Example: the applicant is required to use permanent demarcations to define the limit of work as it appears in the Order to ensure that no further encroachment into the wetland or its buffer zone shall occur in future years.
Buck plan denied
The almost unprecedented extent and specificity on the part of the local commission may well become more frequent as the availability of preferred upland building sites declines. The commission's denial of Richard Buck's application to construct a single-family dwelling, sewage disposal system, well, retaining wall and associated grading illustrates the impediments such borderline sites may encounter.
Buck's NOI was filed in May. It had previously been the subject of an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation which showed the site to lie almost entirely within the bounds of either a 200-foot Riverfront Area associated with Pages Brook or Bordering Vegetated Wetland with its 100-foot buffer zone, or Bordering Land Subject to Flooding or Bank.
In the course of the hearings, a vernal pool was documented on the site. To complicate matters further, new Priority and Estimated Habitat Maps were issued by the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, showing the site to be within the priority habitat for rare wildlife, specifically Blanding's Turtle.
The commission's denial noted that the applicant's request for a variance from the Carlisle Board of Health's local regulations for a proposed septic system has been denied by that board. The project therefore fails to comply with the General Performance Standards required under the Wetland Protection Act.
As for ConsCom's own reservations, they had made it clear to the applicant that his NOI failed to include an analysis of possible alternate sites and/or plan revisions that might reduce the destructive potential of the project. This documentation is considered critical to acceptance under the Rivers Act.
The commission issued the denial "without prejudice," which permits the landowner to re-file, if conditions should change. In Buck's case, this could occur, were the Board of Health to approve a revised septic system application.
© 2006 The