Friday, January 26, 2007
Planning Board to ZBA: resolve Coventry Woods issues
There has been a "flurry of activity" surrounding the Coventry Woods 40B proceedings during the past week, according to Planning Board Chair David Freedman, who reviewed crucial and still unresolved aspects of the proposed development with his board Monday night, January 22. Members voted unanimously, minus one member who is an abutter to the project, to send a memo to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) detailing their concerns, which will accompany significant revisions made by the Planning Board to a recent version of the draft decision on the project prepared by Town Counsel Dan Hill.
At their hearing on the affordable housing project last week, the Board of Health (BOH) agreed to advise the ZBA that they require more data before critical water and septic issues can be resolved, and that the testing for this data should be completed while the hearing is open and before a comprehensive permit is issued. Instead, Freedman learned soon after the BOH decision that ZBA Chair Cindy Nock said she believes her board might have enough information to close the hearing on the project, possibly as early as the next meeting on Monday, January 29.
Since then, the flurry of activity has become closer to a blizzard; on Monday Planning Board members reviewed letters from abutters and their attorneys and engineers, as well as the 44-page draft decision with detailed revisions by Freedman. The Planning Board memo summarizing the board's concerns raised four major points for the ZBA to consider.
First, the Planning Board would like the ZBA to address the questions regarding septic C that were discussed at length at last week's BOH meeting, which will be detailed in a BOH letter to the ZBA. The feasibility of this system's design, its potential impact on abutters' wells, and the question of whether it will meet Title 5 or need to be redesigned must be evaluated, says the BOH, before a permit is issued. The BOH has required that the developer conduct specific testing to provide needed data in these areas.
Second, testing is also required by the BOH to determine the quantity of water available from the aquifer that will serve the project and neighboring homes. This was requested of the developer some time ago but has yet to be performed.
Third, the hydrologic connectivity of the project's wells, which was requested in November 2005, also must be tested.
Fourth, the Planning Board wants changes made to the draft decision, which mentions the role of abutters in "remedying" problems that might develop on their properties as a result of project-related work. The board does not think that abutters should bear the expense of drilling a new well, for example, if it runs dry as a result of the project's water use. Abutter Michael Epstein (also a Planning Board member who recused himself from the board's deliberations) mentioned later in the meeting that the abutters have already incurred about $35,000 in attorney's fees and he has spent an additional $7,500 on the services of an engineer.
Freedman also informed the board that a suggestion has been made to form an advisory group to meet outside of the public hearings to assist the ZBA in evaluating the numerous, technical details that must be reviewed. It is hoped that many of these issues will be discussed at the next ZBA meeting on Coventry Woods to be held Monday, January 29.
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