Friday, February 16, 2007
Conservation Commission asks owners to fix old mistakes
Remediation of past mistakes was the keynote at the Conservation Commission's brief February 8 meeting. First on the agenda was a hearing on Kenneth Luther's ex post facto application for construction of a garage on his Virginia Farme Road property. The second involved removal of a 40-foot-long pile of earth left near wetlands that predated homeowner Michael Crespo's purchase of his property on Cross Street.
Failure to file brings censure
In Luther's case, the applicant had purchased an end lot on his street, a lot that he said had served as a dumping ground for neighboring construction sites. He had cleared it and, in the 1970s, built a house with all the then-required permits. In 1999 he added a garage at the top of a steep slope down to a wetland in the adjoining property. He had duly sought and received a building permit, but failed to file a Notice of Intent to build with the commission.
Luther's error came to light only when wetland scientists were flagging resource area boundaries for the proposed Wilkins Hill development between Westford and Curve Streets. That discovery in 2006 led to an investigation by the commission, and a concurrent discovery of a second violation, this one involving a town drainage easement. The homeowner admitted guilt and hired Brown & Brown Engineering Company from Bedford to come up with a remediation plan.
Luther, Engineer Bryan Culbertson and Wetland Scientist Mike Turgeon presented a Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA), together with a mitigation plan that included maps, drawings and photographs of the property. Confirming that the area behind the garage was indeed unstable, Turgeon presented his plans for stabilizing the slope, mainly by adding organic matter, vegetation and a few saplings.
As for the drainage easement, water from a street-level catch basin was flowing into an outfall pipe and hence through Luther's property into the wetland. Culbertson outlined steps that would allow the system to function properly, while remaining within the boundaries of the easement.
The commission granted a Negative Determination, which meant that the plan as presented was acceptable. The only condition was that the engineer file a Letter of Remediation once the work is completed, to allow for a final check by Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard.
Prior owner caused problem
Crespo, backed by Landscaper Alfonso Robles, filed a Notice of Intent to remove a pile of earth approximately 40 feet long, four feet high and 30 to 40 inches wide, deep within the 100-foot buffer zone of a wetland. Willard had encountered the unstable mini-berm when checking the site of an expired Order of Conditions dating back to construction of the house by the previous owner.
Robles said he felt reasonably certain that he could remove the pile and stay at least 3 to 20 feet from the wetland. However, he would start with his bobcat at the 20-foot end and assess the situation as he proceeded. Meanwhile, siltation barriers would protect the resource area.
Satisfied with the proposed solution, the commission thanked the presenters, but could not issue an Order of Conditions immediately, owing to a delay in receipt of a project number from the Department of Environmental Protection. Therefore the hearing will be closed at the February 22 meeting.
© 2007 The