Friday, June 1, 2007
New hurdle faces plan to build fields at CCHS
The private not-for-profit group, Friends of Thoreau Country, Inc., has asked for a review under the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) of two proposed artificial turf fields to be created behind the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) on land belonging to the regional school district. They state that the project would damage "an ecologically and historically significant woodland site that Henry David Thoreau named 'Deep Cut Woods.'"
The Friends of Thoreau Country and their law firm, Rackemann, Sawyer and Brewster, have sent letters to Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles requesting an advisory opinion on MEPA jurisdiction regarding not only the athletic field construction, but past and future building on the 94-acre high school property, including the Beede Community Swim Center, the school bus depot replacement, and any future school expansion. Regional School Committee (RSC) member Peter Fischelis commented at the May 22 RSC meeting, "We don't think it [the MEPA request] has merits." He felt the intent was only to stop the construction of the fields or slow down the process.
Concord Town Manager Christopher Whelan says, "We disagree with the assertions made in the Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster letter to Secretary Bowles. " Whelan explained that the letters were delivered to the Secretary on May 17, and the Town of Concord expects to send a statement within 20 days, "We are in the process of formulating a detailed response to Secretary Bowles."
The project is divided into two phases. Phase 1, including the leveling and other site preparation, has already gone out to bid, with a deadline for bidding of Friday, June 1. Phase 2 includes the installation of drainage pipes, trap rock and the artificial turf.
It was originally planned that phase 1 construction would begin June 25, the first Monday after school ends, and Phase 2 would begin in August. However, Whelan said that no construction will start at least until after Concord's Special Town Meeting on June 13, when voters will revisit their decision to authorize the field project and its funding. He expects an answer from the state regarding MEPA within a couple of weeks, but could not predict a project timetable if the state decides a lengthy environmental review is needed.
Concord residents approved the playing fields at their Town Meeting on April 24, agreeing to use a combination of private donations, Concord town funds and Concord Community Preservation Act funds. Their Special Town Meeting includes a number of Warrant Articles brought by petition, including one which seeks to share the cost of the playing fields with Carlisle: "Article 4: To Determine whether the Town [of Concord] will vote to require that costs of construction, reconstruction, renovation and maintenance of recreational and athletic fields on the campus of Concord-Carlisle Regional High School be shared by the Town of Concord and the Town of Carlisle, according to the ratio of the number of students from each town enrolled in the Regional School District..." Whelan was not sure if the Article could be passed without further refinement. For instance, it was not clear how private donations could be accepted if this Article passed as currently written.
A closed-door Executive Session at the end of the May RSC meeting was dedicated to discussing an intergovernmental agreement between the Town of Concord and the Regional School District for the use of the land behind the high school, should the proposed athletic field project go forward.
© 2007 The