Friday, June 29, 2007
ConsCom hears projects to construct, demolish and rehab
Members of the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) worked their way through an agenda that started with evaluation of a Keyspan pipeline, moved on to demolition of the Greenough Cottage and concluded with plans for rehabilitation of a Fiske Street farmlet. On this June 21 evening, the first of the summer season, warmth and congeniality reigned.
Keyspan Energy Delivery representative, Dennis Behr and BSC engineer Heather Vaillant , offered a first-pass proposal for installation of a mile-long, eight-inch gas pipeline running along Westford Street from Landmark Road in Westford (near Route 27) to Acton Street in Carlisle. The aim is to increase pipeline capacity for Carlisle customers who have reported some drop in pressure in frigid weather. Since the proposed work will take place within the 100-foot buffer zone of a number of wetlands as well as a 200-foot restricted Riverfront Area, the plan as presented by Vaillant, showed the required lines of protective hay bales along the route. The trench will be dug, the pipe laid and the fill put in place, section by section, day by day. Vaillant admitted the strong probability that contractors would hit ground water in low-lying stretches, in which case installers would "dig a sort of temporary well to let the water run in, then pump it out as the section is closed." Not satisfied with that verbal description, Chairman Roy Watson requested detailed engineering specifications, those plans to be stamped by a professional engineer. Behr promised to comply.
Curious as to how the builders planned to handle the several culverts that run under Westford Street, Commissioner John Lee requested more information on that aspect of the construction. Behr explained, "We typically go over culverts. We can lay pipe with as little as 18 inches of cover." He indicated that Keyspan has standard plans that he can supply. Although expressing a desire to see everything put back in order once the project is complete, including repair of damaged pavement, the commissioners recognized that the issue does not fall within their legal domain, and the hearing was continued to July 12 to allow for delivery of the requested plans and confirmation of abutter notification.
Greenough demolition approved
Selectman Alan Carpenito presented a Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA) that called for demolition of the former caretaker's cottage on the 242-acre Greenough Conservation Land. Watson expressed the sentiment of the entire board when he told Carpenito, "You have our unqualified support."
The deteriorating building had posed a seemingly insoluble ConsCom dilemma, over a period of nearly a decade, as one possible solution after another had to be abandoned. The problems at the site stem from the history of the parcel, which the town bought in 1973. The purchase, which included the cottage and the nearby barn, was made using some funding from both the state and federal governments, with definite strings attached. A second major headache was the presence of asbestos and lead paint, both of which required abatement before removal could occur.
After the Board of Selectmen turned down a number of options and cost estimates, the commission referred the matter back to them, but noted their concern about the town's possible liability should intruders come to harm in the structure. The result was passage of a $25,000 CPA project at the Spring Town Meeting authorizing disposal of the cottage. The status of the more sturdy slate-roofed barn was left for further consideration.
Carpenito said he felt the demolition could be accomplished in a day and within the approved spending limit. The asbestos will be taken care of by a licensed contractor; the foundation will be removed and the area re-vegetated, and the cesspool will be decommissioned. Carpenito asked the contractor to cap the well, so it can be used in the future, if necessary. Because of rare plants and/or animals in the area, the town could not proceed without project approval by the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). To everyone's relief NHESP declared the project would not be harmful to any wildlife habitat, giving it a final go-ahead.
Three-year rehabilitation envisioned at 166 Fiske Street
Homeowner and engineer, Mark Barrow, accompanied by consultant, Mark Donohoe, laid out a formidable plan for restoration of his 166 Fiske Street property. His first step had been a visit to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which advised him to talk to the commission before proceeding further, since most of the work would take place within an all-encompassing wetland buffer zone.
The resulting Notice of Intent (NOI) sought permission to construct a new barn for horses, repair a second collapsing barn to provide storage, and convert a partially-fenced area to pasture. Considerable grounds renewal will be required because, as Barrow explained the situation, former owners had deposited manure "wherever there was a low spot." He reported veritable mounds of "stuff" everywhere — some in the wetlands. Hence the applicant said he will need to remove mountains of material and level the area. To top it off, he noted that years of neglect had allowed a wholesale invasion of non-indigenous species which he is prepared to pull up.
Barrow described the new barn as approximately 36 by 40 feet with three stalls, a tack room and a storage area for hay. In order to replace the second, deteriorating barn that rests on a foundation, the location of which would not meet current legal requirements, he will have to remove and replace the four walls one at a time. Therefore, he is hoping to be given some flexibility in the construction schedule.
Although clearly sympathetic, Watson warned, "The problem is that the work is almost all in the buffer zone and that's a big deal, particularly if you want to remove the manure from the wetland. We will need to define guidelines for each step."
Complicating matters further, it appears that the site may be in a Natural Heritage habitat protection zone, and ConsCom cannot act until the state evaluation comes in. In the meantime, the commission scheduled a site visit for 8:45 a.m., July 12, and the hearing was continued to 9:30 p.m. on August 9.
© 2007 The