Friday, August 24, 2007
ConsCom sets conditions for gas line work, barn project
Clearing up unsettled business before a month-long break, the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) completed action on two projects at their August 11 meeting. The first was a continued hearing on Keyspan Energy Delivery's plan for installation of an eight-inch gas pipeline running from Route 27 in Westford to the junction of Westford and Acton Streets in Carlisle. The second was a proposed renovation of a Fiske Street property, purchased fairly recently by Mark Barrow.
Keyspan questioned, then accepted
In a previous appearance Keyspan representative Ken Fields and BSC engineer Heather Vaillant had drafted a plan for section-by-section construction of a mile-long trench closely paralleling the Westford Street roadbed and involving work within several wetland buffer zones and one 200-foot restricted riverfront area. The original hearing was continued because some abutters had not been notified, and the commissioners had asked for a construction sequence plus more details on engineering specifications in areas where the pipe would be laid over a culvert. There was also a need for checking out one wetland boundary. This time Vaillant reported that all abutters had been alerted, the wetland boundary re-delineated and more detailed engineering plans provided.
When Chairman Peter Burn opened the hearing to public comment, Larry Sorli pointed out that the driveway to his father's farm extended into a culvert on Westford Street and was protected from backflow by a substantial berm. He asked that Keyspan contractors take care in replacing that feature. Along the same lines, he expressed concern about a substantial wooden fence along the Vienneau property at the Acton Street junction.
The abutters' concerns led Commissioner Tricia Smith to ask Fields to insert a Preserve and Protect statement concerning the named items into the official plans, and abutter Tom Brownrigg added a request that a police detail be employed at the same intersection. Equally determined to protect the town's interests, Smith asked that a further note be written into the Plan of Record to the effect that restoration would be made for any damage to the town's infrastructure. With a smile and assurances that, "I understand your concerns," Fields said the company's contractors followed a set of standard procedures that were closely adhered to and that these procedures were regularly accepted by numerous large and small municipalities. Adding that the utility was operating on a tight schedule and needed an approval that night, he said Keyspan would address the commission's and the abutters' concerns through Special Conditions that could be added to the Plan of Record at a later date.
Unimpressed, Smith quietly informed Fields that, "We like a submittal that reflects what the applicant plans to do before, not after, approval is given." Fields then suggested a compromise, agreeing that the company would insert the Special Conditions in the plans prior to the start of work, and that if they failed to do so, the commission could stop all activity at that point. Approval was voted on that basis.
Barrow's rehabilitation plan approved
The second continuation dealt with Mark Barrow's Notice of Intent covering repair of an existing but deteriorating barn, construction of a new one and restoration of the grounds at 116 Fiske Street. His long-range intent is to provide stalls and a tack room for horses, a fenced-in pasture and a storage space. An engineer by profession, Barrow estimated that the construction, grading and clean-up, most of which must take place in an encompassing wetland buffer zone, will require a minimum of three years to complete. Because of the environmental sensitivity of the parcel, the commissioners had made a site visit, while Barrows obtained a ruling from the state's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program confirming the they believed the project posed no threat to a species habitat area.
Barrow had noted at the June 21 meeting that the land needed work in part due to manure piles left "wherever there was a low spot," and non-native species allowed to proliferate by previous owners. Barrow said he wants to remove much of the debris, grade the yard and use many of the rocks to build a stone wall. He also plans to remove dead trees near the house but leave those located in the wetland to fall by themselves and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
The commissioners congratulated the homeowner on the documentation, which included a detailed map with color- coded identification of trees to be destroyed and those to be left alone, invasive plants to be eradicated, recharge areas to collect drainage from the barns and even a location for washing horses. Barrow's plans drew kudos from the group . Smith declared herself "delighted with the completeness of the plan," and Barrow departed with an approval and an Order of Conditions governing the work.
© 2007 The