Friday, February 29, 2008
Shorts from the Conservation Commission, Feb. 14
• 40B Working Group. Steve Hinton and Ed Rolfe of the Carlisle 40B Working Group met with the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) to discuss its draft report (See “Working Group wants to revamp 40B process,” Mosquito, February 8.) Hinton explained that the group has reviewed the comprehensive permit law (M.G.L. Chapter 40B) application process and is proposing revisions to enable the town to handle permit requests more efficiently and cost effectively —“ by requiring applicants to provide complete applications before the Zoning Board of Appeals holds a public hearing.
The group is currently seeking input from town boards. Hinton, a former chair of the ConsCom, asked if there are procedural changes that could improve the commission’s review of comprehensive permit projects under the Wetlands Protection Act. There was a suggestion that if an application to the commission was required to be concurrent with other boards, then the ConsCom would have more impact on project design, and wetland resources would be better protected. It was noted that such a provision could be added to the Carlisle Wetlands Bylaw.
Achieving adequate protection for vernal pools on 40B project sites was also addressed. Biologist John Rockwood of EcoTec pointed out that the town of Hopkinton has a set of rules for 40B projects, and has been able to include a vernal pool monitoring program in a comprehensive permit. Hinton and Rolfe indicated they would review the Hopkinton approach for possible inclusion in Carlisle’s protocols.
• 26 Westford Street. Homeowner Alan Merry appeared with engineer David Schofield in connection with a Notice of Intent for replacement of a septic system which failed over nine months ago. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a variance from Title 5. The Board of Health (BOH) at its January 3 meeting approved location of the system 35.6 feet from the boundary of the vegetated wetland on this small lot; this is less than the generally required 50 feet from wetland. Under Title 5, DEP and the local BOH rely on the boundary approved by the ConsCom —“ which had received the Notice of Intent just two weeks prior to this hearing.
Commissioner Tricia Smith questioned the accuracy of the wetland boundary, which had been flagged based solely on wetland vegetation. The commission pointed out that under the Wetlands Protection Act Regulations the boundary is not determined by vegetation alone but also by evidence of wetland hydrology, such as presence of hydric soils. The ConsCom voted to issue an Order of Conditions allowing the system. The permit will indicate that, because there is a failed system, the project will be an improvement over existing conditions. There will be a condition that the wetland line must be delineated according to state-accepted methodology.
• Hanover Hill. There was another installment of the ongoing public hearing for a 35-lot subdivision off Westford Street. EcoTec’s Rockwood, who is providing independent review of the project, reported that, along with the applicant’s botanist, David Crossman of B & C Associates, he had reviewed the section of the wetland line for which Commission approval had expired. Minor adjustments were made to the boundary flagging.
Rockwood had also visited the potential vernal pool near the end of proposed Hanover Street, which ConsCom Administrator Sylvia Willard estimates to be at least 1,600 square feet in area. It is in an area that is to be almost completely surrounded by proposed development. The applicant has now lowered the road by the vernal pool site in an effort to allow freer movement of salamanders, and pulled back the grading at two adjacent house sites. Rockwood has identified four additional potential vernal pools nearby. During the public input segment of the hearing, former Commissioner and project abutter Tom Brownrigg presented the ConsCom with sections of wetlands bylaws from Lincoln and Sudbury that provide a protectable buffer zone around vernal pools. The hearing was continued until February 28 at 8:30 p.m.
• 217 Heald Road. At a continuation of the public meeting regarding a Request for Determination for construction of a new septic system, engineer George Dimakarakos, of Stamski and McNary, presented a revised plan in response to concerns expressed by the commission at its last meeting. The revision increases the extent of hay bales to control erosion and siltation during construction, and places stockpiled soil outside the wetland buffer zone. Satisfied, the ConsCom voted to issue a Negative Determination of Applicability (no permit required).
This decision came after discussion of the cutting of large trees in a wetland on another portion of the property that had previously occurred without ConsCom permission. Willard estimates the area altered to be about 3,700 square feet. Smith indicated she has become frustrated with the increasing cases of illegal cutting and other alterations of wetlands in town. This led to the subject of fining and ticketing offenders. Smith noted that Westford has “ticket days” where sites are visited or observed expressly to locate wetland violations. The commission agreed that the problem needs addressing but was hesitant to single out homeowner Bruce Metcalf (who was present). The ConsCom voted to issue an Enforcement Order requiring restoration of the damage to the wetland by July 15 and creation of a barrier to mark the edge of the sensitive area.
• 40 Meadowbrook Road. Homeowner Michele Martin came before the board with a Request for Determination regarding the addition of a screened porch and deck to her home. Work is proposed within the 100-foot buffer zone of a bordering vegetated wetland. Willard reported that during the site visit she observed that understory vegetation, specifically highbush blueberry, had been cut to the ground. The owners indicated this was done out of concern for Lyme disease. The commission again expressed concern about unpermitted alteration. Willard pointed out that this differs from the Heald Road case in that the trees were untouched and the cut vegetation is already growing back. The ConsCom issued a Negative Determination with the condition that further management of wetland vegetation will require submission of a management plan.
• Tophet Road. Applicant Steven Breitmaier of Brite Excavating Company requested an Amended Order of Conditions in connection with construction of a new house. The initial permit required this if a change in lot lines occurred. Consultant Paul McManus of EcoTec explained that a land swap has been completed to provide more upland for a yard. The revision also includes a terracing stone wall above a steep slope in the buffer and removal of pre-existing brush and debris piles. The Commission approved the revised permit.
• Cross Street (Map 7, Parcel 21, lot 4A-1.) Applicant Mollie MacCormack appeared with Dimakarakos at a continuation of a public hearing for work in connection with new house construction. Willard reported that some adjustments were made to the wetlands boundary which had been re-inspected due to the fact that the commission’s approval of the wetland boundary had expired.
The ConsCom had previously requested a plan to discourage the return of invasive plants in the extensive area of buffer zone where they had been removed. Dimakarakos proposed that the area be seeded with meadow grasses and the commission include a condition allowing mowing several times a year.
The revisions seemed to make this an approvable project. However, because a file number has still not been issued by the DEP, the hearing was continued to February 28 at 8:45 p.m. Willard later indicated that such a delay is most unusual. âˆ†
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