Friday, July 4, 2008
ConsCom nears decision on construction near Bog
The Conservation Commission (ConsCom) has taken a significant, but as yet inconclusive, step toward approval or denial of Ann and John Ballantine’s proposal to build a second dwelling on their ten-acre Fiske Street property overlooking the Carlisle Cranberry Bog. At their June 26 meeting, attended by Selectman Alan Carpenito, representatives of the Carlisle Conservation Restriction Advisory Committee (CRAC), several former ConsCom members and a scattering of abutters, the commission closed the five-session public hearing.
Although cloture usually presages a positive final vote, it does not assure it. However, it does require the commission to make that decision one way or another within 21 days. As noted by Chairman Peter Burn when he opened the meeting, “This has been a protracted and difficult business,” that difficulty stemming from the project’s close proximity to, and potential impact on, the extensive wetlands and sweeping vistas associated with the town’s Bog reservation.
Before taking the cloture vote, the commissioners welcomed two bits of news from Stamski and McNary Engineer George Dimakarakos. The first confirmed an easement release from the Tenneco gas company that enables the Ballantines to locate a portion of their building envelope over the gas pipeline, while the second grants a variance to Title 5 sewage system requirements issued by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This unexpected action allows the force main from the existing log house to a portion of the proposed second building envelope to remain in place. Both variations substantially reduce the amount of wetland and habitat disturbance involved in the overall project.
Abutter promises vigilance
The cloture vote was followed by a brief discussion of the conditions the commission might attach to any decision to approve. Clearly unconvinced of the long-term effectiveness of such conditions, Fiske Street resident and consistent opponent of the application Phil Dumka declared, “I still oppose the project…I question whether new owners will continue to pay attention to your rules [once the project has been completed]…But whatever you do, I know we abutters will be watching.”
Responding to Dumka’s comment, Commissioner Tricia Smith reminded him that, “We have already seen substantial changes to the original filing, changes designed to mitigate impact on the resource area and its buffer zone, and actions by the applicant that tightened up the plans.” Seeking to reassure Dumka and the other abutters, commissioner Kelly Guarino told them that failure to follow conditions by future owners would bring ConsCom action.
Once the vote to close the hearing had been taken, most members of the audience dispersed, and the commission turned to an uncharacteristically prolonged and intense consideration of the conditions that should accompany any vote to approve what Burn had already termed “an unusually aggressive proposal.”The discussion centered on several broad areas starting with project managers, e.g., the owner, the owner’s engineer, the site contractor, etc, who would be required to sign off as fully cognizant of, and responsible for, adherence to the work rules specified in the official Order of Conditions.
A second group of conditions included in a draft document prepared by Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard covered physical delineation of the boundaries between town land, private land and the pipeline, including the extensive portions contained in an existing Conservation Restriction. Another described the critical erosion control measures, their installation, inspection, maintenance and eventual removal. A related matter, and one of particular concern to the neighbors, involved tree cutting, with Commissioner Smith suggesting a pre-construction site walk to identify trees that would need to be cut.
Fencing and landscaping
Because about 90% of the parcel is covered by a Conservation Restriction that was originally granted to the town by the Ballantines and a portion is also the subject of recommendations from the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, questions related to wildlife and habitat protection were given a priority. This included fencing designed to preserve mobility for small fauna such as turtles, while discouraging passage by larger animals.
Smith observed that, in general, she felt stockpiling of soils should be avoided on a construction site, particularly on such an environmentally sensitive parcel. Dimakarakos then warned, “If contractors can’t stockpile, they’ll charge to remove top soil and then charge to bring it back.” When Smith dismissed that argument as “not a big factor,” Dimakarakos suggested that the commission might limit stockpiling to a certain time period and confine it to the soil needed to backfill the foundation. Final wording was left up to Willard.
Next the commission turned to the need for a detailed landscaping plan, and Smith declared that she would not approve the project without it. Guarino agreed and called for a requirement that the specifications be submitted prior to initiation of site work.
A final, but critical, deliberation dealt with Continuing Conditions, specifically those rules that would remain in effect and enforceable in perpetuity. The eligible restrictions are contained in the commission’s Standard Order of Conditions, as well as the less used Special Contains tailored to a specific project. Omission of a “continuing” designation would allow the subject orders to expire within three years. Items considered for that appellation in a Ballantine approval might be prohibitions against certain road de-icers, use of lawn chemicals (pesticides and herbicides), non- indigenous plantings, tree cutting in close proximity to a wetland etc.
Not surprisingly, the deliberations on Continuing Conditions proved difficult and a number of final determinations remain. However, the hearing having been closed, the commission must now decide to approve or deny the application before a cutoff date of July 17. ∆
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