Friday, December 5, 2008
News from surrounding towns
The following news items were extracted from material available on the Internet:
• Proposed Billerica power plant moves forward. After 20 months of hearings, the developers of the proposed 348-megawatt power plant in North Billerica are one step closer to success. On November 13, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board voted to draft a tentative decision of approval, with conditions, for the Billerica Energy Center on Billerica Avenue. Final approval is expected at the board’s January meeting. Once the Siting Board’s permit is granted, the next phase of state and local permitting will begin. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs must issue permits and at the local level (Town of Billerica), plans must be approved by the Board of Health, the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board.
The local community is sharply divided over the proposed plant. Billerica Watchers, a citizens’ activist group formed to prevent construction of the power plant, has argued that it will pose a health risk to the community. The group, which was granted legal intervenor status at the state level last year, has the right to appeal the Siting Board’s decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The group has posted information regarding health concerns at the website: www.billericapowerplant.org.
The plant also faces opposition from State Rep. Bill Greene, who maintains that the town cannot provide the 40 million gallons of water from the Concord River each year that the plant requires.
The Energy Facilities Siting Board’s final decision will include the following conditions to address concerns raised during the public-hearing process. The applicant, DG Clean Power, will be required to: reduce the size of ammonium storage tanks and enclose the building where the tanks are stored, mitigate the plant’s water use by funding a town-wide water conservation program, build a 10-foot sound wall to protect Billerica residents from noise pollution, and commit that no more than 20 trucks will deliver water to the plant each day.
If approved, construction is expected to begin in 2010 and the power plant is expected to be in service by June 2011. (“Billerica Power Plant Passes State Test,” www.lowellsun.com, November 15.)
• Concord Selectmen hear alternatives for Route 2 rotary. On November 24, project managers and consultants presented two alternative plans for the reconstruction of the Route 2 rotary to the Concord Board of Selectmen. Both alternatives replace the rotary with ramps and an elevated the rotary with ramps and an elevated Commonwealth Avenue that travels over Route 2 west of the prison cemetery. In one alternative, traffic would enter and exit Route 2 via gradually curved ramps that together form a diamond shape. The other alternative also uses a gradually curved ramp for traffic entering and exiting Route 2 west, but calls for a larger loop ramp for eastbound traffic to enter and exit the highway.
The designers will also study the Baker Avenue and Crosby’s Corner areas to ensure that changes to the rotary will not cause an increased traffic backup at those locations. The earliest projected start date for the 2- to 3-year construction project is 2012 or 2013. All of the information that was presented at the Selectmen’s meeting is available at: http://route2concordrotary.mhd.state.ma.us. (“Two Alternatives for New Rotary Design,” www.wickedlocal.com/concord, November 15).
• Quail Ridge settles case with Acton. Owners of the Quail Ridge Country Club recently reached a $55,000 settlement with the town of Acton over water use violations. The settlement includes $20,000 in penalties, $30,000 for a project to improve the water quality at NARA Pond and $5,000 to study whether the excess water use impacted any nearby private wells. In 2007, the club had reached a $350,000 settlement with the state attorney general’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection for pumping nearly twice the amount of water allowed by their permits to irrigate the club’s golf course during 2005 and 2006. (“Quail Ridge Settles Case,” www.wickedlocal.com/acton, November 27).
• Group explores buying Acton’s Exchange Hall. A group of local citizens is exploring the possibility of forming a nonprofit organization with the goal of raising enough money to buy Exchange Hall. The historic landmark, located near the train station in South Acton, is on the market at $1.45 million. Built in 1860, Exchange Hall served as the hub of South Acton for over a century as both a dry goods store and a function hall. President John F. Kennedy’s maternal grandfather John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, who was known for his singing talent, performed at the hall.
Supporters feel that Acton should follow the example set by Concord which purchased the Thoreau Farm in the mid-1990s with money raised primarily through donations. Concord then turned the property over to a nonprofit trust. In Acton, the Exchange Hall trust could eventually rent out portions of the hall and the two other buildings on the property as a restaurant and office space. Additional spaces could house community activities such as drama classes for children, artists’ space or a venue to tie into the curriculum at the town’s elementary schools. (“Group Explores Buying Exchange Hall,” www.wickedlocal.com/acton, November 27)
• IBM to expand in Westford. IBM is expanding its Westford campus with a second building at Westford Technology Park. The new building will hold an international executive meeting center, product management teams and other departments. The Westford location is part of an IBM software laboratory, split between Westford and Littleton, which makes up the biggest software lab in North America. The Littleton campus will be the center for IBM’s classic software development. The Westford locations will house product management, marketing, sales and the executive meeting center. Demolition on both sites was completed last week. Construction will continue into 2010. IBM believes that the multinational business center will bring an influx of businesses to the area. (“IBM Expansion May Bring Jobs,” www.wickedlocal.com/westford, November 21). ∆
© 2008 The