The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 2, 2009

Conservation Commission evaluates Benfield 40B project

At its September 24 meeting the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) discussed the impacts of the proposed Benfield “friendly” 40B project on wetlands and conservation land with the town’s selected developer, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), and members of the Town Hall Advisory Committee (THAG).

The 40B project must comply with the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (G.L. Ch. 131 sec. 40). Because of the proximity of wetland resource areas, a permit from the ConsCom is required. NOAH’s senior project manager for the development, Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates, indicated they expect to file a Notice of Intent requesting the permit in mid-October. (See “Benfield project faces stiff timetable,” Mosquito, September 18.)

On the plan dated September 24, 2009, the 26 units of senior affordable housing in the front portion of the town-owned parcel off South Street are located primarily in the upland area between two bordering vegetated wetlands. A loop road, walkway and parking areas fall in the 100-foot wetland buffer zone. Parking for 39 cars is proposed plus some overflow parking.

Drainage issues

In describing the handling of drainage and stormwater runoff, Beaudry emphasized that NOAH’s design is “low impact.” The intent is to minimize disturbance of the natural landscape. Commissioner Tricia Smith urged that pervious paving be used wherever possible to minimize stormwater runoff and the amount of land altered. Because the water table is close to the ground surface the plan requires stormwater retention areas to be at the current grade surrounded by “Cape Cod berms.” Smith noted that the 39,000 square feet of buffer zone alteration on the site “is a big amount for Carlisle” and urged NOAH to “make the drainage as benign as possible.”

Water use and wetlands impact

The plan places the well and sewage disposal system beneath the Benfield Conservation Land on the rear portion of the property, about 1,000 feet from the housing units. Here the ConsCom must assess both wetlands impacts and whether the proposed infrastructure is an appropriate use of town conservation land. The Carlisle Conservation Foundation holds a conservation restriction (CR) on this part of the parcel. Beaudry noted that the CR allows these uses. The well would be a community water supply that requires a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. It would be about 800 feet deep. A second well may be required to provide sufficient water for the development. Commissioner Tom Brownrigg expressed concern about the nearby vernal pool and rare species habitat – whether the well would affect its water levels and the disposal system alter water quality. He said he hopes the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program will ask those questions when it reviews the project.

Restrictions in the zones surrounding this water supply well could limit the use of nearby land. The ConsCom indicated it may want to allow agriculture, e.g. community gardens, on a portion of the conservation land. The CR allows grazing animals. Pesticides would be prohibited near the well site but not fertilizers. Gardeners would need vehicle access to their plots. Brownrigg pointed out that there are other potential locations for the well.

Smith focused on the substantial grading shown around the leach field and said that the CR requires that infrastructure be at existing grade. Beaudry noted that the language also says “to the maximum extent feasible.”

Beaudry had indicated throughout the meeting that NOAH was hearing the ConsCom’s concerns. At the end he said they would do a revised plan. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito