The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ferns plans indoor seating

BOH writes letter to DEP

supporting plan

Turning Ferns Country Store into a gathering place where townspeople can sit down for a bite to eat even when cold weather arrives is a dream for proprietor Larry Bearfield. The expansion of the store which began this summer includes plans for a 24-chair seating area. But while the Zoning Board of Appeals and Historical Commission have cleared the project, a number of hurdles still remain before Ferns can legally allow indoor seating. For beverages to be consumed on the premises, the plumbing code may require a public bathroom. This in turn requires a change in the variance through which Ferns is able to operate without full Title V septic conformance.

Composting toilet minimizes septic impact

At the September 15 meeting of the Board of Health (BOH), Bearfield asked for support of his request to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to “modify the 1996 variance to allow a public bathroom,” based on installation of a Clivus composting toilet system and a “very low flow” automatic hand washing sink. The 1996 variance from DEP was required because the store, then called Daisy’s, did not have the septic capacity required by law, but was able to prove its ability to generate a much lower level of septic effluent. Under Title V the square footage of the apartment, store, gas station, and its service bays, then on the property, should have required 970 gallons per day (gpd) capacity. The variance allowed flow rates of 210.49 gpd. Since that time, the gas station and service bays have closed.

Bearfield presented charts that showed the actual septic flow rates on the site have averaged 153 gpd over five years. Flows would be further reduced with the installation of green appliances in the apartment and store. These savings would provide an allowance for a public bathroom that would serve 400 people per day and generate 33 gpd. The expected flow rate in total would be 131 gpd, 60% of the approved 1996 variance.

Modifications planned

to lower water use

In the apartment above the store, Bearfield would replace the existing washing machine and toilet with a “high energy” washer and a low-flow toilet. He estimates this will reduce the apartment’s flows by 16 gpd. Adding a hand spray attachment to the store’s rinse sink would reduce water waste by an estimated six gpd, and replacing an existing toilet for employees with an “alternative technology” toilet would drop flows from an estimated 49 gpd to only one gpd.

Public water supply question

Bearfield also asked the BOH to “confirm in writing that the store may continue to operate without a Public Water Supply designation” and was advised the BOH does not have this authority.

In 2007, Bearfield received a ruling from the DEP that as long as Ferns had no public bathroom and spring water was used to wash vegetables and make coffee, the well does not have to qualify as a public water supply. BOH Chair Jeff Brem said if the store continues to operate without a public water supply, the BOH will require that a sign be posted in the public bathroom that the water is not “public.”

The BOH agreed to write to the DEP in support of Bearfield’s request. Brem said the DEP has “indicated they understand the special situation Carlisle is in” with no other business like Ferns. The DEP will likely require reporting and monitoring of septic flow, said Brem, and will probably state in the variance the consequences of exceeding the flow limit, most likely the closing of the public rest room. Responding to questions from Brem and BOH member Mark Caddell, Bearfield said the 210.49 gpd limit in the variance was probably because “that’s the most the field could handle.”

Bearfield stressed that the proposed indoor lounge seating will not be a restaurant; food will still be served only in takeout containers, with no silverware, no table service, and no dishwasher. From DEP’s perspective, the terms describing a use are key to approval, Brem advised. Whether an establishment is “fast food,” requiring 20 gpd capacity for each seat, or a “restaurant,” which needs 35 gpd, is critical. “Lounge” implies selling alcohol, and the DEP would “question whether you will be serving drinks with ice cubes,” Brem noted.

BOH Agent Linda Fantasia questioned which authority would issue the permit for the composting toilet. This would be part of the plumbing permit, so the plumbing inspector would approve it, Bearfield replied.

Building Commissioner John Luther noted in a later phone conversation that he has not been approached by Ferns, so is not ready to comment on requirements that might be part of the plumbing code. Asked if the Clivus toilet would satisfy as a public bathroom if one is needed, he said “I believe so. I don’t see a problem, as long as the DEP and Board of Health agree.” He added, “A septic system is green, but this is even more green” because all waste is recycled. He noted there are two residences in town that have Clivus toilets installed.

In a phone call this week, Fantasia said that two different divisions of the DEP are responsible for the septic variance and the decision on waiving the need for a public water supply. The two offices are working together, but have not rendered a decision on either issue. Bearfield has requested that the indoor space be considered a seating area that replaces existing outdoor seating when the weather is inclement, not a “lounge” or “restaurant” that could be subject to additional DEP/BOH requirements. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito