The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 26, 2010

ConsCom looks to minimize Benfield housing impact on nearby land

The Conservation Commission (ConsCom) is reviewing the proposed Benfield Farms affordable housing project at 273 South Street to protect both nearby wetlands and conservation land. The commission on February 11 discussed the plans for 26 proposed residential units, associated driveways, parking, storm water management, and an on-site septic system and public water supply as part of the public hearing under the state Wetlands Protection Act. They questioned how the project may affect the adjacent protected open space.

Civil engineer Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates represented applicant Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH). Beaudry reported that Mason Associates had difficulty determining the location of the 200-foot Riverfront Area (RA) of Spencer Brook because the surrounding marsh remained flooded and frozen. The brook runs along the Benfield Conservation Land at the rear of the parcel – the proposed site for the septic field and well.

Beaudry also argued that the unnamed stream running along the west side of the property adjacent to the proposed housing is intermittent rather than perennial - and therefore has no regulatable RA that would impact the present design for the housing. Beaudry’s observations during the 2009 season showed that the stream was never dry. However, he presented an affidavit from South Street abutter Jeffry Kiel indicating that his observations in 2005 and 2007 showed it dried up for a sufficient period in each of those years to meet the criteria for intermittent under the Wetlands Protection Act Regulations. Commissioner Tricia Smith reinforced this when she said that upstream conditions do not support the stream being perennial. The ConsCom concurred with deeming the stream intermittent.

Much of the ConsCom’s subsequent discussion centered on the impacts of the housing construction. To ensure that the land will not be diverted to an inappropriate use, the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) holds a carefully crafted conservation restriction (CR) on the town-owned parcel.

The CR is also written to permit activities the town desires, including limited agriculture. The board had earlier questioned whether placing a public water supply well beneath the conservation area would limit the desired uses.

Beaudry indicated he would circulate to the ConsCom, Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) and CCF a draft letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) asking for clarification of the activities allowed in Zone 1 of a public water supply well. (Zone 1 has a 400-foot radius.) The hearing was continued to February 25 at 9 p.m.

The ConsCom and LSC also signed off on a joint memo to the Zoning Board of Appeals. They are seeking assurance that the conservation value of the Benfield Conservation Land would not be compromised by the construction process or resulting infrastructure.

The memo states: “The requirements of CR 57 include, but are not limited to, restoring the open field to its existing (pre-construction) contours and avoiding any above-ground structures in the open field. The current plans have no grading plan, erosion control plan, or any other indication of the applicant’s proposed extent of construction.”

The document points out that the lack of detail in the application makes it difficult to assess the impacts of the project on the vernal pool and that the construction should be timed to not interfere with wood frog and salamander migrations to and from the pool. ∆

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