Friday, April 16, 2010
Review okays Benfield septic system, water supply issues remain
Time flies when faced with a requirement to complete deliberations on a Benfield Farms 40B comprehensive permit application within 180 days. Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Chair Ed Rolfe reminded everyone at their April 7 meeting that only 33 working days remain before the May 24 deadline. This resulted in a flurry of scheduling activity among those present, including members of the Conservation Commission (ConsCom), Planning Board and Board of Health, along with representatives from the developer, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), and Meridian and Nitsch Engineering.
The final plan for the proposed project consists of 26 units of senior housing in a three-story building with a footprint of approximately 11,600 square feet. The building will have two main parts: a three-story “farmhouse” section, and an adjoining two-story “barn” section, complete with a “silo” which will house a stairwell. There will be 17 one-bedroom units and nine two-bedroom units. The building will have a horseshoe driveway connecting to South Street and will offer 41 parking spaces plus six “soft spaces” for public use at a trail entrance. The site will be serviced by a pressure-dosing septic system and a new public water supply well.
Nitsch Engineering was previously chosen to provide a peer review of NOAH’s 40B application and Nitsch project engineer Steven Ventresca attended the meeting to present the firm’s findings. Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates (architect), along with Philip Giffee and Toby Kramer of NOAH were available to respond to any technical issues related to the site development. “The project appears to be technically feasible,” began Ventresca. “However, there are some outstanding issues that require additional information.”
Peer review results
• Septic system. Ventresca agreed that the septic system will be adequate, based on Title 5 guidelines, stating that such a system is allowed without treatment for flows below 10,000 gallons per day (GPD). The project proposes an estimated daily discharge of 3,900 GPD based on 150 GPD per unit for elderly housing with units having two or fewer bedrooms.
• Public Water Supply. Ventresca suggested that NOAH submit documentation to the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) for a Public Water Supply well location. Public Water Supply regulations apply to wells that serve more than 25 people.
Considerable discussion centered around a DEP response letter in relation to the water supply. Beaudry confirmed that there will be an 8,000 gallon domestic water tank for two days of emergency water supply. The DEP voiced concern that use of municipal conservation land for a public water supply may constitute a change of use of the conservation parcel that requires approval by two-thirds vote of the state legislature. Beaudry countered that “The DEP may not be totally aware that this was an allowed use within the conservation restriction (CR) established on lot 4 [the conservation portion of the Benfield property]. If the CR did not allow for that use, then yes, this would be potentially be a change of use on the CR that would have to go through legislature again.”
The DEP also had concern over the location of the well – no guarantee that it will yield sufficient water to meet project needs. It recommends that test drilling be completed as early as possible. “We didn’t want to drill early because it is a $95,000 cost to put in a well,” responded Kramer. When you’re installing the test well, you are putting in what can be the final well,” added Beaudry. “Ninety-nine percent of the time when you have a successful test well, that becomes your final well.” There was some confusion as to who legally owns and controls the water supply. This is complicated by the well location on conservation land and may need to be resolved by counsel. “Can I suggest that maybe you are over-thinking this problem. NOAH will not be able to get a permit for a public water supply unless they demonstrate to the state’s satisfaction that everything is on the up and up,” responded a somewhat exasperated Alan Lehotsky, chair of the Housing Authority.
• Wildlife habitat. No ZBA review would be complete without the appearance of the Blue-Spotted Salamander. Ventresca noted that the site is located within a Priority Habitat and that the project is under review by the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. The building site has been adjusted so that there will be an 800-foot undisturbed perimeter around the salamander’s vernal pool. Also the building footprint was reduced to 11,600 square feet and moved closer to South Street, lessening the impact to the woods as requested by Natural Heritage. Nitsch recommends that correspondence detailing the requested changes be submitted to the ZBA and ConsCom.
• Ledge and fill. The peer review also asks whether ledge will be removed as part of the project and, if so, the applicant must coordinate with the ZBA on appropriate methods and times of removal. Since fill will be needed along the south and west sides of the project, Nitsch asks that the applicant indicate the general cut-and-fill volumes and determine the net increase or decrease of fill being brought to the site.
• Snow storage. Ventresca noted that snow storage areas are not designated for the proposed project and recommends that locations of snow storage areas be indicated on the final documents. No snow should be stored or disposed of within 50 feet of a wetland.
• Planting and outdoor lighting plans. Nitsch would like to see a detailed planting plan with the number and type of plants proposed for the buffer between 545 South Street and the proposed building. They also questioned the lighting plan and request that the applicant indicate where site lighting, wall and entrance lighting will be located. A photometric plan would help to indicate the amount of light that will project onto the ground and surrounding area.
• Handicapped parking. Ventresca noted that the final plan includes only two handicapped parking spaces for the 47 total parking spots and that Nitsch recommends three. Building Inspector John Luther quickly responded with a copy of Mass. Architectural Access Board Regulations stating the the required minimum number of handicapped parking spaces for a lot accommodating up to 50 vehicles is two.
• Traffic survey update. South Street traffic is a source of concern and Silpa Munukutia, Nitsch transportation engineer, proposed that the traffic study undertaken in 2004 be updated with 2010 traffic volumes. As an initial indicator, she suggests that a peak hour traffic count be performed. “Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, Tuesday through Thursday.” This can then be compared to the 2004 results to see whether any unusual changes have occurred. She also asked that crash accounts be revisited to add credibility to the overall results.
Schedule for the final weeks
Time waits for no one, not even the Carlisle ZBA. Chair Ed Rolfe ended the meeting by calling all the participants to action. To Meridian and Nitsch, he urged resolution of any differences revealed by the peer review during the coming two weeks. “Let the engineers do their work,” said Rolfe. “Work it off line, back and forth, and give us the final product.” To Planning Board Chair David Freedman, Rolfe asked that they complete all of their feedback at their meeting on May 3. ConsCom Chair Peter Burn was given a similar request for their meeting on April 29. “The Board of Health is all set. We can have something for you on May 4,” chimed in Chair Jeffery Brem.
Rolfe scheduled the next public hearing of the ZBA on Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. to hear the resolution of the peer review issues and wrap up any remaining loose ends. Finally, the ZBA will meet on May 5, at which time all boards must have submitted their final written responses to the Benfield Farms 40B comprehensive permit application. If all the pieces fall into place as Rolfe envisions them, the May 24 deadline will be a ZBA slam dunk. ∆
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