Friday, April 30, 2010
Well, wetlands dominate ConsCom’s Benfield Farms discussion
Since the missing wetland flags have been replaced, Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates asked at the April 15 Conservation Commission (ConsCom) meeting that the Benfield Farms wetland boundaries be confirmed as soon as possible. Beaudry is a civil engineer representing the applicant, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), for construction of 26 proposed residential rental units and associated site work on the Benfield Land off South Street.
The work being reviewed by the commission includes stormwater management, a septic system and water supply. The ConsCom had required that the six-year-old lines be verified and revised if necessary before any permit for the project is issued. It was decided that Mason Associates, the firm determining the location of the Riverfront Area, would be enlisted to do the verification.
Beaudry said the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has replied to a letter from NOAH seeking clarification of activities permitted within Zone 1 of a public water supply well. This could drive where the well is located on the conservation parcel at the rear of the property. Noting that the response essentially quoted the (ambiguous) regulations, Beaudry said: “I was a little disappointed in the state, frankly.”
Planning Board Chair David Freedman suggested it be made clear to DEP that the proposed well is on town conservation land. He said attorney Greg Peterson, a member of the Affordable Housing Trust, has recommended gathering the deeds, conservation restrictions and relevant parties to sort out who controls what, then getting back to DEP and requesting a site visit.
It has been unclear which documents prevail and also whether placing a public water supply and a sewage disposal system on the conservation parcel would violate Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which protects dedicated conservation land from diversion to other uses. Contacted later, Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky said he did not think the project would violate Article 97, because the placement of a well and septic system on the conservation parcel is “expressly stated in the conservation restrictions and because it’s town-owned land.” He added, “We had this extensively vetted far in advance. Town Counsel looked at this long before we bought the property.”
DEP has also indicated a second well might be needed but Beaudry said that a planned storage tank would provide the additional water capacity. Finally, it was reported that the peer review of the project would be completed by the ConsCom’s April 29 meeting. However, this will give the board limited time to analyze the results since the Zoning Board of Appeals is looking for feedback by May 5. The public hearing was continued to April 29. ∆
© 2010 The