Friday, May 14, 2010
Boards, experts offer advice as Benfield deadline nears
“Ask and it shall be given to you.” Those words were no doubt going through Ed Rolfe’s mind as the chair of the Carlisle Zoning Board of Appeals sat behind a stack of reports submitted by various town boards, committees and consultants. The ZBA had asked them to review the Benfield Farms 40B comprehensive permit application and the Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Conservation Foundation and Board of Health, along with NOAH, Meridian and Nitsch Engineering, all responded with very detailed reviews and critiques. These all lay heavily in front of Rolfe at the ZBA meeting on May 5, along with a voluminous correspondence from abutter Eugenia Harris. With only 13 working days remaining before the May 24 deadline, the ZBA must absorb and incorporate the feedback into their deliberations and then reach a final verdict.
Rolfe faced a sea of familiar faces in the Clark Room audience, all eager to explain and promote their review of the comprehensive permit application. Before beginning the process, which would consume over four hours, Rolfe acquiesced to demands from a member of the audience that he read every word of Harris’s letter into the record. This he did with exemplary speed-reading skills, but the letter still consumed almost six minutes and the kerfuffle that followed among abutters Alan Carpenito, Ray Kubacki and Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky lasted another quarter hour.
The main source of contention centered around the abutters’ desire for a meeting with the developer and their displeasure at being ignored. Rolfe eventually tired of trying to resolve the issue, given the ZBA’s lack of authority in such situations, and moved on to the next item on the agenda.
Negligible traffic increase
In response to the peer review from Nitsch Engineering, NOAH (Neighborhood of Affordable Housing) representative Toby Kramer provided additional South Street traffic information to the ZBA. “To analyze the changes in traffic volume since 2004, NOAH collected up-to-date traffic data on Tuesday, April 27, 2010,” said Kramer. The new data consisted of morning (7-9 a.m.) and evening (4-6 p.m.) peak period on South Street and considered both west and east bound traffic numbers. A review of the data indicates that morning peak flows were 166 vehicles and evening peak flows were 176 vehicles, resulting in a total traffic count of 342 vehicles.
Compared with the data in 2004, the traffic volume during morning and evening peak hours climbs by 22% and 4.8% respectively. The total traffic volume on South Street in 2010 is 12.5% higher than that collected in 2004. NOAH estimates that the new proposed project will generate two vehicle trips in the morning peak hours and six vehicle trips during evening peak hours. In NOAH’s opinion, this total of eight trips from the senior housing development will generate a negligible traffic increase during peak hours.
Water issues (almost) resolved
Engineer Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates addressed the ZBA regarding his response to the Nitsch Engineering peer review of the 40B development. Many of the 101 items in project engineer Steve Ventresca’s Nitsch review required only acknowledgement, while others prompted a rebuttal. Nitsch claimed that the stream flowing through the property is considered perennial according to USGA maps, but Beaudry settled the long-standing dispute by citing the recent determination by the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) that the stream is intermittent.
Another perennial disagreement surrounds the well location and Beaudry informed everyone that the well will be located 428 feet from the septic disposal area and 489 feet from the abutter’s planned disposal area. Both ConsCom and the Carlisle Conservation Foundation had requested that the well be relocated to minimize encroachment of Zone 1 on the meadow area, even though the relocation resulted in the larger Interim Wellhead Protection Area (IWPA) being extended off-site.
Chris Deignan kicked off the town board and committee responses by summarizing the letter sent to the ZBA by the Board of Health. Although they were generally satisfied with the relocated well, “The board reserves the right to require monitoring wells,” said Deignan. “In the event that there are water quality issues with either the public water supply or the abutter’s water supply, we would want monitor wells to determine the source of the water quality problem.” No monitor wells are in place at the present time. He pointed out that the Presby Enviro sewage treatment system requires two vents with a 10-foot vertical height differential between the high and low vent. They have to be secured from public access and somehow protected from vandalism and climbing. When Meridian was asked how this might be accomplished, Beaudry jokingly replied, “Razor wire.” Another wag suggested that a better solution might be to plant poison ivy around each vent.
Protecting conservation lands
ConsCom Administrator Sylvia Willard was next to be seated at the head table. She asked that all fees allowable under both the Massachusetts and Carlisle Wetland Protection laws be paid in full to the ConsCom. Willard also asked that a copy of any construction management plan be submitted for their review. The Benfield conservation land, which is intended for public outdoor activities, is under the care, custody and management of the ConsCom. “The tricky part is having the conservation land open to the public during construction,” said Willard. Rolfe replied “Out of necessity of safety for everyone involved, there may be periods where there is no access. Is there a happy medium here?” Willard settled for “as much access as practical.” Other requests, such as reseeding disturbed conservation land with appropriate native grasses and construction of a sign indicating the location of public trail parking received no comment from the ZBA.
Steve Hinton represented the Carlisle Conservation Foundation and its letter to the ZBA regarding the Benfield conservation land was short and sweet. “We should try to minimize the amount of topography disturbance and maximize the conservation uses of the parcel.” Regarding the relocated well, Hinton said, “From our perspective, it is a desirable location. We have pushed the well off to one side – off the beaten trail.” Asking if he might say one more thing, Hinton concluded with “Thank all of you for your service and for all the time you spent here.”
By the time that Planning Board Chair David Freedman took the floor, the hour was getting late and attendees were perhaps becoming fatigued. It started on a positive note. “First of all, there is nothing that the board identified as a barrier to the project,” said Freedman. He zeroed in on landscaping as one area that has not had much discussion. “Unless you define within the hearing what is adequate landscaping, you’ll have a problem.” All agreed that they should pass any proposed landscape plan past a professional arborist like John Bakewell before final tree selection and placement.
No agreement on road width
Things started to go downhill when Freedman got to the subject of driveway width. “When we deal with roadway widths with the Fire Department, the thing you start with is the turning radius of the trucks,” he said. “Rather than just accepting that, the NFPA states that it’s 24 feet and the fire chief wants to rely on it.” To ZBA member Kevin Smith, this meant that the Planning Board has no position on the width. “It should be minimally wider than it needs to be in order to provide adequate access,” replied Freedman indignantly. Some similar access roads in surrounding towns are only 20 feet wide and South Street is only 18 feet. A compromise might be a 22-foot entrance with one foot of “soft” surface on each side. Exhaustion finally precluded an agreeable solution and nailing the final driveway width will have to wait for another day.
The next scheduled meeting of the ZBA will be on Thursday, May 13, at 6 p.m. There will be a tentative follow-up meeting on Wednesday, May 19, at 6:30 p.m. ∆
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