The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 21, 2010

ConsCom receives more data on proposed Benfield Farms development

The Conservation Commission (ConsCom) has most of the information it needs to act on the application by Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) for a permit to build 26 proposed senior rental units on the Benfield Farms parcel acquired by the town on South Street. A newly discovered vernal pool, the well location, road salt and ConsCom access during construction were among the topics discussed on May 13. The hearing was continued to the May 27 meeting at 8:30 p.m.

The ConsCom is charged with reviewing work in or near wetland resource areas, according to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Carlisle Wetlands Bylaw. The Zoning Board of Appeals is also reviewing the project (see article, page 5).

The project includes a public water supply well, sewage disposal system, stormwater management structures and other site work. The well and portions of the septic system are proposed to be located on the conservation land at the rear of the parcel.

Vernal pool discovered

NOAH’s consultant, civil engineer Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates, reported at the May 13 ConsCom meeting that the wetland and riverfront area boundaries have now been delineated and confirmed by Mason Associates. Beaudry also indicated that a second “alleged” vernal pool has been flagged. He said this very small pool is probably the site where a boulder was removed, and has surface water solely as a result of “the record rainfall that we had this spring.” That is, in the longer term, it may not meet the requirement of holding water for two consecutive months during the growing season in most years (to allow the frogs, salamanders and other amphibians to breed successfully). Breeding has been documented. Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard responded that the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, which is responsible for certifying vernal pools, has indicated that this one meets the certification criteria.

Well location

The Carlisle Conservation Foundation had sent a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals recommending that the well location be moved to a less used, more remote section of the field which lies within a jurisdictional riverfront area. Willard pointed out that locating the well on this alternative site could alter the vista from the proposed wildlife viewing platform near Spencer Brook (see “Benfield to Bisbee Land trail linkage explored,” Mosquito, April 2). The well head would, however, be below or flush with the ground.

Access needed for mowing

After noting that the work area will be fenced off during construction, Vice Chair Kelly Guarino emphasized that the ConsCom will need access to mow the conservation parcel. Beaudry assured her that this could be worked out. The board is currently seeking proposals for mowing both the Benfield and Towle fields. Bids are due by June 7.

Road salt to be limited

The ConsCom said that sodium chloride should not be applied for snow and ice control at the site because of its impact on wetlands. Beaudry totally agreed, noting that salt “eats sidewalks.” Parking for the conservation land was also discussed, as well as occasional evening events such as stargazing. The overflow parking spaces for the housing could also be used for conservation land visitors. The ConsCom said it could notify the property manager prior to evening events so residents would have advance notice of evening activities.

Wrap-up nearing

Beaudry indicated that the applicant now has the input needed to revise the project plan and hopefully receive a permit from the ConsCom. He pointed out that this would be the penultimate plan. To save money it is typical with 40B developments to produce the final plan only after funding is assured and all conditions to be met are defined. However, the ConsCom can require that the final plan be brought back to the board for approval before work begins. The board is currently crafting permit conditions. ∆

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