Friday, August 27, 2010
State examines disputed stream on Benfield Land
Mass. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) representative Gary Bogue spent two hours inspecting a dry streambed crossing the Benfield property on August 17 in response to an appeal of the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) classification of the stream as “intermittent.” As reported in the July 30 issue of the Mosquito (“Benfield wetlands decision appealed”), the ConsCom’s Order of Conditions approving the Benfield Farms affordable housing has been appealed to the state by Juergen Lemmermann of 548 South Street. Lemmermann, an abutter whose property lies across the road from the site, submitted the appeal in a July 8 letter requesting a “Superseding” Order of Conditions.
Lemmermann’s appeal centers on the ConsCom’s finding that the stream that crosses under South Street at the western corner of Lot 1 of the Benfield Farms parcel is “intermittent” rather than “perennial.” The portion of the stream nearest South Street is on the town-owned parcel, after which it crosses onto the property of Jeffrey Kiel. The Wetlands Protection Act Regulations define an “intermittent” stream as a body of running water which does not flow throughout the year. As such, it does not have a designated 200-foot Riverfront Area wherein development is regulated. If the ConsCom’s finding is overturned by the DEP and the stream deemed “perennial,” redesign of the housing, stormwater management structures and driveways could be necessary.
Lemmermann states that the stream is listed as “perennial” on the current United States Geological Survey (USGS) map. Kiel had photographed the stream bed in dry condition in 2005 and 2007 and provided an affidavit to the ConsCom during the public hearing. Regulations say that field observation shall be made by a competent source. Lemmermann argues that Kiel does not qualify as a competent source because he has a vested interest in the stream being deemed “intermittent”since it would make it easier for him to develop his land.
Responding to the appeal, Bogue attended the site walk, hosted by two members of ConsCom and attended by three Benfield Farms personnel and three abutters. Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates presented an overview and some background of the project to Bogue before the group set out under the wilting 90 degree sun. First stop was the controversial “Benfield Brook,” which was observed by all to be bone dry and had been that way for the last month, according to Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard. However, the abutters revealed a mitigating factor that might have some bearing on the final decision.
Upstream at 100 Wildwood Drive, the brook has been dug out to form a pond which is roughly half the size of the field at the Benfield building site (as seen on Google Earth). The pond has no dam and there is no apparent irrigation use, but is evaporation and bank seepage affecting the quantity of flow downstream? This obviously intrigued Bogue and he decided to conclude his visit by walking up the stream bed to see the pond, which is on private property. Before setting out, he reminded everyone that today’s site walk was for information gathering only, and that a final DEP decision would be forthcoming within a month. ∆
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