The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 5, 2010

ConsCom reviews development of Elliott Farms

At its October 28 meeting the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) opened a public hearing for a proposal to extend a common driveway to access four house lots on Elliott Farms. The property is located at the intersection of River and Skelton Roads at 291 River Road (Map 1 Parcels 1, 1A, 1B, 3, 3B) and extends to the Concord River. The farm has been in one family for 64 years and is rich in both history and rare species habitat.

Representing the Rachel Webster Elliott Trust, George Dimakarakos of Stamski and McNary Engineering described the Elliott Farms development. The applicant seeks a permit under the state Wetlands Protection Act and Carlisle Wetlands Bylaw. Work is proposed in Bordering Vegetated Wetland, its 100-foot Buffer Zone, and within the 200-foot Riverfront Area.

Rachel (Pagey) and Dr. Elliott purchased the farmhouse and surrounding land in 1946 from the estate of Mason Garfield, the grandson of President James Garfield (See “Rachel “Pagey” Elliott: Master of many trades,” Mosquito, November 17, 2006.) Their daughter Elizabeth Elliott Platais and her husband now live in the farmhouse. The ConsCom had informally discussed the potential land subdivision with the Platais family in June.

Dimakarakos indicated that the drive would cross the narrowest point of a perennial stream flowing out of one of two farm ponds. The driveway extension would require 260 square feet of wetland fill for which they propose a 413-square-foot replication area. There would be no filling in the floodplain. Approximately 5% of the 200-foot Riverfront Area would be altered (about half the allowed modification).

Impacts on wildlife questioned

Dimakarakos said that David Crossman of B & C Associates performed a Wildlife Habitat Evaluation and “did not find anything that would require further study or that is of particular concern.”

Commissioner Tom Brownrigg questioned the area searched for vernal pools, indicating: “Dave says there are no certified or documented vernal pools located within 100 feet of the proposed project.” Brownrigg said: “There could be potential vernal pools within 100 feet and also pools further than 100 feet from the work area for the common driveway . . . I don’t get the sense that he looked very far beyond 100 feet from the proposed project.” Dimakarakos responded: “That was probably very deliberate,” because Crossman was following the state guidelines for evaluations. After further discussion about the requirements when work is proposed in various wetland resource areas, Dimakarakos said he would seek clarification from Crossman.

Because the project includes work in a Riverfront Area an alternatives analysis is required – in order to show that the least damaging design is being proposed. In discussing the analysis, Dimakarakos said that the three overarching goals of the project are “to preserve a working farm, to preserve the ongoing community uses, and to ensure the open vistas will be maintained.”

The proposed design would extend a common driveway off Skelton Road to access four house lots. Alternatives described by Dimakarakos include a subdivision road crossing the farm fields, a common driveway wetlands crossing that impacts more Bordering Vegetated Wetland, and/or an additional house lot.

While most questions and discussion will take place at the next segment of the hearing, Brownrigg expressed one concern. He said that the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has identified those areas of Massachusetts which are very biologically diverse, with the highest concentration of rare species. There are only a few of these “Core Habitat” areas in Carlisle. He said: “This property is almost entirely Core Habitat, which means it is a very significant property in terms of rare species.” He added that it is good that the applicants want to maintain the agricultural and other values stated in the goals, but, “It is also important to think about wildlife habitat and protect some of that as well.” The property is included in Carlisle’s 2006 Open Space and Recreation Plan’s list of top-ranked undeveloped land.

When Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard suggested that the board might want a peer review of the project, Dimakarakos suggested a visit to the site (which was then scheduled). The hearing was continued to November 18. ∆

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