The Conservation Commission at its meeting on Tuesday approved several lots on the Chamberlain/Whalen project and imposed fines on a Legacy Farms housing project.
The majority of the projects on the agenda were continued until June 22. Also, the six notice of intent (NOI) hearings on the Massachusetts Laborers Training Facility on 37 East St. were continued for the second consecutive meeting. They include work on the Conti and Crane buildings and the headquarters, dredging of the pond, utility work and restoration of the site.
Legacy Farms fines assessed but held
Fines were imposed on The Trails at Legacy Farms housing project because sediments were eroding beyond the limit of work and into the stream channels of Hopkinton and Ashland. However, the commission voted unanimously to hold them into abeyance, which infuriated a resident.
The project had been fined in 2018 as well, according to commission chair Jeff Barnes. The fines imposed initially were $600 a day per condition violated for six days, plus a $300 fine for one day of the project being in violation.
Barnes proposed that the most recent set of fines be set into abeyance, subject to compliance, because the engineering firm, Bemis Engineering, responded quickly.
Commission member Ted Barker-Hook asked if Ashland had to be given any town money because of the damage.
Peter Bemis from Bemis Engineering said that he has been working with the Ashland Conservation Commission as well.
“They thought that we handled this well,” he said. “We don’t want this to happen. But we’re right up against the Ashland border.”
Resident Katie Towner said that there has been no oversight on the project or Department of Environmental Protection quarterly reports filed.
“There is supposed to be somebody watching the store over there,” she said. She added that a fine should be assessed for each day the reports aren’t filed.
Bemis confirmed that the last report was filed in 2019.
“How does the commission not know this?” Towner charged. “Why are you not assessing violations on this? This is the order of conditions. This is the root cause.”
Bemis said he would re-institute the reports and be sure that they are submitted weekly. He explained that a new contractor was involved.
Towner said that the soil was contaminated and that there are “zero safe levels” of sediment going into the reservoir.
“It’s a disgrace,” she said. “And if this commission doesn’t do anything about it, it’s the commission’s disgrace.”
Barnes said that he has been on the site to ensure compliance, and that the reports will be submitted weekly.
Matt Varrell from town consultant Lucas Environmental said that Towner was right, and the amount of the fines should be assessed. That total would be added to the amount in abeyance.
Chamberlain/Whalen project discussed
Lots 4, 7, 11 and 13 on Chamberlain Street and Lot 20 on Whalen Road were approved unanimously with relatively little discussion.
Lot 4 involved putting a note on the project to make sure that the swale wasn’t blocked, as the commission requested. The new plan would move the permanent immovable barrier (PIB) about 10 feet in from the edge of the limits of work near the berm. Moving the PIBs in was a condition included in each of the proposals at the board’s request.
The grading on Lot 7 was adjusted and the PIBs were moved in at the east side of the property. The land will be allowed to return to its natural state after construction.
Barker-Hook asked that the PIBs be moved in to reduce the side yard’s intrusion into the 50-foot buffer.
“That’s a nice, natural line,” he said. “And it’s a lot less intrusion to the natural buffer.”
Lot 11 was similar in scope, according to Bohler Engineering’s John Kucich, representing the applicant.
Lot 13 was “the easiest one,” according to Kucich. He said that the grading “is pulled outside of the 100-foot buffer.” The only disturbed area at the 50-foot buffer is to get a 4-inch foundation drain in and afterward be allowed to revegetate.
Lot 20 on Whalen Road was similar to the previous proposals. The PIB will be pulled in closer to the land contour. Barker-Hook stressed that “side yard was less important than backyard,” and that should be trimmed.
Blueberry Lane-area subdivision addressed
The 25-lot proposal off Blueberry Lane, which includes road designs for Adams Street and Fitch Street, was reviewed because of concerns over drainage issues and the soil quality. It was continued until the next hearing to be able to add a backup swale to the trench drain.
Youngster honored for advocacy
At the beginning of the meeting, the commission welcomed special guest Aanya Soni. The 8-year-old reached out to commission member Ed Harrow to ask him to protect the turtle population, as several were killed while trying to cross Fruit Street. Signs now have been installed to warm drivers about the turtles.
At the previous meeting, Barnes said he bought Soni a stuffed turtle named Leonardo to honor her advocacy. Soni attended the meeting with Leonardo as the commission commended her efforts.
“I thought that was a great thing that you did,” Barnes said. “And it was very inspiring to see such a young person take an initiative for the wildlife and the environment and really step up and be a leader.”
He named the turtle Leonardo after the character in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” because he was “the leader of the pack,” as Soni was on this effort.
MacAdam finally steps away
Long-time conservation agent Don MacAdam attended his last meeting and was thanked for his dedication. The commission plans to recognize MacAdam when it can meet in person, presumably in July.
Barnes thanked him for delaying his retirement to “bridging this transition for us” until a new agent was in place. The town recently hired Kimberly Ciaramicoli to replace MacAdam.