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Conservation Commission calls out Leonard Street developer for erosion issues

by | May 17, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Conservation Commission at its two-hour meeting Tuesday night approved the request for a home tennis court for an aspiring athlete and discussed violations at a problematic Leonard Street site.

The commission also received updates on two properties where tree cutting was originally permitted by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, including the contentious 60-plus acre site in the Springwood neighborhood off of Kimball Road.

Issues spotted at Leonard Street

The commission engaged in a discussion on violations observed at 8, 10 and 12 Leonard Street. Member Ted Barker-Hook visited the site on April 23 and April 30 and observed that the erosion controls were compromised.

This property previously had been called out by the commission for violating erosion controls during a period of flooding in July of 2021. Developer Lou Petrozzi of Wall Street Development Corporation was not present at this meeting to address concerns about the project.

Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli said Barker-Hook sent her photos he took of the site, and the ones from April 30 “alarmed” her. They showed that topsoil had been added but had partially washed away.

Ciaramicoli noted that some erosion control silt fences were “basically flapping in the wind” and “in a complete state of disrepair.” Barker-Hook described them as “heavily deteriorated.”

Sediment flowed through the damaged silt fences into a vegetated area and through to the wetlands, according to Ciaramicoli. There were also “several areas of blowouts,” which prompted her to issue a notice of violations to Petrozzi on May 1. A few days later, she observed that another line of erosion controls had been installed in front of the old one.

Barker-Hook described “a fairly significant sediment breakthrough” that he observed on Sunday at the driveway of the easternmost house. It has not been removed from the wetland as of that date. He also noted that the amount of water running into an abutting property that he videotaped “was astounding.”

Said Barker-Hook: “It looks like a pair of hands could scoop the sand back out and remove it.”

Commission chair Jeff Barnes requested that Petrozzi attend the next meeting on Tuesday, June 6, to explain the situation. He also said that the sediment that seeped into the wetland should be removed by hand.

Forest cutting halted at Springwood site

Ciaramicoli said she received word on May 5 that the tree cutting at the property off of Kimball Road ceased at the request of the property owner.

Barnes noted that the cutting was legal under the DCR’s forest cutting plan, explaining that the state permit superseded the town’s bylaw and did not require the property owner to appear before the commission. This situation was discussed at length at the previous Conservation Commission meeting as well as last Thursday’s Open Space Preservation Commission meeting.

He added that it was “unfortunate” that the town had no recourse.

Commissioner Ed Harrow, who also chairs the OSPC, said that abutters told him at that meeting that they spoke with the property owner, Mike Umina, and that he was “allegedly amenable” to selling the property to the town if an agreement could be reached.

Harrow added that he reached out to Town Manager Norman Khumalo, but he hasn’t received a response yet. At the OSPC meeting, an ad hoc group was proposed to meet with stakeholders. While several people have expressed interest in serving on it, a meeting has not been held to date. The land would need to be appraised to determine fair market value.

In related news, Barnes said that a representative from DCR recently met with himself, Ciaramicoli and commission vice chair Melissa Recos for a site walk of a Teresa Road property in the Charlesview Estates neighborhood. DCR previously issued a forest cutting plan for the site.

Ciaramicoli said they explained there were concerns about the resource areas there. While the town’s bylaws do not supersede the state permit, the town could use the public comment period “to apply some friendly pressure.”

She received an email dated May 11 stating that the forest cutting plan was disapproved by DCR. In an attached letter, DCR explained that some of the considerations mentioned in Hopkinton’s bylaws should be taken into consideration by the applicant, Simone, Danahy & McGrath.

Said Ciaramicoli: “I think that was an outcome that the commission can feel good about.”

Home tennis court approved for Greenwood Road

The commission approved an application in a 6-0 vote for the construction of a tennis court at 42 Greenwood Road so that tennis prodigy Parnaz Kaur, a sixth grader at Hopkinton Middle School, would have a space behind her home to perfect her game.

The major issue discussed was whether an easement granted by the Hopkinton Area Land Trust anticipated that construction vehicles would be using it to access the proposed site. Harrow raised the question of how vehicles would get to the court area.

“Are we going to have big concrete trucks going in on what HALT has agreed is an easement?” he asked. “Is that what they expected? I have no idea.”

Singh clarified that the court will be asphalt.

Said Singh: “HALT is aware that this is a hard surface court, and they are on the notice of intent as signatories.”

Chuck Dauchy, a HALT board member, said that HALT has granted an access easement. He added that the Conservation Commission also has a conservation restriction on the land and that the work would require its approval.

“The amount of easement that was provided was not specifically intended to allow construction of a tennis court,” he said. “I trust that the commission will consider that any equipment access there needs to be sized to stay within the easement, unless some change is made with the commission under their [conservation restriction] or with HALT.”

Kate O’Donnell, a consultant from EcoTech Consulting Services in Worcester, interjected on behalf of the applicant. She said that the erosion control barrier requested by the commission would serve as the limit of work delineation. A 10-foot-wide gravel access way would be installed to allow construction vehicles to access the site, O’Donnell added, and no trees would be removed. When the work is completed, the land “would be revegetated with grass.”

She also noted that the plantings the commission requested will be arranged in a way that looks more like natural growth than the conceptual plan had shown.

Barnes pressed Dauchy several times on whether HALT is willing to grant permission for construction vehicles to travel on the easement.

Said Barnes repeatedly: “I think it’s a yes or no question.”

Dauchy hesitated on a direct response, saying that he did not have the terms of the easement in front of him.

Replied Dauchy: “There is no answer.”

Barnes suggested that HALT needed to “do a little homework” on the easement and make a yes-or-no decision.

Dauchy stressed that if the equipment could stay within the easement, it would be allowed by HALT. He also reiterated that the work would have to abide by the commission’s conservation restriction.

Upon the application approval, Barnes wished Kaur well on her tennis aspirations.

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