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Conservation Commission continues major hearings at request of applicants

by | Jan 11, 2023 | Business, Featured: News, News

Because only four of the seven commissioners on the Conservation Commission were able to attend Tuesday night’s virtual meeting, the applicants for the Massachusetts Laborers Training property on 37 East Street and The Trails development requested continuances of their hearings, saying that the fate of their longstanding cases should be decided by the full commission.

George Connors, the attorney representing the Mass. Laborers Training Union for its four notice of intent hearings, questioned how many commission members were in attendance. When co-vice chair Kerry Reed explained that three members were absent, he brought up that he believed that one commissioner had missed a previous hearing.

“So at this stage, I’m concerned that this is kind of a lengthy project,” he said. “And I really would like to continue to [Jan. 24] with that in mind.

The hearings pertained to a pond, a fire suppression line and gas line that was proposed to run through the property. Neighbors had advocated that the gas line be placed on Clinton Street so that they would have an opportunity to connect. Another issue they raised is that moving the gas line to Clinton Street would prevent cutting trees on the wooded property.

Reed agreed to continue the four hearings without discussion until the next meeting in two weeks. It was approved 4-0.

The other major continued case regarded The Trails, a 55-and-over housing development located off Legacy Farms North Road. The project continues to cause consternation for commission members. In 2021, fines were issued against The Trails because sediment ran into the Hopkinton Reservoir, impacting both Hopkinton and Ashland.

“I just don’t want to compromise the hearing this evening where you are short three members,” project engineer Peter Bemis said.

Bemis brought up the same concern over the lack of a full board for his project’s two hearings on the drainage system. Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli pointed out that since the commission’s last meeting, project stakeholders met and were able to have a productive discussion about engineering concerns raised by both the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board. She said the meeting included her, Bemis, Principal Planner John Gelcich, a peer reviewer and representatives from BETA Group, the town’s engineering consultant. Ciaramicoli confirmed that no new documentation has been submitted since the last meeting.

Bemis also conducted a site walk on Saturday, which he and commission members agreed was helpful in understanding the complexity of the drainage issues.

Although he requested a continuance, Bemis also asked to discuss the site walk and ask for the release for more units for construction, which Reed granted.

Commissioner Ed Harrow said that the site walk was “very, very informative” and that “Peter did a nice job.”

Commissioner Jim Ciriello added that there has been “tremendous progress” in resolving the stormwater issues.

“I think the applicant’s done everything he can to control it,” he added, “especially after finding that underground subsurface drainage that was there.”

Bemis explained that there are eight single units left to be released on this third phase of the development. Property owner Vin Gately asked that four units be released “in the spirit of our mutual effort and progress here” because the project is behind on construction, and six units have been sold.

Ciaramicoli noted that “all of the ducks are not in a row yet” because BETA has not received the information it has continually requested.

LeBlanc suggested that the units be approved with the understanding that the new information be received by Ciaramicoli by Friday.

When Gately said that every day is important and there was “a stalemate between the engineers,” Reed countered to him that “you’re also driving the train now,” referring to the repeated delays in submitting information. The board unanimously agreed to release two units immediately and two additional units contingent upon receipt of the information.

Later in the meeting, members discussed signing letters affirming that they have reviewed documents and videos for meetings they have missed.

Turkey Ridge Estates partial cease and desist order addressed

Ciaramicoli discussed a site violation that she and Inspections Assistant Anna Rogers witnessed on a Dec. 29 site visit to the Turkey Ridge Estates property at 52 Cedar Street Extension, near the Southborough border. She gave a presentation on the subdivision, which she said was on a steep slope. The stormwater consequently runs toward the Sudbury River.

“A huge portion of the site was open for construction in violation of the phasing plan,” she said, noting that water was pooling on the site and turning the dirt roadway into mud. “I think the erosion controls just became overwhelmed.”

The sediment plume flowed approximately 100 feet past the limit of work, 50 feet into the wetland and 90 feet into the riverfront area, according to Ciaramicoli. It did not reach the river.

Developer Shane Perrault “has made a lot of strides” to stabilize the site, she said, including the implementation of erosion control blankets. He also has been pumping water out of the site to improve water clarity and sweeping the roadway, which had not been done previously.

Said Perrault: “First and foremost, we cannot apologize enough to the commission for the issues with the erosion control barrier on December 29.”

He stressed that there was no intention to clearcut the project. There are two ponds built up against the erosion control barrier, he explained. When the ponds had to be stripped, he discovered ledge that he was unaware of in early December.

He explained that in response to what happened, the site contractor “has been released.” A new site contractor, DCTC Corporation, was hired in its place last week. An erosion control specialized contractor also was hired and has replaced the erosion control barriers. Perrault said there now is a corrective action plan in place. Wetlands consultant Goddard Consulting also was retained on the day of the hearing.

It may take up to six weeks to make the stormwater management system fully operational, he added. There will be a site supervisor on site daily who will take photos to document the progress.

Goddard will be receiving reports going forward, said Goddard representative Andrew Thibault. There will be a plan “in the coming days” to contain the sediment plume.

The upcoming weekend’s expected heavy rainfall was a concern for commissioners. Perrault said there are now “four different levels of erosion control” in place.

Harrow said that the developer should have contacted Ciaramicoli if there were problems with the site. He also questioned how developers “don’t seemingly understand the nature of the soil under their feet.”

Perrault said he knew there was ledge on the site, but he did not expect it to be 20 feet deep.

“We found a weak area that we didn’t see,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make it right.”

The cease and desist will be maintained until the next meeting. At that time, the team will appear before the commission with an update.

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