Conservation Commission continues work with Chamberlain developer, gets trails update

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The Conservation Commission heard a number of issues at its three-hour meeting on Tuesday, ranging from updates to the Chamberlain/Whalen project to trails creation.

Several major items were continued to the meeting on May 25. Requests had been received before the meeting. These included the Abbott Realty Trust request to construct a roadway for a subdivision off Blueberry Lane, updates to several lots on the Whalen side of the Chamberlain/Whalen project, and updates to the Mass Laborers Training facility on East Street. The upcoming meeting is expected to have 25 items on a packed agenda.

Chamberlain/Whalen project

The first lot under consideration was Lot 1, the entrance to the community where the first house sits at the far end of the lot. It has a long, serpentine driveway that avoids the 0-to-50-foot buffer zone. The circular portion of the driveway surrounds the house, and that was one issue that commission members discussed at length.

“This is probably the longest driveway that we have in the entire subdivision, just based on the area of upland that we had to work with,” explained John Kucich on behalf of the applicant. He noted that the driveway is up against the property line.

“I wouldn’t want to shovel that in the wintertime,” chair Jeff Barnes said.

Ted Barker-Hook asked what kind of permanent immovable border (PIB) would be placed around the driveway, because the driveway is right at the edge of the 50-foot boundary. His concern was that snow and branch debris could be pushed over the 50-foot boundary.

He suggested either a stone wall or perhaps moving the driveway over and getting a right of way through the neighboring property to move it over.

Kucich said that would not be possible because that lot, which also was under consideration, was more narrow. He wanted to keep each driveway separate.

“This may be one of those examples where the lots, the way they were divided, shouldn’t be that way,” said commission member Jim Ciriello. He thought that Lots 1 and 2 should have been combined, “but it’s too late for that now.”

Kucich said that during the process, lots were combined, and the subdivision originally was 32 lots. The road was redesigned to accommodate reconfiguration on the Whalen Street side of the project.

Commission member Janine LeBlanc asked if the two properties could share the beginning part of that driveway.

Kucich said it would not accomplish the goal of distancing the driveway from the wetlands. But he accepted the feedback and will bring this and the four other lots back for review of modifications at the May 25 meeting.

Lot 2 received no feedback from commissioners, other than the previous comment about the possible shared driveway.

“I think this is my happiest site so far — by a long shot,” said Barker-Hook to laughter.

As with other lots, the house on Lot 3 is “pulled far forward” on the site, Kucich explained. He said the lot was designed to direct the drainage to the basin behind the home.

Barker-Hook said the boundary should follow the 100-foot wetland boundary. Kucich said grading would need to be done, but that could be accomplished.

Lot 5 showed that the property’s side yard would be visible from the road, and Barker-Hook called for some “consistency among the lots” in that respect.

Kucich explained that the topography in that situation would make it difficult to pull it back, and keeping it in that location “would make it look a lot nicer.” It would also be further away from the wetland.

“We let you come closer some places if you give us back in other places,” Barker-Hook replied.

“The applicant’s done a nice job of taking the comments that they’ve received,” Kucich said. “I think they’ve given up quite a bit at this point.”

Lot 15 is on the opposite side of the road of the other four. LeBlanc asked that the side yard be pulled in, and Kucich agreed.

Commission member Kerry Reed also had an issue with the catch basin in the yard. Kucich explained that the homeowner’s association would be responsible for maintaining it.

Barnes said a notation should be made on the plan so that the homeowner is aware that the catch basin needs to remain clear.

Trails projects

Peter LaGoy presented two requests for trails projects to the commission, and both received a positive response.

The first would be for a an upgrade and connector trail along the Center School trail to the Elmwood Farm Trail Network as part of a grant application, he explained. Currently, there is a trail behind Center School that has been in existence for about two decades, he said. The town purchased Elmwood Farm in 2013, and in 2018 an Eagle Scout working with conservation agent Don MacAdam worked on putting in a trail to connect the two. The area is at the wetlands at what were old cranberry bogs.

LaGoy explained that Athletic Brewing Company, a nonalcoholic microbrewery, is offering grants of up to $500,000. He wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to upgrade the trail system as part of the Trail Coordination and Management Committee.

“What we’re looking to do with this grant is basically a bridge and boardwalk building project to cross some of these areas,” he said, noting that some of the land gets very muddy and hard to traverse. “There’s also the opportunity at a couple of points to avoid areas that are wet.”

There are a few areas where LaGoy would like to redesign the trail on less steep terrain. One area on the north of the system would remain active for those who like a challenge, whereas others that are particularly muddy would be allowed to become overgrown to discourage use once the new trail is established, he explained.

“We’re looking to make it a little more friendly for folks trying to bike on it, trying to run on it,” he said.

No vote was required on the exemption request, but Barnes said, “It looks like a good project.”

LaGoy came back with a second trail proposal near the end of the meeting with an exemption request at 110-112 Fruit St. This is the location of Pratt Farm and the town-owned field behind it.

“What we’d like to add is a trail extending along the woodlands connecting from close to the parking area over to the back field,” he said. Another trail would be created along Whitehall Brook, as well as a view spot in an area of pines and cedars. A trail sign and kiosk proposed by an Eagle Scout also is being requested for the roadway.

Barnes asked if there would be any cutting of trees, and LaGoy said there would be none. It would be similar to the previous project with just “meandering through the woods.”

The commission was receptive to the proposal, and Barnes thanked LaGoy for his work.

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