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Conservation Commission discusses proposed subdivision off Blueberry Lane, addresses new stormwater issues at The Trails, Leonard Street

by | Jul 19, 2023 | Business, Featured: News, News

The Conservation Commission on Tuesday continued a hearing on five subdivision units on Myrtle Avenue — a road that is to be built off Blueberry Lane — after commissioners spoke about encroachment into the buffer zone.

Notices of intent were filed for five single-family homes proposed by Toll Brothers, the developer of the Chamberlain-Whalen project. Ted Marchant, the land development director for Toll Brothers, led the presentations. He explained that the project had been approved in the late 1980s, which exempted it from current standards. The company began investigating the lots to determine their viability for development.

Matt Ashley from Bohler, an engineering consultant, went through the lot presentations. Located on the southern side of Myrtle Avenue, the lots abut a wetland. The first two lots at 9 and 7 Fitch Avenue (another proposed road) had driveways and utilities that connected to Myrtle Avenue. The front yards were graded to slope toward Myrtle Avenue, while the backyards sloped toward a swale system to the wetland and into basins on Blueberry Lane. On the first lots, grading work was proposed within the 50- to 100-foot buffer zone.

Member Janine LeBlanc asked if the house could be moved further back from the buffer zone, a concern that was reiterated about the other lots. While the house is outside the buffer zone, the roadway does impact it. Chair Jeff Barnes noted that the applicant has “done a good job” keeping the homes out of the buffer zone despite not being required to do so under the approval.

The second lot had a similar design. The home is outside the 100-foot buffer zone, while the lot line is outside the 50-foot buffer zone. After member Ted Barker-Hook expressed concerns about the driveway being in the buffer zone, Ashley said the developer could consider flipping it to the other side of the property. It was proposed this way to be nearer to the roadway and because of grading issues.

The third lot at 11 Fitch Avenue was to the west of the wetland. The access and grading were similar to the first two lots. On this corner lot, the house intruded into the 100-foot buffer zone.

Barker-Hook said that possibly shrinking the size of the houses is “a concept worth exploring.” Marchant explained that the yard size was similar to the size of the yards on the Chamberlain-Whalen project. Barker-Hook later noted that the approval of the Chamberlain-Whalen lots was not meant to set a template to be used for subsequent developments.

The fourth unit at 4 Myrtle Avenue was on a triangular lot closer to Blueberry Lane. The house went slightly into the 100-foot buffer zone.

Said Barker-Hook: “The less we can have lawn in the buffer zone, the happier a commission member I am.”

The final lot at 13 Fitch Avenue was located at the corner of Fitch and Myrtle avenues. This lot is located near the planned wetland replication area. Barnes noted that a “significant portion” of the house was within the 50-to-100-foot buffer zone on a challenging lot.

Barnes stressed that this subdivision should not negatively impact the neighboring subdivision. Conservation administrator Kim Ciaramicoli added that the road would not be approved as a town roadway unless the drainage system is brought up to the current town and state standards.

LeBlanc added that Adams Street would be taken away with this development. She wondered if the side setbacks on Adams Street could be changed to bring the home there potentially out of the buffer zone. Marchant said he could request a side-yard setback waiver from the Board of Appeals.

Residents from Blueberry Lane expressed concerns about the development bringing about potential flooding. Marchant said that while the subdivision will include 24 lots, four of them that would have fronted Adams Street will be under a conservation restriction.

The hearing was continued until Aug. 8.

Stormwater issues continue to plague The Trails, Leonard Street

Ciaramicoli called out two developments that have had a history of stormwater violations for new violations due to the weekend’s heavy rainfall — the new subdivision phase at The Trails and the Leonard Street subdivision.

She noted that developer Lou Petrozzi reported the violation at the Leonard Street site. This property previously had been called out by the commission for violating erosion controls beginning during a period of flooding in July of 2021.

The Trails, an 80-unit open-space mixed-use development (OSMUD) off Legacy Farms North Road, between Wilson Street and the Ashland border, has been plagued by stormwater management issues that have negatively impacted the water system in Ashland.

At this meeting, the fourth phase of The Trails was found to be in violation of stormwater regulations, which were reported by Barnes and vice chair Melissa Recos. At the June meeting, fines for similar incidents were enforced that had been held in abeyance beginning two years ago. Ciaramicoli added that a subsequent violation was issued against The Trails on July 10.

“The applicant and [project engineer] Mr. Peter Bemis should have been aware at that time that updates and changes needed to be made,” she said. “And they had a week to prepare, in which that preparation did not occur.”

In addition, Ciaramicoli issued a cease and desist order for all work except regarding stormwater infrastructure and erosion controls. A fine is being issued for this violation and will be discussed at the next meeting. She also is notifying Ashland so officials there can seek damages as well.

Said Barnes: “How can this happen again after everything we’ve been through?”

Pictures showed turbid water running directly into the reservoir.

Regarding the Leonard Street property, Barker-Hook noted that the erosion control mats that Petrozzi proposed were never put down. Also, the driveway is crumbling and will need to be repaved.

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