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Conservation Commission discusses violations at The Trails, subdivision off Blueberry Lane

by | Aug 30, 2023 | Business, Featured: News, News

The Conservation Commission at its three-hour in-person meeting Tuesday night noted that while erosion control improvements recently were made on the fourth phase of The Trails, continuing sedimentation overflow issues prompted the commission to consider levying additional fines against the project.

The Trails, an 80-unit open-space mixed-use development (OSMUD) off Legacy Farms Road North and Wilson Street, near the Ashland border, has been plagued by stormwater management issues that have negatively impacted the water system in Ashland. Now in its fourth phase of development, The Trails has a history of nearly three years of stormwater violations over different phases of development that have caused turbid water to run into Ashland’s reservoir.

In July, chair Jeff Barnes and vice chair Melissa Recos called out the developer for violations following a rainstorm, and the commission issued a new fine on July 10. At the June meeting, the commission decided to enforce $43,100 in fines that had been held in abeyance for nearly two years because the pattern of stormwater violations on the project had not been broken.

Project engineer Peter Bemis noted that several remediation strategies have been implemented at the project’s fourth phase since the last meeting three weeks ago. Crushed stone was installed along the entire length of the roadway there. Construction has begun on a new basin, but one of the infiltration basins has been “marginalized” by sediment infiltration. Now that drier weather is on the horizon, the infiltration basins will be pumped out to remove the sedimentation.

He added that a basin in Phase 3 was “overwhelmed” when the site was deluged with an inch of rain in a one-hour period a couple of weeks ago. Sod and sediment from three lots washed into that basin, prompting it to overflow onto Wilson Street.

Bemis also said he appeared before the Ashland Conservation Commission the previous evening to discuss sedimentation overflow into that town’s reservoir. Becca Solomon, Ashland’s conservation agent, attended this meeting to provide insight into Ashland’s issues with the development.

Kim Ciaramicoli, Hopkinton’s conservation administrator, noted that she documented turbid water flowing in Phase 4 on July 10 and July 17. On Aug. 8 and Aug. 18, she also reported turbid water overflowing from a basin on the first phase of the project, which resulted in new violations.

During this time frame, she tallied $141,600 in additional fines over a period of 39 days.

Ciaramicoli requested that “the entirety of Phase 4 be stabilized” and that calculations be submitted for the erosion control measures to show how much water they can withstand. She said she did not feel that some methods used were “commensurate with the size of the project.”

In addition, she tracked turbid water that flowed from the top of the project where a dog park has been proposed into the infiltration basins at the lower end of Phase 4. A cease-and-desist order was placed on this phase pending a site review that will take place on Thursday.

Said Ciaramicoli: “Certainly, we need to make sure that the [best management practices] are adequately sized versus just constructing it and hoping that it works.”

Chair Jeff Barnes asked who has been supervising the project’s contractors after a problem was pointed out by Bemis in a pipe that leaked at its joint. Bemis replied that “there’s not been adequate supervision.”

Property owner Vin Gately of Heritage Properties noted that he and Bemis are on-site on a daily basis as part of a more “proactive” approach.

Barnes pointed out that “Band-Aid-like fixes” won’t work for this project. While he said Phase 4 looked good this past week, he wanted to prevent further incidents.

Member Jim Ciriello asked Bemis if more stormwater control measures were needed on the upper end of The Trails to prevent all of the sedimentation occurring downstream. Bemis noted that one problem is that the natural stream there is unaccustomed to this amount and intensity of rainfall. Poor soil quality also is a factor, Barnes noted.

Recos asked if some of the money that was proposed as new fines could be used to hire a third-party consultant on the project to advise on stormwater management practices. Ciaramicoli said the expense could be taken into consideration and the fines reduced. This project has taken up much of Ciaramicoli’s time, preventing the permitting of other projects from occurring in a more timely manner, she added.

Gately said he had not had a chance to review the proposed fines before the meeting. Ciaramicoli said she would draft a plan for him to consider about the consultant.

Member Ted Barker-Hook said that the fines still should be levied because they are the result of “mistakes from the past,” whereas the consultant is to prevent future errors.

The hearing was continued until the next meeting on Sept. 12.

Violations outlined at proposed subdivision off of Blueberry Lane

The commission also discussed violations incurred at a five-unit subdivision proposed on Myrtle Avenue — a road that is to be built off Blueberry Lane. Ciaramicoli noted that on July 23, sediment was seen flowing beyond the limited areas of work and into wetland resource areas. An additional violation occurred on Aug. 8 during a heavy rainstorm when water flowed off of unsecured house lots, as well as a third violation on Aug. 18.

Ted Merchant, the land development director for Toll Brothers, which also built the Chamberlain-Whalen project, reported the Aug. 8 violation to Ciaramicoli. He retained LEC Environmental Consultants, a Plymouth-based firm, to address stormwater management strategies.

In addition, Toll Brothers installed check dams, swales and a “super silt fence” behind the current silt fence. It is a chain-link fence that supports the silt fence. Merchant said it should “drastically help” the situation.

No fines were discussed because the developer was proactive in reporting and taking action regarding mitigation measures.

Barker-Hook noted that the back yard’s incursion into the buffer zone may have caused the sediment problem. He added that a “super silt fence” might be helpful for other projects experiencing erosion control issues.

Member Ed Harrow stressed that the new property owner should be instructed by the developer not to encroach into land designated as open space.

Ciaramicoli said she would draft a memo on the fines to discuss at the next meeting as well as the enforcement order for LEC and commitments made for stabilization.

Later in the meeting, Mark Manganello, a wetlands scientist from LEC Environmental, appeared before the commission to discuss an abbreviated notice of resource area delineation, which the commission unanimously approved. He agreed with delineations made with the peer review consultant Joe Orzell from Lucas Environmental.

Leonard Street violation hearing continued

Another site that has experienced stormwater management issues is a development at 8, 10 and 12 Leonard Street. Erosion control violations were observed in April there, and violations also occurred in July of 2021. Developer Lou Petrozzi of Wall Street Development Corporation requested a continuance, which was granted.

188-190 Fruit Street project voted down

The commission voted 4-1-1 to reject a proposal under the Wetlands Protection Act and 5-1 against under the town bylaw for the development of two single-family homes at 188-190 Fruit Street.  The two lots under consideration are undeveloped lots on the golf course property created in 2004. The lots are 1.4 acres and 2.2 acres, respectively.

In previous meetings, commission members pointed out the poor quality of the soil there and the amount of disturbance that would be required to construct two homes. Drainage concerns also were raised.

The development team presented a detailed three-phased plan as to how erosion controls would be implemented, both for the two developments simultaneously as well as individually. Because the two lots were sold together, the impacts were considered cumulatively.

Commissioners complimented the team on the plans. But they didn’t feel they would be adequate to allow for development of two homes on the land. Barnes also noted the large amount of excavation that would be necessary to facilitate development.

Ciriello voted in favor of the project under the town bylaw. Under the Wetlands Protection Act, Harrow abstained and member Janine LeBlanc voted in favor of approval.

A request for reconsideration can be filed within 10 days of the decision.

Alternative gas line alignment approved for Mass. Laborers’ Training facility

The commission unanimously approved the alternative gas line alignment approved for Mass. Laborers’ Training facility located at 37 East Street, bringing many months of hearings on the project to a close.

Commission votes unanimously in favor of supporting grant applications on climate resiliency

The commission voted unanimously to support two town grant applications to the Massachusetts Area Planning Council for a climate action plan and lakeshore landscaping for a parcel off Lakeshore Drive.

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