Hopkinton, MA
Hopkinton, US
1:07 am, Saturday, September 23, 2023


Conservation Commission enforces fines on The Trails development held for nearly 2 years

by | Jun 7, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Conservation Commission voted 5-0 to enforce the collection of $43,100 in fines assessed against The Trails at its 82-minute virtual meeting Tuesday night.

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, and violations first were issued in the summer of 2021. Both the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board have sought remediation plans in previous months. A peer consultant was brought in to review the stormwater management practices, and work has been performed off-site to control stormwater runoff.

Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli shared a letter dated Aug. 17, 2021, that she sent to property owner Vin Gately of Heritage Properties. The letter described the fines for violations that occurred over that summer. There had been periods of torrential rain during that period, and the erosion control methods in place could not withstand it.

The first fine assessed was in 2018 for $6,000. Ciaramicoli said it was held in abeyance until the violations occurred in the summer of 2021 and was paid at that time.

Fines in the amount of $22,800 were assessed for violations of the orders of conditions during the summer of 2021. Also, $16,400 in fines were assessed for violating the Town of Hopkinton Wetlands Protection Bylaw for not filing stormwater pollution prevention plan, or SWPPP, reports. A third fine of $3,900 was assessed for a subsequent violation, bringing the total of uncollected fines to $43,100. Fines are required to be paid within 20 days, making them due no later than Sept. 17, 2021, according to the letter.

As that due date approached, Ciaramicoli explained, the applicant said that off-site improvements permitted by the Conservation Commission would be performed. The hope of the developer was that the cost incurred by these improvements would offset the amount of these fines.

At an April meeting, the commission unanimously approved a notice of intent that would allow the second phase of The Trails development to begin. The discussion about the fines was tabled until this meeting.

Chair Jeff Barnes noted that commissioners needed to consider the collection of fines against other subdivision developers who received violations, including Turkey Ridge Estates and Pulte Homes, when deciding to collect fines against The Trails previously held in abeyance.

Said Barnes: “I think it’s time that we have to issue fines.”

Member Ted Barker-Hook agreed with Barnes’ reasoning, with one caveat.

“I don’t think we’ve held them in abeyance,” he said. “I think that Mr. Gately has held them in abeyance. He’s chosen not to pay them for the past year-and-a-half.”

Added Barker-Hook: “I think fines are there for a reason, and sometimes it comes time to collect them.”

Member Janine LeBlanc said that while she appreciated the work the applicant has done to rectify the stormwater management issues and improve the site, other developers were assessed fines even when site improvements were made, so there is an element of equity in collecting these fines now. Barnes agreed.

Barnes also noted that in 2018, the Conservation Commission “strongly recommended” that the tree clearing and grubbing be done in stages.

“Unfortunately, the developer decided not to heed that advice and clear-cut the entire site and grubbed the entire site,” he said. When Barnes visited the site after the violations occurred, he said he nearly sank hip-deep into the mud.

Said Barnes: “It was basically like quicksand.”

Project engineer Peter Bemis said he understood the rationale for collecting the fines. But he added that there were costly off-site improvements that were incurred by the developer.

Member Ed Harrow said he recognized the “good work” that Bemis has done to bring the site into compliance. But the consequences of the clear-cutting and grubbing activity were “so obvious.”

Barnes added that “it took a little bit of pushing” from the commission to get the site brought into compliance, and it was not done of the developer’s own accord. He also noted that Ciaramicoli was not notified when tree clearing occurred, and he requested more diligent communication between the developer and the commission.

Barnes also noted that Gately was not in attendance at the meeting despite an earlier pledge to attend meetings on the project. Ciaramicoli noted that Gately’s presence was “strongly encouraged” but not required.

“I think construction phasing is going to be your best friend during the second phase of the project,” Barnes said. “I just want to make sure that we’re working as partners on the second phase and that we don’t run into the same types of issues that we did on the first phase of the project.”

Ciaramicoli added that the building permits for the second phase may be held up if the outstanding fines are not paid.

Continuation of Parks & Rec hearing on a seasonal dock at Sandy Beach approved

The commission voted 5-0 to continue a hearing with the Parks & Recreation Department regarding a seasonal dock request for Sandy Beach at 4 Lake Shore Drive.

Parks & Rec Director Jay Guelfi, who had been spearheading the application, retired last month. Ciaramicoli said that a file number needed to be issued by the Department of Environmental Protection for the request to proceed, suggesting that additional documentation may need to be filed.

The application will be reviewed at the next Conservation Commission meeting on Tuesday, June 27.