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Conservation Commission holds fines against Turkey Ridge developer in abeyance, citing progress

by | Mar 1, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Conservation Commission at its meeting Tuesday night unanimously decided after some debate to hold two instances of fines in abeyance for violations of erosion controls regarding the proposed Turkey Ridge Estates development, noting that substantial progress has been made to stabilize the site since the last hearing three weeks ago.

The project, located at 52 Cedar Street Extension, near the Southborough border, has encountered several issues over the past two months, with heavy rains and challenging topography contributing to sedimentation flowing into the riverfront area at the Sudbury River.

Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli initially ordered a partial cease and desist order on construction for violations of erosion controls she witnessed on Dec. 29 after a large rainstorm. Although the developer took measures to remediate the situation, including installing hay bales and mulch, a significant rainstorm on Jan. 26 led to subsequent violations being cited because there was still a large amount of unsecured soil on the site, some of which seeped past the barriers.

Ciaramicoli determined the fine for the Jan. 26 violation for one day to be $2,700.

“Fortunately it wasn’t more than a day,” said chair Jeff Barnes, “and it was caught fairly quickly.”

The previous fines for the Dec. 29 violation totaled $29,900, Ciaramicoli said.

She added that she visited the site on Monday to assess its current conditions, and she found that improvements had been made.

“The contractor has brought in lots of mulch to be able to provide some temporary cover,” said Ciaramicoli.

Retaining walls have been “90 percent installed” around the area where two water retention basins are being constructed. Those areas have been rough graded, she explained, and a silt fence was installed. A swale also has been rough graded since the last hearing with some stone check dams, and a berm was constructed.

Unsecured soil piles mentioned at the Feb. 7 hearing have been covered with mulch and surrounded with erosion control measures, Ciaramicoli added.

While Ciaramicoli noted that substantial progress has been made, she said it was only at about “70-80 percent” of what she ultimately would like to see done. The snow also prevented her from giving her final approval to remove the cease and desist order.

Member Ted Barker-Hook suggested that the second fine of $2,700 be assessed at this time.

“I think the hammer that we hold is the [$29,000], keeping that in abeyance,” he said. “I would be 100 percent in favor of assessing the $2,700 fine, particularly since it was a violation that came after whatever word you want to put in for not assessing the $29,000.”

Member Janine LeBlanc initially took the opposite view, explaining that she thought that the second violation where “things didn’t get buttoned up” would trigger the enforcement of the first fine. Both LeBlanc and Barker-Hook saw merit in each other’s opinions. Barker-Hook said he thought the $2,700 fine should be assessed “at an absolute minimum.”

Barnes pushed for the abeyance of the fines because the contractor has been cooperating with Ciaramicoli’s requests.

Said Barnes: “Things maybe haven’t been moving as quickly as Kim and the commission would like, but they are moving forward.”

Developer Shane Perrault explained that the work on the basins would be completed within two weeks and that there have been “incredible strides” made. The four retaining walls around the basins were completed on Saturday.

He added that this was “the hardest part of the project” because the land had to be clear cut in order to do the work. The process of installing the walls while removing the trees “required some surgical construction.”

“If we get a lot of rain, it is very difficult to manage that,” Perrault added.

The second violation was addressed by building a secondary overflow pond, according to Perrault. But that night, there had been “an insane amount of rain,” which presented another challenge to the project. There is a stockpile of hay bales in case of any future incidents.

“As a contractor, I just wanted you to take into consideration that we did everything we could while this was going on,” he added, noting that Goddard Consulting was hired immediately after the Dec. 29 violation as a consultant. “We were all over it. … I don’t want people to think that we were neglecting the site.”

Four thousand yards of mulch were used on the site, he added. The areas that currently are unsecured are under construction.

Barnes said that the fines can be reconsidered if progress is not demonstrated by the next meeting in two weeks. Board members agreed but expressed concerns.

Member Kerry Reed said she was not pleased about the use of mulch for stabilization, “but an active approach is better than a passive approach.” If progress is not made, the fines should be enforced.

Said Reed: “I have absolutely no tolerance for any additional problems at this site.”

“This is an extremely difficult site and a very sensitive area,” added member Ed Harrow. “I’m very disappointed, and I’ll leave it at that.”

Multiple hearings continued

The other major hearings scheduled for the meeting on two long-term projects were continued until the next meeting. They included two hearings on The Trails, the 55-and-over housing development located off Legacy Farms North Road, and the notice of intent hearing on the pond to be constructed at the Mass. Laborers Training facility at 37 East Street.

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