The Conservation Commission at its meeting Tuesday night voted unanimously to leverage fines previously held in abeyance totaling $31,800 against the developer of the proposed Turkey Ridge Estates development because of a new violation discovered on the day of the hearing.
During the update of stormwater management efforts, members stressed that the committee was losing its collective patience with the project’s continuing violations despite a significant effort by Goddard Consultants, an environmental engineering firm, to stabilize the site.
The project, located at 52 Cedar Street Extension, near the Southborough border, has encountered several issues over the past few months, with heavy rains, snow and challenging topography contributing to sedimentation flowing into the riverfront area at the Sudbury River. This has been compounded by what the commission determined was poor engineering of the site by the previous firm.
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 caused a plume of silty water to run into the riverfront area. Although the developer took measures to remediate the situation, including installing mulch and hay bales, a significant rainstorm on Jan. 26 led to subsequent violations being cited because there still was a large amount of unsecured soil on the site, some of which seeped past the barriers.
At the last meeting, the board voted to hold both fines in abeyance until this meeting to give the developer a chance to resolve the problems.
Last week, Ciaramicoli said she observed that spoil piles mentioned at a previous meeting had been secured and that a retaining wall and erosion controls were installed to support the infiltration basins.
On Tuesday, Ciaramicoli said “a deluge of rain” caused two areas of turbid discharge she witnessed at about 9 a.m., one at the site of the Dec. 29 violation and the other on the opposite side at a low point on the site. The upper basin overflowed, and the contractor was trying to control it by pumping water from one basin to another.
BETA Group, the town’s engineering consultant, visited the site at 11 a.m., she added. Turbid water was seen going over a silt fence as well as an overflow at the original plume area. One of the basins was beginning to erode. The contractor notified Ciaramicoli that the situation was under control at 2 p.m. after riprap and check dams.
“So, lots of progress,” she said, calling the situation “a two-sided coin.” “Unfortunately the site was still overwhelmed today.”
Member Jim Ciriello criticized what he termed as “the so-called erosion controls,” noting that the mulch is not properly covering the site. He stressed that the fines should be assessed at this point because of failures in the work plan and engineering.
Fellow member Ed Harrow agreed, noting he was “utterly disappointed” with the erosion controls.
“When we got there, the pump that was being used to pump the first basin had died, and there was no spare,” he said. “I just question the efficacy of the engineering.”
Member Ted Barker-Hook pointed out that Ciaramicoli observed a separate minor violation she described in an email to the developer that was shared with commissioners. She chose not to impose a fine because the water was clear. Ciaramicoli confirmed that water was being discharged into the resource area on March 9, which she called “a disappointing moment.”
Said Barker-Hook: “I think creating fines and then not asking people to pay them gives them liberty to say, ‘All right, what I’m doing is the right way to do things,’ so I worry about that.”
“The developer knew it was a difficult site and proceeded to develop it anyway,” added member Janine LeBlanc.
Co-vice chair Melissa Recos called for an outside stormwater management inspector to be brought in at the developer’s expense in addition to the fines.
A new issue raised by Barker-Hook was the potential of the project impacting Southborough on the other side of the Sudbury River. He noted that poor stormwater management for The Trails last year caused problems with Ashland’s water supply.
Ciaramicoli said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if Southborough was impacted and would reach out to the town.
Landowner Courtney Lussier, who lives on part of the property, spoke after the fines were assessed. She said she believed some of the “misconceptions” of the remediation by commissioners was unfair.
“Whether you assigned the fines or not, I just want to be crystal clear that there’s never for one moment been a lack of effort on our end,” she said. Developer Shane Perrault did not join the call until the end because “he is up to his knees in snow and mud and water down there trying to work on this property. When Perrault spoke from the site, he said they had “been working for 36 straight hours.”
Said Lussier: “We’re trying our absolute hardest morning, noon and night.”
Goddard Engineering consultant Andrew Thibault added that this type of fine assessment is usually done when negligence is a factor. He said that has not been the case here.
Chair Jeff Barnes said the applicant needed to be diligent moving forward.
Mass. Laborers Training decision finalized
Hearings on The Trails were continued at the request of the applicant, while the request for a continued hearing on the pond dredging at the Mass. Laborers Training facility was withdrawn.
The Mass. Laborers Training facility had filed a request for reconsideration to reopen the hearing. Barnes explained that there were no changes to the application, but that the applicant disagreed with the commission’s findings.
The project, located at 37 East Street, became contentious when neighbors sought an alternative proposal for a gas line that would cut through the wooded area of the property. They preferred a second option that would place the gas line on Clinton Street, allowing them to connect to the line. The applicant later proposed two other alternative routes and made some concessions before the 4-3 vote on Feb. 8.
The commission voted unanimously not to reopen the hearing, which finalized its decision.