The Conservation Commission at its two-hour meeting Tuesday night voted 4-1 to release two units on the open space mixed-use development (OSMUD) site plan for The Trails after some prolonged debate.
The hearing was continued because the commissioners continued to stress that there still are incomplete plans for drainage improvements for the site, where sedimentation had filtered into Hopkinton and Ashland reservoirs during the summer of 2021.
Peter Bemis, the project’s engineering consultant, appeared before the board regarding the 55-and-over housing development located off Legacy Farms North Road. He previously had been told repeatedly by both the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission that he needed to provide more information to address their concerns.
At this meeting, Bemis described the poor soil conditions that have plagued the site. He also spoke of the need to deepen the stormwater retention basin on the Brookdale portion of the project, noting that it was the only source of water this summer for the “fairly extensive” vegetation there.
Excavation would be needed for a modified wet basin, he continued. Deepening the basin also would support a fish population. An alternative would be “a wetland-type basin,” Bemis noted, but that “wouldn’t be prudent if we were pumping water from it.”
“It’s a little bit of a quandary whether we would be able to retain it as a feature for the project going forward and maybe have a purpose for it,” he said. Deepening the basin would bring up more poor soil that he said would have to be repurposed on the site.
Bemis also stressed the need to continue with a 28-day plan regarding the development of units for this phase of the project that he mentioned at the previous meeting.
Phil Paradis, the town’s engineering consultant from BETA, noted a concern that there was “a significant modification to the plans” not yet requested by the applicant. Previously, infiltration plans were submitted for each unit. Because of the summer storms in 2021, they were not implemented. Bemis put in roof drains to attempt to control the water.
“I think that’s kind of a big thing because potentially, if the infiltration is used, there may not be a need to expand the basin,” said Paradis. He noted that the basin is on a slope.
The second basin, he continued, needed a design change to a shallow pond because it would be a place for mosquitos.
Paradis also noted that at the Planning Board meeting the previous night, there was a request for an infiltration basin on the Wilson Street side of the project that runs behind the houses on the property line that was not brought before the Conservation Commission.
He added that his team observed the first basin being pumped out last week, but it didn’t make much of a difference in the pond elevation. The second basin, according to his team’s observation, was cleaned out. A layer of stone was placed at the bottom, which Paradis said “was not a good idea for a natural basin.” Other minor issues remain to be discussed.
“We’re making progress slowly, I think,” chair Jeff Barnes said. A duplex building was released for construction by Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli. But the applicant pushed for more at this meeting.
Barnes added that Bemis needed to seek advice from property owner Vin Gately and the engineering team at EDC rather than from the commission.
Commission co-vice chair Melissa Recos said the second basin needs to be either a wet basin or an infiltration — not both.
Bemis and the project attorney noted that they “inherited” the work done on the stormwater system from the previous engineer, Bohler Engineering, and are trying to correct errors.
Bemis and Gately asserted the need to release more units for development by the commission.
“I really think it’s in the best interest of the site for us to continue to put units in and backfill them,” Gately said, noting the improvements made in erosion control. He reiterated Bemis’s concern from the previous meeting that they “are being penalized” by construction delays.
Barnes stressed that appropriate stormwater management is a paramount concern and that documents submitted continue to be “incomplete and inaccurate,” hindering the commission’s ability to make a decision. Some comments still have not been addressed after two months, he said.
Paradis said there were “two different packages” submitted to the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission. Also, some of the work on the plans already has been performed. Commission members said they would like to attend the Planning Board’s site walk on Jan. 9 to get a more complete picture of the project.
The commission voted 4-1 to release two units, with Recos opposed.
Said Recos: “Obviously we all want to get this behind us as soon as we can.”
Frankland Road solar moves forward
By contrast, the hearing regarding changes to the stormwater management plan for the Agilitas solar development project at 69 Frankland Road moved forward much more swiftly. Agilitas previously purchased the property from Seaboard Solar for a 5.8-megawatt commercial solar array at the former Liberty Mutual property.
Nick Facendola, a principal at Level Design Group, represented the applicant. He explained that a modification to the second stormwater basin needed to be made because the excavator discovered Indigenous artifacts.
“We’ve been working with the local tribal representatives,” he said. “There was a new Native American monument identified in this location,” he said. “That’s a monument that was not identified when the initial surveys were done when Seaboard Solar was the owner.”
The monument was discovered after the trees were cleared and is located near the proposed berm, he added.
Also, during the initial excavation, Facendola said that it was discovered that the area “was a large dump site” for topsoil spoilings and boulders. A stormwater infiltration basin cannot be installed in fill material, so it the area would need to be excavated. He called BETA to examine the conditions. This area will be undisturbed.
There now are two smaller sub-basins proposed. He said there is minimal disturbance to the buffer zone. An 8-inch pipe will connect the two basins, which would accept overflow water. There will be one other 8-inch pipe and a small splash pad. There will be a net decrease of 104 feet of undisturbed buffer zone now, according to Facendola.
Said Facendola: “We’re going to protect this area through the remainder of construction.”
The board voted to approve the amended notice of intent (NOI). Member Ted Barker-Hook complimented Facendola on submitting a complete and detailed presentation. Member Janine LeBlanc voted against it because she was against the original NOI.
Mass. Laborer’s project hearings continued
The four hearings regarding the Massachusetts Laborer’s Training facility at 37 East Street were continued to the next meeting on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.