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Conservation Commission, The Trails work on stormwater management compliance issues

by | Jun 26, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Conservation Commission on Tuesday night decided to continue a cease and desist hearing against The Trails at Legacy Farms.

Chair Jeff Barnes said he would work on a “roadmap forward” with Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli that would allow progress on the fourth phase of the development while ensuring that prior stormwater management issues are resolved.

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.

Ciaramicoli noted that a 2023 amended order of conditions required improvements to existing stormwater infrastructure on the third phase of the project. She emphasized a condition that upgrades to two stormwater retention basins had to be completed before any foundations could be laid for the fourth phase.

Although the applicant completed the basin upgrades, neither the commission nor BETA Group, the town’s peer review consultant, was notified of the work being done. This created another wrinkle in what has been viewed as a contentious project.

Ciaramicoli added that BETA has since reviewed the work and has requested further details. Once a response has been received, BETA can reinspect the work and notify Ciaramicoli if the compliance requirement has been met. At that point, the foundation project could move forward.

Another issue was that the developer has yet to pay for the third-party stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) inspections that were required in another condition imposed by the commission. They were completed by Weston & Sampson over the past eight months. A contract for Weston & Sampson’s inspections of the fourth phase “has not been funded,” according to Ciaramicoli.

She added: “The town needs to be reimbursed.”

Ciaramicoli noted that town counsel and the applicant’s attorney have had “successful, positive discussions” about the project.

Owner Vin Gately and project manager Peter Bemis addressed the commission. Gately said that because of the “tremendous results” on the site since November, he had asked Ciaramicoli if the third-party SWPPP reporting still was necessary. He described the financial impact on the project as “devastating” because he doesn’t know when he will be able to lay the foundations.

He added that work on the second basin couldn’t be done until the spring because of the weather.

“We had asked for, you know, some kind of relief here,” said Gately, asking for permission to lay 10 foundations.

Barnes stressed that a third party was needed to do the SWPPP reports because “historically we haven’t been getting that information in a timely fashion.” While the site performance has been better, he said, “it’s still not where it needs to be.”

“It’s not our intent to hold this up for you,” he continued. “But we do have an expectation of how the project needs to be and how we need to proceed … and that certain performance standards need to be met.”

Added Barnes: “This is a self-imposed hardship.”

Replied Gately: “In all due respect, I just don’t agree.”

Barnes said he understood it is “a challenging site.” He will meet with Ciaramicoli and vice chair Melissa Recos to work out what Ciaramicoli called “a roadmap forward” that appeases both sides before the July 16 meeting. In the meantime, Gately will be allowed to use his own consultant for SWPPP reports as a concession.

Proposed pickleball/padel sports complex hearing continued

Yevgeniy Galper appeared before the commission for a notice of intent hearing for a pickleball and padel complex he is hoping to build on East Main Street next to the Fairview Estates development. He presented his proposal to the Planning Board in early June to build an indoor-outdoor facility with 19 courts in total and parking for about 60 cars.

Mitch Maslanka, a wetland scientist with Goddard Consultant, spoke on behalf of the applicant. A forest and bordering vegetated wetlands lie on the outskirts of the property, while a wet meadow edges the site.

He explained that only a small portion of the project extends into the 50-75 foot buffer zone. This is where the infiltration system will be installed. It will be “returned to a meadow state post construction.”

There is also “a small corner” of the outdoor padel court area that is 75-100-foot buffer zone in the meadow area. Further north, a padel court is planned on a small lawn area. The lawn around the court will be used for stormwater conveyance, according to Maslanka.

Landscaping will include the addition of red maple trees between the proposed building and the 50-foot buffer zone. White pines will add to “a significant amount of tree cover” to separate the building from the meadow.

Maslanka added that a considerable amount of the invasive species in the meadow area that will be disturbed during construction “will be destroyed.” The applicant plans on maintaining the land as “an invasive-free area.”

Barnes asked for an invasive species management narrative for a two-year post-construction period. The hearing was continued by a 5-0 vote until the next meeting, when Barnes said he anticipated that it would be approved.

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