The Open Space Preservation Commission at its meeting Thursday night stressed the importance of delineating boundary lines on properties with conservation restrictions to prevent developer encroachment.
Trails Committee member Chuck Dauchy said that signage is required at the Chamberlain-Whalen property for trails that were moved by the developer. Now that the subdivision is being built out, he said erecting signage has become increasingly important to indicate that the trails are under the purview of the OSPC.
A conversation arose about the need for signs at trailheads. Some of the trails may not yet have names, but signs indicating where they lead would be appropriate.
Member Jane Moran explained that there is a protocol for naming trails, one being that trail names have to have historical significance. She took on the project of reaching out to contractors for price estimates.
A question arose as to whether all of the trails are on town property. Dauchy explained that some private properties are under consideration for easements as part of the Upper Charles Trail western alternative route.
“This boundary thing has been an ongoing issue with certificates of occupancy,” chair Ed Harrow explained. “Boundaries have not been clearly marked for buffer zones and things like that.”
In one instance, he explained, a gazebo was built on top of a patio on land that actually was under a conservation restriction. In another, a shed and a patio were put up in a no-build zone. The structures had to be torn down.
Said Harrow: “It was an angst-filled ordeal.”
Added Dauchy: “If the boundaries are removed during construction, that suggests that there is something very wrong in the first place.”
The northern end of the Chamberlain cul-de-sac would connect to trails at Berry Acres, he added. Some of the upland trails there actually are on land owned by Eversource.
Member Steve Levandosky stressed that all boundaries should be marked. He also added that it is important to either come up with a name for the parcel that was under discussion or absorb it into Berry Acres.
Desire for centralized source of information raised
Commission members spoke about the need to have a centralized source of information for all town-owned properties and those that are either available or were previously sought for town purchase. Member Nancy Peters started compiling this information. Their vision includes information such as deeds, conservation restrictions, dates of sale, prices and who was in charge of the transaction.
This information, Harrow said, would help to understand the histories of properties and what may be available for town purchase.
“I think what you’re looking for is a master inventory list of town-owned properties,” said Moran, adding that it could include property histories.
Harrow said he would draft a letter to the Select Board that expresses this need. Levandosky called it “a massive project.”
Mowing planned for Whitehall conservation land
Harrow said that the Whitehall conservation land is scheduled to be mowed “in the next week or so.” It was previously mowed in the spring but has since become overgrown with bittersweet and Japanese knotweed.
Japanese knotweed has been a pervasive problem in town. To help combat it at Whitehall last year, a licensed herbicide applicator recommended by Weston Nurseries was hired after the OSPC received approvals from the Board of Health, the Department of Public Works and the Water Department.
To get the herbicide deep within the plant, the top of the stalk is cut off, and the herbicide is injected into it, Harrow explained.
“Typically, it’s a three-year process,” he said, noting that there already is an observable decrease in this invasive plant.
An issue that recently occurred there involved a skid steer that drove through the land to spread wood chips over the roots of a maple tree at the request of the Friends of Whitehall. Harrow said he was contacted because no prior notice was given and that the skid steer drove onto an abutter’s driveway.
Need for budgets to be included in grant agreements addressed
Shannon Soares, the Land Use Department’s administrative assistant, told the committee that the Community Preservation Commission, under the advice of town counsel, said that all grants must include a budget with estimates and contingencies before any money can be spent.
The OSPC will prepare a budget for its boundary-marking project to present at the next CPC meeting on Aug. 24.
On a related note, Levandosky was voted to another term as the OSPC’s CPC liaison.