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Stormwater management issues dominate Planning Board discussion

by | May 14, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Following a prolonged discussion, the Planning Board at its meeting Monday voted 5-0 to approve the stormwater management permit request for the Elmwood Farms III subdivision after reviewing new plans.

The developer provided updated plans shortly before the meeting regarding the subdivision off Blueberry Lane. In this iteration, Fitch Avenue and Myrtle Avenue would be kept private to avoid overtaxing the town’s stormwater management system, according to Ted Merchant, who represented the developer.

He noted that the previous plan showed footing drains that connected into the roadway drainage system. But a town bylaw will not allow that configuration.

Making the roadways private would require the homeowners association to provide the road and infrastructure maintenance, chair Gary Trendel stressed. Merchant said this is done at several subdivisions he has built in town.

Department of Public Works Director Kerry Reed explained there have been ongoing water problems at the site. She also was concerned with the number of private connections to the town drainage system proposed. She stressed that buyers should be made aware of the lack of town services that comes with living on a private road before they make a purchase.

One alternative Merchant proposed was putting sump pumps in all the new homes, but “we try to avoid that at all costs.”  Another option was “overland easements,” which he said “proved bulky on the site.”

Said Trendel: “None of these options are really dealing with the problem of the water on the site itself.”

The two current connections to the road would be maintained, Merchant said, as well as perimeter connections previously approved by the Conservation Commission.

Member Parker Happ suggested not building one of the proposed homes. Instead, he said the lot could be used for groundwater penetration.

Replied Merchant: “Not interested in doing that.”

Members expressed concerns about the water still eventually running into the town system as well as a potential future request to make the roads public. Principal Planner John Gelcich suggested documenting the rationale for this decision so that it can easily be referenced as a means of complying with the current regulations.

“If it’s what we’ve got to do to, it’s what we’ve got to do,” said vice chair Rob Benson. “But it sure doesn’t feel good.”

A finding noted that a public access easement is required to allow for access to EMC Park because the rights-of-way now will be on private ways.

Board to request developers to rectify water runoff damage to Wilson Street

Gelcich provided a letter from Reed referring to drainage issues from a detention basin located at the intersection of Legacy Farms North and Wilson Street on property owned by developer Roy MacDowell. While the detention basin was constructed according to plans previously approved by the Planning Board, it continues to present drainage issues that have caused damage to the roadway.

He added that runoff also has been coming from The Trails, which he said has been “a long-term issue” that at this point “is thought to be causing damage on Wilson Street.”

The 80-unit open-space mixed-use development (OSMUD) off Legacy Farms North Road, between Wilson Street and the Ashland border, has been plagued by stormwater management issues that have negatively impacted the water system in Ashland.

Violations first were issued by the Conservation Commission in the summer of 2021. The fines were held in abeyance until 2023, when subsequent violations occurred. In January, The Trails LLC filed a lawsuit against the Conservation Commission in Middlesex County District Court.

While there is a bond held by the town for The Trails for $75,000 in case damages occur, Reed requested in a letter that the amount be increased “to at least $300,000 for roadway repairs.”

Reed told the board that she, Gelcich, the project inspector and the Conservation Commission have been trying to work with The Trails’ developer, “but he has not been receptive.”

“It’s getting to the point where we’re going to have to do something,” she said. “And it doesn’t feel right to spend the town’s money to fix a problem that we know is coming off a construction site.”

Gelcich recommended that both developers be asked to appear before the Planning Board to resolve the issue.

Trendel described the rut in the road and the erosion on Wilson Street as “probably a foot deep.”

He recommended that Gelcich reach out to Ashland’s Planning Board and Conservation Commission for a statement addressing their concerns stemming from The Trails. Additionally, he said the developers should be prepared at the June 3 meeting to discuss “putting forward some substantial effort to correct some of their past failures.”

Hopkins Lower Middle School review continued

The board decided to continue its major project site plan review and stormwater management permit hearing for the Hopkins Lower Middle School after discussing the proposal for the site at 90 and 104 Hayden Rowe Street.

Benson chaired this portion of the meeting, as Trendel is an abutter to the project.

Consultant Christopher Eberly said that he was before the board to explain the results of the recent site walk and peer review. He also noted that he had questions about issues raised by the peer review consultant in a letter he received last week. The construction documents are expected to be completed in late June.

Some items brought up during the site walk were curb construction materials and the possibility of adding more border trees to block the view of the school from abutting homes.

One change to the design Eberly mentioned was to the “wonky entrance” into the front parking lot. Now proposed is a single entrance at the approach to the building. Two sets of lanes will allow for efficient student drop-off and pickup. The fire lane will be moved away from the existing building and be accessed by gates.

Eberly requested copies of the originally approved plans for the current Hopkins building to see if there were any conditions imposed at that time that could affect his plans.

Questions about parking lot landscaping, the amount of impervious surface and the building’s height will be addressed at the next meeting on June 3. Variances may be needed. Before this meeting, the project team will have an opportunity to iron out concerns with the peer review consultant.

Trendel bids farewell to board

This was Trendel’s last meeting as Planning Board chair, as he has chosen not to seek reelection. He has served on the board for six years and said he honed his skills as a facilitator and listener during his tenure.

He thanked his board colleagues and Gelcich for their dedication. He also commended three of his mentors who formerly served on the board: Muriel Kramer, Fran DeYoung and Ken Weismantel.

“Most people don’t appreciate the importance of volunteerism in running a town like Hopkinton,” said Trendel. “And all of you show up week after week to do your service.”

The benefits to the entire town should be foremost in board members’ minds when considering a project, he stressed.

Said Trendel: “NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard] is the enemy of good planning.”

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