The impetus for the illegal clearing of dozens of trees at Christopher Faustino, Jr. and Britney Ashley’s property at 510 New Bedford Road was property insurance, according to the couple’s representative, Rick Charon from Charon Associates.
According to Charon, the property owners’ insurance provider had concerns over some trees located near the house that could fall and damage the structure, and Charon claimed the insurance company would not renew the insurance policy unless the potential tree damage was mitigated.
Rochester Conservation Commission Chairman Rosemary Smith pointed out, though, that this would only address the trees near the house, and not those that were cut down within the 800 square-foot intrusion into the property’s wetlands.
The couple hired Faustino & Sons Logging Company to cut down trees within the 100-foot buffer zone, and some within the 25-foot “no touch” zone. The work was done without ConCom approval and without a state issued forest management plan.
Replication will be required for the unpermitted work, but the commission refrained from addressing the matter until the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program assesses whether natural habitats of protected and endangered species of flora and fauna were or could be disturbed under a subsequent forest management plan.
Charon said the altered resource area is currently stabilized.
On behalf of Robin Brown, an abutter at 508 New Bedford Road, Shane Wright asked Charon to point out the property line in relation to the work line on the delineation map, alleging there was a disturbance to Brown’s property.
“There’s a tiny intrusion here,” said Charon, pointing to a small area where trees were cleared from Brown’s property.
Is it not the workers’ job to know where the property line is, Wright asked.
“If there is an intrusion, it’s a very minor intrusion,” said Charon.
“You can’t argue the fact that they should’ve known,” said ConCom member John Teal. “They made a mistake.”
Faustino Jr. said the intent for the cleared area is for a larger piece of yard, and the rest of the tree harvesting would be for firewood.
Brown submitted a letter expressing her concerns, starting with the new open clearing in the forest on the Faustino and Ashley side of the property line.
“Since Faustino and Sons is a well known long-established local logging company based in Rochester, I know that they are well aware of the laws pertaining to wetlands … boundary lines and trespassing,” reads Brown’s letter. “Therefore I was very upset and concerned to learn that they had in fact trespassed on my property and cut my trees along the wetland border.” She added that it was “deliberate.”
Faustino had concerns about jumping the gun on a restoration plan, when a subsequent forest management plan might call for cutting down the plants and trees replicated.
“I didn’t think we did anything wrong because I was told that was the [boundary] of the buffer zone,” said Faustino. “We didn’t know.”
The matter was continued until August 5 to give time to hear back from Natural Heritage.
Also at the meeting, the commission issued a Negative 3 for two lots belonging to Bruce Maksy, Jr. on Dexter Lane, meaning the work done will not alter the resource areas and no Notice of Intent is required.
Maksy plans to construct a house on each lot, as well as related work within the 100-foot buffer zone, adding that he was considering placing a conservation restriction on the areas of a lot that is home to a bog pond to preserve it and ensure it is properly maintained as per the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
The commission continued the hearing for Kei Lau of 566 Snipatuit Road to install a 4 foot by 54 foot dock, two 4 foot by 12 foot ramps, repair the existing seaplane hangar and stairway, and remove trees within the wetlands.
“We do not have the go-ahead from Natural Heritage at this point,” said Charon, also representing Lau. The hearing was continued until July 15.
The next Rochester Conservation Commission meeting will be July 15 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
By Jean Perry