Resident Outrage Continues – Brandt Island

It didn’t take long for the public hearing on the Brandt Point Village project to boil over, and Mattapoisett Planning Board Chairman Tom Tucker skillfully held control in spite of vocal resident frustrations. Coming before the Planning Board in a continuation of an earlier hearing was John Williams, attorney and one of the trustees for Brand Island Realty Trust. It is his third attempt to receive an amended permit that would allow the developer of this already permitted cluster housing project to construct only three-bedroom units, abandoning any scheduled two-bedroom units.

Once again, Williams made the case that the developer will upgrade the septic system to a ‘Bio-Clear’ system which he said was vastly more efficient than the simple Title 5 shared system currently in place. He said that with the upgraded system, which will cost approximately $400,000, the existing homes and all future homes on this site would be serviced by a state-of-the-art wastewater purification system – one that is recognized by The Buzzards Bay Coalition.

In a letter drafted by the coalition by their senior attorney, Karin Petersen, the organization outlined their stated goals of overall water protection and that they recognized the proposed ‘Bio-Clear’ system to be superior to Title 5 systems in terms of the amount of nitrogen introduced into the surrounding wetlands and waterways.

Williams said that the DEP would have to approve the installation of the upgraded system, and he felt confident that approval would be received. He said that unlike Title 5 the ‘Bio-Clear’ system could handle the uptick in people that will inhabit the development once all the remaining units are sold as three bedrooms.

He continued to try an assuage concerns by saying that most, if not all, of the homes in the area are serviced by Title 5 septic systems, many of which are within 100 feet or less of fresh water wells, so his proposal is better than what is already in use along this coastal residential area.

That did not win him many fans in a crowd that clearly felt toxic regarding the development.

As for the Planning Board members, only Karen Fields and Mary Crain asked questions of Williams and his engineer, Al Lomis, of McKenzie Engineering. Fields asked if the ‘Bio-Clear’ system would make any noise, if it would have a leaching field, and would FEMA’s new flood maps come into play. Fields was told that there would be no discernable noise, that there would be a leaching field, and that FEMA mapping would not impact whether the development could move forward. She was further advised that the upgraded system would be maintained by a state-licensed operator. The operator would report to the homeowners’ association and state regulators. It is the association who ultimately would be responsible for everything that happened at the site. She also asked what provisions would be made for parking cars. It was pointed out that the homes had garages and driveways and that certainly, as in other areas, some cars might be parked on the streets associated with the development.

Of all those who took a turn at trying to persuade the board to turn down the amendment, none was more succinct than Gina Shorrock of 4 Gary Lane.

Shorrock, who qualified her comments and questions by first stating that she had been in real estate and understood the processes involved, said she had contacted the DEP. She said that she had a good conversation with them and that they seemed to favor a new hydrological study of the development area. She said, “I don’t feel that the town has our back.” Her stated concerns were an overloading of wastewater into the aquifer and storm water run off. She urged the board to require that the developer put up a bond that could protect residents in the area should damages result.

Of the more contentious residents to speak, none voiced more outrage than Mike Rocha, 6 Gary Lane, who at one point said, “I’m ready to vote no confidence of this board right now!” Prior to that outburst he said, “Why don’t you put up a bond to protect our wells … protect the people that have been here for 20-30 years?”

Others making variations on the same themes of fresh water issues, wastewater issues and storm water issues were Joyce Almedia, 1 Dupont Drive; Goeffrey King, 9 Birchwood; Paul Osenkowski, 8 Oaklawn Avenue; Rich Coty, 5 Gary Drive; Fred Reusch, 9 Gary Drive; and Lisa Winsor, 1 Dupont Drive.

Also on hand were residents of River Road who recently spent time with the Conservation Commission regarding storm water issues from the Appaloosa Way development. They were not heard this night.

Highway Superintendent Barry Denham was also in attendance, bringing his experienced voice to the issue of storm water run off. He said that he had been to the site on numerous occasions, and that the brook that is part of the storm water management system for the development was, in fact, not adequate to the task now that all the storm water in the area is being directed into it. He said that previously a larger re-charge space had been part of the overall natural drainage in the area, but that now with the development’s drainage system, it was flowing directly into the brook. Denham said, however, “It is not their job to fix drainage problems off site.”

Both Chairman Tucker and board member Ron Merlo attempted to outline for the assembled what boards were responsible for what types of oversight, saying that the Conservation Commission was responsible for wetland issues and that the Planning Board really had very little power over anything as long as ConCom, the Board of Health, and the building inspector had all signed off on a project.

This did not go down well with residents that heretofore had already visited ConCom with their numerous concerns. Tucker said, “We are not the enforcing agent.” He said that the building inspector, Andy Bobola, was the code enforcement officer and that if they wished to discuss matters further, the “…buck stops with the Board of Selectmen.”

The hearing was continued until June 2 at 7:00 pm and will again be held at Old Hammondtown School to accommodate what is anticipated to be a larger than normal gathering for a Planning Board meeting.

By Marilou Newell


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