As cold and raw as the evening was outside on November 13, it was the contrary – heated and heavy – inside the Mattapoisett Town Hall conference room when the continuation of Dennis Arsenault’s Notice of Intent filing for a subdivision at the end of Snow Fields Road was reopened.
Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold had been instructed by Conservation Commission Chairman Michael King at the end of the October hearing to send out Requests For Proposals for peer review, under Massachusetts Law 53G, of the drainage report submitted by David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates. However, the letter Leidhold sent expanded the scope of the review to a more comprehensive overall study of the proposed project.
Leidhold had in good faith included information about whether or not the project qualified for the terms and conditions provided in the Wetlands Protection Act for a “limited project.”
Once the error was discovered, Davignon, Leidhold, and King agreed to disclose the error and rewrite the RFP in the public meeting forum.
However, before the mistake was fully vetted, many minutes of tense discourse between King and the abutters took place.
The abutters had expressed their concerns beginning in August when the application was first heard. Their concerns centered on the filling of wetlands and the construction of a long roadway or driveway into what is locally called Haskell’s Swamp.
The neighbors joined forces in questioning King’s impartiality in handling the application when he was found to have had conversations with several municipal department heads regarding the project – conversations outside the public meeting forum. Collectively, many of the residents of the Snow Fields development sent a package to the Board of Selectmen containing what they believed to be evidence of King’s inability to handle the application solely based on the upholding of the Wetlands Protect Act and requested that he recuse himself from the hearing.
Town Administrator Michael Gagne then sent a letter to King in which he advised King that the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission had been contacted to investigate King’s actions, but did not explicitly ask for his recusal.
King did not recuse himself, but instead attested his innocence at a subsequent hearing, citing his desire to simply understand all sides of the application. On this night, King brought all that up again.
Before Leidhold confirmed that she had, in fact, made a mistake, abutters David Markowski, Faulkner Besancon, and Andrea Osborne questioned why the RFP was being modified now. Markowski went so far as to say that some of the engineers who had responded to the RFP that was mistakenly sent out had contended that the project did not meet the scope of a “limited project.”
Davignon explained that after reviewing the videotape from the previous meeting, he requested that the letter be corrected to only include the stormwater analysis and drainage study and nothing more. He said the applicant had already paid for those engineering functions and would be paying for the peer review certification – in essence, paying twice for the same thing.
King explained that the commission was still gathering information and getting all the puzzle pieces together before a full review could take place.
King then told the abutters, “Your neighborhood, – before the project was even presented to us – your neighborhood asserted to the selectmen that I had a financial interest in this project.”
The abutters who had been signatories on the letter submitted to the town administrator denied they ever inferred King’s financial involvement.
Markowski said, “I don’t know why you are spinning this discussion in this direction.… That’s hitting below the belt.”
King said that he volunteers to be on the commission due to his love for Mattapoisett, but he also said that on a personal level he believes in the rights of property owners to do what they want with their own property.
Tense exchanges between the three abutters and King continued for several minutes before, again, Leidhold confirmed she had made a mistake.
Changes to the RFP were made to keep the scope of engineering oversight to stormwater analysis and the drainage plan.
The hearing was continued.
Earlier in the evening, Bruce Rocha represented by Rick Charon of Charon Engineering received conditions for his Notice of Intent filing for property located at 14 Barstow Street, ending several long hearings that were at times contentious as abutters’ concerns regarding stormwater runoff designs were debated.
Also during the meeting, Bob Rogers of G.A.F. Engineering representing the Antassawamock Club received an Order of Conditions for a Notice of Intent filing for upgrades to a swing set and posts for a fabric awning in jurisdictional beach areas.
Matthew Buckley, 107 Acushnet Road, received a Negative Determination for his Request for Determination of Applicability for paving of an existing gravel driveway, as did Linda Brownell for a Chapter 91 filing for property located at 18 Grand Avenue.
Dos Amigos, Dupont Drive, received an Order of Conditions for a NOI filing for the construction of a four-bedroom home with associated well and septic system, as did Debra Blais, 44 Pico Beach Road, for minor improvements and vegetation plan for beachfront property.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for December 12 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell