ConCom, Developer Ready for Wetlands Solution

“I’m not interested” isn’t the direction that those present for the proposed Village at Plumb Corner age-restricted housing development were hoping for at the November 20 Rochester Conservation Commission meeting, but that’s what Chairman Mike Conway told one attorney and engineer as the continued public hearing was again opened.

Conway wasn’t interested in anything that didn’t directly pertain to the Notice of Intent, which didn’t include an explanation from the property owner’s attorney Peter Paul. In fact, Conway wasn’t interested in discussing the NOI at all unless abutters were re-notified beforehand.

“This has been continued for six times,” said Conway. “For us to talk about the merits of the [NOI] today,” you need to notify abutters all over again, he told them. All Conway wanted to talk about that night was the illicit discharge of stormwater into the wetlands behind the property, and that wasn’t until later in the agenda.

In the meantime, John Churchill on behalf of REpurpose Properties continued the hearing until January 22 and agreed to notify the abutters.

Later, after the rest of the agenda was done, Brian Wallace gave an overview of the four current options for stormwater control and how each one would impact the existing wetlands. With an outstanding incomplete Order of Conditions from the 1990s still hanging over the project, it seemed as though the developer could do nothing that both the commission and the Planning Board would approve of. Nonetheless, one of the options – at least a possible hybrid of two of them – appealed to the commission.

Currently there is no treatment of the stormwater runoff from Plumb Corner Mall before it flows into the wetlands, and both the developer and his engineers are hoping that an option to filtrate the stormwater that now passes into the wetlands would be acceptable to the commission instead of diverting it, a concern the commission also had as a decrease in water flow would likely impact the wetlands to some unknown degree.

Although the wetlands appear to be ground-fed, they have grown in size since the Plumb Corner Mall project. The pipe that fed the untreated stormwater was only discovered recently, said Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon, and the original order for the plan was never completed.

Churchill repeated often that it was his preference to mirror what was happening now, and offered to file a new NOI in order to get the project moving forward again. Only this time, he said, “We will be able control how much water – treated water – gets put into that [wetlands]. … We have the ability and controls in place to be able to do that.”

The discussion included other options that include catch basins and diverting the stormwater into a field and simply allowing it to infiltrate into the ground, but all the group really needed that night was direction from the commission.

“Are we on the right page?” Churchill asked. “Because we’ve been spinning our wheels for five months – not because of your board, but because we’ve been spinning our wheels on how to come up with a solution that became our client’s [problem].”

According to Farinon, the wetlands support vernal pool species, observed during a springtime visit to the site. Clearly, maintaining this wetland is a priority for the commission.

As Churchill emphasized, he prefers to eliminate the pollutants from the discharge and make it clean before it hits the wetlands. Farinon acknowledged that the group was at a critical stage in the planning process and really needed the commission to provide the direction the group asked for moving forward.

“My opinion on this is, design the storage you need to meet the current flows to that wetland,” said commission member Daniel Gagne. “Get the same amount of water, clean – provide scour protection. That is, I think, a reasonable solution.”

“That’s on board with what the consultant with the Planning Board would want,” said Churchill.

“We don’t want a design that’s going to cut [the wetlands] off and turn it into something else, or impair its capacity to continue to serve as a vernal pool,” said Farinon.

Town Planner Steve Starrett spoke in defense of REpurpose et al., saying, “These gentlemen are actually spending a lot of time and effort on this project. … We’re looking for direction. We have to make a decision [relative to] what the Conservation really wants to do.”

Conway told Churchill to file a new NOI in the end, and the commission agreed to seek advice from town counsel on how to handle the existing OOC as the commission moves forward with the applicant.

In other matters, at Farinon’s recommendation, the commission approved the Notice of Intent for Joseph Longo of CorGo LLC, to build a single-family house, driveway, septic system, and drinking water well at 91 Sarah Sherman Road, within the 100-foot buffer zone of the wetlands, and a portion of the work within the 200-foot Outer Riparian Zone of Sherman Brook. The commission added the special condition that a pre-construction meeting be held prior to commencement of work.

Also during the meeting, Conway gave engineer Bob Rogers some flak for an outstanding 21-year-old incomplete Order of Conditions after a Certificate of Compliance was requested by applicant Decas Real Estate Trust for 15 Cranberry Highway for two commercial buildings, parking, drainage, and utilities. Some of the specs from the original plan deviated in some ways as reported by engineering consultant Bill Madden. Rogers said it wasn’t like he was there to just “let us off the hook” so the property owner could move ahead with selling the property; rather, he continued, “I just wanted to put all our cards on the table.” The hearing was continued until December 18.

The commission approved a request for a Certificate of Compliance for Waterman Realty Trust for 802 Walnut Plain Road for single-family house, driveway, and grading.

At the request of applicant Steve Long from Borrego Solar Systems, the public hearing for an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation at 75 Vaughan Hill Road was continued until December 4.

The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for December 4 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Conservation Commission

By Jean Perry

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