ConCom Emphasizes Dune Preservation

            It was a long night for the Marion Conservation Commission on September 25, and one filing proved to be complex due to various discrepancies between the engineer’s plan and what is actually allowed under the Wetlands Protection Act.

            Kathleen Welch’s Notice of Intent contains a variety of activities including an after-the-fact plan to restore 845 feet of the property within the 100-foot buffer of a coastal dune that was altered with fill. Welch’s engineer, Dave Newhall, also proposed some invasive species management within and near the dune in addition to a kayak rack, raised planting bed, picket fence, 12’x12’ patio, walkway, and landscaping at 82 West Avenue.

            Commission member Shaun Walsh pointed out that revisions to the plan now propose a smaller area of restoration – 435 feet – nearly half the size stated in the NOI.

            “I’m trying to understand why there’s such a major reduction in the amount of area to be restored,” said Walsh. He further pointed out that “probably 50 percent of the property” appeared to have been altered with fill brought in to create a lawn, which is not marked on the plan.

            “When you file a [Notice of Intent] for a site like this [it is standard] to reflect the area of all the resources that were impacted,” Walsh said. “It wasn’t just dune or beach.

            “That’s something that’s going to have to be addressed in the record… to reflect the fact that this portion of the site that was jurisdictional was altered.”

            Walsh wanted Newhall to estimate the square footage of the altered area and pointed out that, without a confirmation letter from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, the hearing would have to be continued. He then turned his attention to the vegetation management plan for the invasive species that included a proposal to either selectively remove or flush cut existing red cedar trees and an oak tree sapling.

            “I have a real concern about flush cutting or removing of trees from a coastal dune,” said Walsh. The Wetlands Protection Act prohibits the destruction of vegetation that could affect the dune, he said, because the root systems help anchor the dune and keep it from washing away during storms. “It’s very concerning to me that there’s a proposal to remove vegetation from a dune that might destabilize that, so I would not be in favor of that part of the vegetation plan.”

            One option is for the commission to approve some parts of the plan while denying others, something Newhall didn’t object to.

            “In terms of pruning a bush or a tree, that might be something that the commission could permit,” said Walsh, as long as it does not adversely affect the health of tree or destabilize the ground.

            As for the oak sapling, Walsh said, that stays put. It’s just how Mother Nature works, he said. “A seed blew in, a seed took root, and you’ve got a small oak there now – that’s a good thing because, understand that that coastal dune is helping to protect your property and, at some point in the future, there will be a storm that will come up your yard and toward your house and having it protected by a coastal dune is a good thing.”

            Walsh was still concerned about the red cedars that the plan proposes to be removed and replaced with another species.

            “Here’s an issue that I have – and not necessarily with you sir – but, I think, with your client,” said commission member Cynthia Callow. “I would be hesitant to allow any pruning, trimming, on anything because of the history of this particular project… I understand that fill was brought in. The property owner should know when fill is brought in and I think that the Order of Conditions is not checked properly and I think that is a concern with me.

            “Before I would be okay and comfortable with things, we need a letter from Natural Heritage… and we need to make sure that everything is dotted and crossed so that we educate the client so that it doesn’t – so things don’t happen again. I’m not saying that anything was done on purpose,” she continued, “but knowledge is a good thing to have.”

            The hearing was continued until October 8.

            In other matters, the commission had to continue the public hearing for Elizabeth and William Weber Jr., 21 East Avenue, for an NOI to reconstruct a stone riprap boulder seawall starting with toe stones at seaward base and ending with capstones at the top. The commission asked engineer David Davignon to take some time to revise the plan by documenting the correct seawall license number.

            The property has already been issued an Order of Conditions for the removal of a small cottage and construction of a larger house.

            According to Davignon, the concrete seawall is slumped and casting debris on the shoreline. The plan is to pull out the dilapidated concrete and reconstruct the seawall at a consistent slope. The hearing was continued until October 9.

            Also during the meeting, the commission closed the public hearing and issued an Order of Conditions to 22 Cove Street, LLC for a Notice of Intent to subdivide 3.61 acres into three buildable lots off Beach Street and Converse Road. After a series of continuations, engineer David Davignon presented a set of final revised plans featuring some minor changes since the last time Davignon appeared before the ConCom in August. The peer-review engineer issued a letter with comments, and correspondence from the Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that the stormwater design is in compliance with DEP regulations.

            The commission issued a Negative 2 determination for the Request for Determination of Applicability filed by Rosemary Kotkowski to install an underground 320-gallon propane tank to fuel a house at 78 West Avenue. The commission lauded the applicant for applying for approval before moving ahead with the work.

            Ann Ianuzzi, Kristen Keith, and Christine Assad received a Negative 2 determination for their RDA to treat invasive species in tandem with the Town of Marion at Sprague’s Cove at their abutting properties: 9 and 15 Shell Heap Road, and 31 Cove Street. The work will not convene until next year during the appropriate time to treat phragmites.

            The project received approval with an Order of Conditions with some special conditions.

            In other business, the commission signed a permit extension for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for the work being done on Route 6.

            The next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is scheduled for October 9 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

Marion Conservation Commission

By Jean Perry

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