When Mattapoisett Tree Warden Roland Cote recently passed a construction site on North Street, he was surprised to find all the trees and a historic stone wall removed. On October 2, Cote went before the members of the Mattapoisett Planning Board to describe the clear cutting, accompanied by Tree Committee Chairman Sandy Hering and Highway Superintendent Barry Denham.
Coming forward on behalf of the contractor performing the work at 167 North Street was Lee Castagnetti of Long Built Homes. Castagnetti began first by saying, “I’m here with deep apologies. We were not aware it was a scenic highway or that we’d violated any regulations. My apologies can’t reverse that, but we are here to provide a remedy.”
The degree of damage was then brought to light as Cote said at least nine mature pine trees and two ash trees along with a stone wall he described as having been in place since “King George’s time” had been removed.
Acting Planning Board Chairman Nathan Ketchell asked Castagnetti how many homes Long Built had constructed in Mattapoisett. Castagnetti was unsure.
Cote said, “I was surprised what happened to the trees. I brought Mike Gagne (town administrator) to look. He knows someone at Long Built.” He said the Town was looking at having the trees replaced along with the stone wall.
Denham presented a driveway plan that the Highway Department had approved showing the stone wall and trees were to have remained in place. He also explained that a drainage swale critical to proper stormwater management on the roadway had been disrupted. “It looks strange when you drive down the street now with the stone walls and trees all gone,” he said.
Hering said the Tree Committee was ready to work with Cote and Long Built to develop a planting plan to “naturalize the site.”
Cote said that first the swale and stone wall would have to be repaired, and then the trees planted.
Planning Board member Janice Robbins asked, “Who’s the responsible party?”
Castagnetti responded, “It was our action. We accept responsibility for the misdeed. We should have understood what was to have been done.”
Robbins asked, “What about the property owners?” It was ascertained that the property owners had not been contacted regarding the matter, but Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain said she would contact them.
Ketchell suggested that Castagnetti look at historic pictures of the area to determine how the stone wall should be placed along the property line and North Street, and asked him to return on October 16 with a plan for the stone wall and swale and to move forward working with Cote and Hering on tree planting.
Earlier in the evening, the board re-opened a continued hearing for a single lot subdivision off Randall Road owned by Gingras Nominee Trust.
The board spent two hours discussing waivers requested by Al Ewing of Ewing Engineering that would have approved the construction of a 16-foot wide gravel roadway with a hammerhead turn-around for the single-family home planned for the lot.
But forward movement slowed to a snail’s pace as the board members labored over regulations governing lot subdivision, the proposed waivers, and future development that might take place beyond the scope of the current application.
Robbins was insistent that the proposed road necessary to give the lot frontage was adequate, especially when considering any future additional development that might take place on the large parcel. “Why should we be approving a driveway as a road?” She said there were no guarantees that 40B housing would not be planned in the future that would ultimately render the proposed roadway insufficient.
Board member Gail Carlson voiced her concerns as well, saying, “I’m looking at the slope of the gravel road and the width.”
Ewing said the approved zoning and permitting had been for a single lot, single-family home, and that included water and sewer permits.
Robbins countered, “But that’s not cast in stone. The road could be extended to create frontage.” She said, “We’re signing off on a sub-standard road … It’s a driveway.”
As the hearing continued, the board members debated the merits of four pages of waiver requests, returning repeatedly to the topic of the lack of a stormwater drainage plan.
Crain shared a letter she had received from Fire Chief Andrew Murray commenting that the roadway with hammerhead turn-around was acceptable as proposed. But Robbins said she needed clarification regarding clearing around the hammerhead and the need to ensure that area could support heavy emergency vehicles.
Regarding other requested waivers, the board members allowed underground utilities to be placed in the middle of the roadway, while waiving parking, sidewalks, easements, and open space requirements.
Ewing was asked to return with drainage calculations for stormwater management, and plan modifications that included swales and clarification on clearance for the hammerhead.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for October 16 at 7:00 pm in the Mattapoisett Town Hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell