King Declines Recusal From Swamp Subdivision

The October 23 meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission was at times contentious when the Notice of Intent hearing filed by Dennis Arsenault for property located at the end of Snow Fields Road was opened, and then Bruce Rocha returned with his NOI for the former Presto Press property.

Before allowing the applicant’s representative to speak regarding the Snow Fields project, Chairman Mike King directed that correspondence from the Board of Selectmen and from the abutters relevant to the project be logged into the record.

Those documents included a letter from Town Administrator Michael Gagne regarding possible ethics violations on the part of King, another from abutters voicing concerns and asking that King recuse himself from hearing the application, a letter from Southeast District Supervisor of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Jason Zimmer, as well as emails from King to various parties responding to those concerns – some 33 pages in total.

Gagne’s letter, which King had shared with media, read in part, “I have been advised that you have gone to a town official and lobbied on behalf of the applicant in the Snowfield Drive Project currently before the Conservation Commission in hopes of getting that department’s favorable support for this project.” The letter goes on to say that the allegation will be turned over to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission for investigation. Gagne does not ask for King’s recusal, noting that the decision was King’s alone to make and that the letter was a “courtesy” to King, given the allegation.

On this point, King said he had not lobbied on behalf of the applicant, had no financial involvement with the outcome of the application, and had simply sought to understand all sides of the project before the commission.

“I volunteer to do this because I’m passionate … My role is to understand all sides,” King said, adding, “I will not be recusing myself.”

Davignon then described the 40-foot wide cul-de-sac that would be located at what is now the dead-end of Snow Fields Road, to provide frontage to the upland lots and public safety to the residents, and then the 826-foot long private driveway that would extend into the wetlands culminating at the uplands where two house lots would be situated. A fire hydrant is located at the current dead-end and private water wells are planned for the residential lots.

Davignon said that given the size of the two-to-one replication area, a total of approximately 27,000 square feet, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would need to permit the project. The hearing was then opened to public comment.

Pam Lafreniere, an abutter whose property is contiguous to the proposed cul-de-sac and private driveway, addressed King and Davignon vehemently, saying that the cul-de-sac would also be private unless or until the town moved to accept it at a future town meeting; thus, public safety couldn’t be assured. She also asserted that King had, in fact, lobbied on behalf of the applicant and that his job was to protect the wetlands. King confirmed that saying, “Yes, that’s why we are here.”

After about 30 minutes of debate, the hearing was continued until November 13, pending habitat studies and comments from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Rick Charon of Charon Associates, Inc. returned representing Bruce Rocha’s Notice of Intent application, continuances for properties located at 14 and 16 Barstow Street, presently empty lots.

In prior hearings, abutters had expressed concern over the amount and quality of fill that had been placed on the property. After nearly an hour of additional discussion that oftentimes found Rocha and Charon defending the placement of fill on the property, the hearing for 14 Barstow Street was continued for further drainage study, and 16 Barstow was conditioned for construction.

Also coming before the commission in a continued hearing was the Mattapoisett Bike Path. Once again representing the town was Susan Nilson of CLE Engineering. Nilson and the commissioners discussed comments from various authorizing agencies regarding environmental issues and the need for the project to receive conditions before applying for a Chapter 91 permit.

The public hearing was closed and King instructed Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold to draft an Order of Conditions for their review.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for November 13 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.

Mattapoisett Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell


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