A site visit on Monday, February 3, to a construction project at the edge of designated wetlands resulted in the domination of new business at the meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission on Tuesday, February 4, at Town Hall.
Environmental Planner/Conservation Agent Laurell J. Farinon presented the commission with a report on her findings a day after visiting the site, a wooded area at 45 Kings Highway, from which it was determined that Jacobs Engineering acted in violation of the Mass Wetlands Protection Act (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 131, Section 40).
The construction firm contracted by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) was ruled to have overextended its rights and failed to consult with or seek approval from the Conservation Commission before clearing areas in a buffer zone up against wetlands.
“What I found was earth working grading up to area of wetlands,” explained Farinon, who had spoken to Chairman Michael Conway and gained permission to bring it up in Tuesday’s meeting as new business. “This came up (Monday) … it’s timely and it needed to be addressed.”
Farinon could have signed an enforcement order that Conway would present at the commission’s next meeting on February 18, but the matter was considered too urgent to delay so it now has the entire commission’s signatures. Farinon took photographs at the site and presented them to members of the commission at Tuesday night’s meeting.
On Tuesday afternoon, Farinon met with two representatives of the MBTA, Kyle Purdy, senior scientist, and Peter Cruz, project manager, who represented Jacobs Engineering at the Commission meeting. Cruz described the area as Jacobs Engineering found it.
The commission ordered an immediate cease-and-desist to the permitted contractor and all others from any activity affecting the 100-foot buffer zone and/or resource areas.
At the site on Monday afternoon, Farinon had issued a verbal cease-and-desist, shutting down the project so the contractor was not allowed to remove its equipment from the site. This was deleted from the written order. It was Farinon’s understanding that the cease-and-desist was being followed.
The order presented at Tuesday night’s meeting included the stipulation that all resource areas shall be returned to their original condition, and a restoration plan shall be filed on or before February 28, 2020 that shows restoration of the 25-foot, no-disturb zone. In addition to further stipulations, no further work shall be allowed without a public hearing.
Vice Chairman Daniel Gagne itemized requirements for Jacobs Engineering as a starting point to repair the situation.
Addressing the commission along with Purdy and Cruz, Farinon expressed her disappointment at the situation, noting the effort that the commission makes to work with projects. She added that Jacobs’ representatives were apologetic.
“We should have provided a courtesy notification of the additional work that was occurring in addition to the RDA from July,” said Purdy.
“But that’s not a courtesy,” countered Farinon.
Gagne added, “It’s not a, ‘Oops, we forgot to notify you,’ you forgot to file an application with us for us to review and see if you had permission to do this.”
Purdy answered, “Yes, correct,” in agreement of the mistake. Purdy indicated that before organizing a revised plan, Jacobs Engineering will need to consult with the MBTA.
Farinon acknowledged that the MBTA may have zoning rights not shared by others, but the MBTA is still subject to wetlands laws.
Acknowledging Jacobs Engineering’s needs for space to accommodate the MBTA’s construction equipment, Farinon told Purdy and Cruz, “It’s going to be really important for you to deal with both of those issues.”
The commission passed a motion to issue the enforcement order as amended along with the aforementioned stipulations of immediate acts to repair unauthorized activities, and Jacobs Engineering will be subject to ticketing at least until the next meeting of the commission on Feb 18.
“What we did tonight, do an enforcement order with some ticketing, is the most we could do,” said Farinon after the meeting’s adjournment.
In other matters, the commission decided against a Chapter 61A Right of First Refusal Request in regards to Morse Brothers Inc. project at Gerrish Road.
Continuances to the February 18 meeting for public hearings were granted for Pedro Rodriguez of Solar MA Project Management and to Steen Realty & Development Corporation.
Rochester Conservation Commission
By Mick Colageo