Neck Road Homes Approved

Continued from October 5, three separate public hearings for nearly identical, bordering residential construction projects reached conclusion with the Rochester Conservation Commission on October 19.

            Three Notices of Intent were filed by Lee Castignetti of Long-Built Homes for contiguous lots on Neck Road for the purpose of constructing single-family houses with septic systems and wells.

            Cases DEP SE 272-0613, Map 40, Lot 3D, 3E and 3F were presented by Evan Watson of W Engineering, representing Long-Built Homes. Watson updated the commission on plans to clear trees with the service of loggers to avoid careless treatment of the wood near wetlands.

            Conservation Commission member Maggie Payne complimented the applicant on the addition of a split-rail fence bordering the wetlands and suggested that the commission vet the selection of trees marked for removal.

            Vice Chairman Dan Gagne suggested that, for future reference, the applicant take note of the commission’s policy allowing homeowners to fill out a form and go before the commission to request permissions to remove trees.

            Commission Chairman Chris Gerrior admitted he was stepping out of the commission’s purview in suggesting some sort of tree line to the applicant. Castignetti was amenable to the suggestion.

            Abutter Trent Blanchard, 128 Neck Road, was concerned with tree clearing, taking into consideration the clearing already approved for the adjacent solar project.

            Watson explained that stakes had been placed in the field but there is no restriction on cutting. “If the owner wanted to cut in a regulated area, he would have to apply for a permit to do so,” said the project representative.

            “Now the whole front corner could theoretically be removed. Has that all been taken into consideration?” asked Blanchard.

            Gerrior clarified that the areas to the right side of the yard is in the commission’s purview, but the rest us up to the applicant.

            Rachel Batchelder, an abutter at 155 Neck Road, reiterated Blanchard’s concern with the cumulative effect of tree clearing. “That’s a lot more wetland that’s already being impacted by another project. Are there any modifications that can be made?” she asked.

            “If you look at our plan, where we’re sighting the houses for where we’re actually cutting the trees, everything that we’ve done has been, in respect to where the wetland resource area is on the property,” said Watson. “We have a nice, big lot here where we could place the septic system and the house further back. (There’s) nothing that says we can’t cut trees all the way up to the 25-foot (no touch) zone all the way around so we’re trying to provide a home site on a buildable lot that has enough yard.”

            Commission member Maggie Payne interjected that the commission does take into account when multiple projects are going on in a common area. She said that there will not be significant impact on the same wetlands bordering both projects.

            Gerrior told the representatives that he didn’t anticipate that the commissioners would be able to arrive at an Order of Conditions for three lots, but member Ben Bailey asked what would hold back a decision on the case just presented.

            Having made a motion, Bailey withdrew it upon Payne’s contribution of considerations and a revised Order of Conditions that would include special conditions including the inspection of marked trees, and the commissioners voted to approve. Member Bill Milka recused himself from the three cases.

            After much shorter presentations summarizing similar measures on slightly different lots, the commissioners voted to support the same Order of Conditions.

            Earlier in the meeting, Allen Decker, the director of Land Protection for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, made a presentation on Dogget Brook Farm Conservation project.

            The Buzzards Bay Coalition has acquired the 58.5-acre property off the south side of Marion Road (Route 105) with the intention of finding a farmer who would be able to keep the farm in agricultural production. Decker said the BBC has found a local farmer and has the property transfer in agreement.

            As part of the transaction, the BBC is requiring at closing that the farmer convey a Conservation Restriction over 38 acres of the property intended to keep the agriculture portion of the property over the best soils; a second CR will be acquired by the Rochester Land Trust and the BBC to buffer Dogget Brook.

            “We want to protect the brook’s natural resources so we created a buffer 300 feet inland where the southern-most 20.5 acres would allow no farming but would encourage habitat restoration,” said Decker.

            Decker said the activity supports Rochester as a “right to farm” community. “There were other things proposed for this property over time, that’s why we got involved,” he said.

            Decker displayed several color-coded maps indicating areas of ideal farming soils, the two conservation restrictions, a bio map indicated the area around Dogget Brook where box turtles and other key wildlife thrive, and he provided the commissioners “municipal certifications” that he asked the commission to vote to support and sign for his future appearance before the Board of Selectmen.

            After some questions from the commissioners, a motion to support the CR was made and seconded, but in initiating discussion Bailey identified an acre-sized house lot. Decker clarified that the lot is not covered by the CR so that the owner of the farm can go through the necessary steps to apply to construct a dwelling on the lot, likely by unenrolling 2 other acres from the CR.

            The commissioners voted to write a letter of support and also voted to support and sign the municipal certifications.

            Bill Madden of G.A.F. Engineering, representing A.D. Makepeace Co., could not attend on October 19 so the commission voted to honor his request for a continuance to November 2. Brad Holmes, ECR, told the commissioners that he had received LEC Environmental’s review letter and is presently preparing a draft in concert with G.A.F. Engineering.

            After discussion, the commission voted to maintain its practice of including letters from the public in the packets distributed to the members, what is posted to the town website will be streamlined to maintain information that is strictly project specific, but the letters are maintain as public record available to citizens by request.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2, at 7:00 pm.

Rochester Conservation Commission

By Mick Colageo

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