It was late into a long night of complicated cases being heard on January 15 when the members of the Rochester Conservation Commission were shown photographic evidence of illegal cutting taking place on property known as the Old Boy Scout Camp located at 0 Mary’s Pond Road.
Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon displayed photos she recently took at the property.
“I was notified of cutting taking place at the old Boy Scout Camp,” she began. She said she contacted the owner, Jose Araujo, who confirmed to her that he had in fact cut down trees in advance of construction of a new single-family house. After receiving permission from Araujo to visit the site, she met with the owner’s representative, Richard Charon of Charon Engineering, on January 14 for a site inspection.
Once at the site, she took photos that showed tree clearing within the 100-foot buffer zone and within 25 feet of the wetlands. As the images were displayed, the commissioners had a hard time controlling their horror.
“It’s unfortunate,” Farinon sadly declared, especially given that the previous owners had given the Town the right of first refusal and the commission had supported the purchase. However, the price tag put the proposed acquisition out of the question. Now the virgin woodlands were being cut down without regard for local and state regulations, she said.
Farinon said she had prepared a letter for the commission to consider sending to Araujo that confirmed the illegal cutting as a violation of regulations, but the commission wanted something more.
They discussed whether or not they had the authority to demand a planting restoration plan with fines if not submitted by a requested date or completed within a specified timeframe. They also discussed whether or not they could mandate erosion control measures now, considering that the pond’s bank area may have been compromised in some areas and stormwater runoff becoming problematic.
Farinon was authorized to discuss the matter with town counsel and to prepare to move forward as directed by counsel and the commission.
Earlier in the evening, Bob Rogers of G.A.F. Engineering discussed two filings for the same property, the former U.S.D.A offices located at 15 Cranberry Highway.
As Rogers explained, the first part of his presentation was a request for a Certificate of Compliance for work that either took place in the late 1990s, was constructed but not to the plan of record, or was never constructed at all.
The property owners, Decas Real Estate Trust, are presently planning on selling the property to Schoen and Bonnie Morrison who plan on renovating the existing structures into a daycare center and event rental space. That proposed project was the second application Rogers was representing on this night.
Rogers explained that the current Order of Conditions registered against the deed needed to be cleared in order for the sale to be completed in April.
The commissioners struggled with which should go first, the Certificate of Compliance or the Morrisons’ Notice of Intent filing. Rogers explained that the NOI plans would in essence repair and clean up work that was improperly done with the original Order of Conditions. He launched into a detailed explanation of the stormwater drainage plans, a major component of the current state of the property being questioned. If the certificate was approved, they wondered, and the sale fell through, it would leave Decas with a clear deed to move forward to another plan.
In the end both cases were continued until February 5.
Also continued until February 5 were continued public hearings for: an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Delineation filed by Steve Longo for the installation of a solar array located at 75 Vaughan Hill Road necessitated by a question of wetlands being missed on the far western corner of the property; and a Notice of Intent filed by REpurpose Properties for the construction of 22 duplex units for an age-restricted community located at Rounseville Road owned by Gibbs and Patricia Bray. The continuance was necessary when Commission Chairman Michael Conway asked Brian Wallace of J.C. Engineering where the discharged water eventually flowed. The filing requested upgrades to an existing discharge pipe that currently does not provide any water filtration. Conway thought that, depending on where the water eventually flowed, it might impact which regulatory office was responsible for the work. The hearing was continued until February 5.
Related to the REpurpose filing was another Notice of Intent filed by Sofia Darras, a third owner of the same site. Darras hired G.A.F. Engineering to review water calculations and other aspects of the discharge pipe upgrades with a plan to install a new drainage system. That was continued until February 5.
Also continued until February 5 was a new Notice of Intent filing by T-Mobile for property located at 98 Bowen’s Lane for the installation of a new back-up generator. Questions raised by commissioner Daniel Gagne as to whether or not the filing contained documentation on maintenance and emergency clean up procedures prompted Marty Cohen of Network Building and Consulting to request the continuance.
Receiving a Negative determination for a Request for Determination of Applicability was Kenneth Viera, 54 Vaughan Hill Road, for the removal of fallen trees and the application of new blue stone on an existing driveway.
The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for February 5 at 7:00 pm in the Rochester Town Hall meeting room.
Rochester Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell