Tempers Flare Over Coveted ConCom Seat

The February 27 meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission was bookended by the contentious issue of the appointment of associate member Marc Bellanger to temporarily fill the full member seat vacated by recently retired Joel Hartley.

            Chairman Jeff Doubrava dispensed with the administrative act of appointing Bellanger to fill the seat, under the vehement objection of associate member Dale Jones, who contended that he was the “senior associate member” and the position should be his.

            Doubrava responded by tersely enumerating to Jones the reasons for his decision, specifically that Jones had attended 10 of the last 21 commission meetings, and only two of the last 21 site visits.

            “My decision is based on who I think is best suited to act as a full-time member,” stated Doubrava.

            Jones asserted that he is the only professional engineer on the commission, has volunteered countless hours in the last 40 years for the Town of Marion, and warned Doubrava that he will be taking up the issue with the Board of Selectmen.

            A conversation ensued after adjournment of the meeting between Jones and commission member Cynthia Callow, in which Jones again complained of being ignored at the meetings.

            The work of the commission this evening centered on the first public hearing for the Department of Public Work’s proposed limited project to replace the water main under Mill Street (Route 6), extending approximately 6,200 linear feet from the Mill Street Tank south to between Sparrow and Rocky Knook Lanes.

            Meghan Davis of Tata and Howard, Inc. represented the project this evening.

            The project contemplates installing new 12-inch diameter ductile iron water main as well as connections to houses along the route, new fire hydrants, and valves. The water main is replacing a 6-inch water main, on the opposite side of the road, which will be abandoned in place.

            Commission member Shaun Walsh asked what the impetus was behind the proposed project, and Davis said her firm had been hired a couple years ago to perform an assessment of the water system in Marion, including “fire flow” of water mains, and had developed a list of replacement priorities for the water system.

            Due to the presence of utilities such as natural gas running along the east side of Route 6, the project proposes moving the water main and hydrants from the east side of the road to the west side.

            Davis acknowledged the resource areas in the project area, including Aucoot Creek, which is a perennial stream, and two intermittent streams. The proposed work would occur within the existing paved roadway of Route 6.

            Although the work will occur within 100 feet of bordering vegetated wetlands and 200 feet of a riverfront area, Davis contends there will be no direct impact to the resource areas.

            The applicant is requesting an exemption from the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act review because the work will occur entirely within the paved roadway, with the exception of the installation of new hydrants and curb stops. The hydrants will be installed approximately three feet off the edge of the pavement.

            Where possible, Davis says new services will be installed using a trenchless method, further described as a “hog hole” in which a hole is drilled horizontally from the new water main underground to the existing curb stop. This method reduces disturbance to the area.

            Abutters to the project had an opportunity to ask Davis questions, including Scott Erdman of 785 Mill Street, who inquired about the hydrant near his house that was buried deep in the brush along the road. Davis informed Erdman that there is an existing water main on the west side of the road, which runs parallel to the one to be replaced. This water main will not be replaced.

            Davis informed the audience that the project has been working closely with the fire chief in choosing the locations for the new fire hydrants.

            The project is contingent on funding at the May 2019 Annual Town Meeting.

            The public hearing was continued.

            Also during the meeting, the commission reviewed a Request for Determination by the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program (BBNEP) and the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management to install an elevation benchmark above the high tide line, as well as eight to 10 1-inch PVC pipes in upland and low marsh sites in marsh off of Creek Road.

            Joe Costa, director of the BBNEP, described the project as part of a larger study in Buzzards Bay, in cooperation with the Buzzards Bay Coalition, to measure changes to the saltmarshes in the study area. The project sought sites with diverse habitats within Buzzards Bay, and the Creek Road parcel is one of the smaller marshes chosen.

            The proposed PVC pipes would be permanently marking transect lines to be used for vegetation and elevation surveys to be checked up to three times per year for the next two years. In addition, the intent is to have the elevation marker made of 9/16- inch stainless steel rod driven in to the marsh 12-feet deep, but that may not be possible given the rocky nature of the area.

            The BBNEP has a protocol for accessing and walking on salt marsh to minimize the impact on the vegetation during the course of the study, and Costa expressed his hope that the transects would be used for further scientific inquiry. The project would provide baseline scientific data for use by future scientific researchers studying changes in coastal marshes.

            Costa noted that the Marion Board of Selectmen had approved the project on the town- owned land subject to Conservation Commission approval.

            Costa will provide the Town with as-built plans with the locations of the markers.

            “I appreciate the Town giving us permission to use their property,” Costa said.

            The commission issued a Negative determination on the project.

            In other matters, the commission approved the Notice of Intent for 122 Register Road, LLC to construct three small additions to an existing house with the removal of the existing driveways and replacement with a circular drive, while also removing and reconstructing a patio and walkways. The applicant also wants to install underground utilities and replace an undersized drain pipe beneath the driveway. The commission approved an order of conditions stipulating siltation barriers be placed to the north between the flagstone patio and the stone slope on the seaward side.

            The commission also heard a Request for Determination for this site to undertake invasive plant eradication in the bordering vegetated wetland and salt marsh. The commission issued a Negative determination with the condition that the applicant uses a licensed herbicide applicator.

            The RDA for John S. and Jessica Peters to construct a 20-foot by 45.6-foot cabana and guest house and an 18-foot by 36-foot in ground pool and patio and associated utilities at 20 South Street was given a Negative determination.

            The commission also approved changes in the plan for 43 Dexter Road. The project had received an Order of Conditions from the commission, but was now before the Zoning Board of Appeals, which was asking that the proposed structure be moved closer to the V zone to accommodate front and side setback requirements. Walsh noted that the commission could approve the changes if they did not “more greatly” impact the resource area. The commission concluded that the footprint of the structure was not changed, therefore there was no greater impact on the resource area.

            The next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is scheduled for March 13 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

Marion Conservation Commission

By Sarah French Storer

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