Proposed Subdivision Impacting Wetlands Raises Concerns

A proposal for a subdivision off Ferland Drive got close scrutiny from the Conservation Commission, and will be discussed in a joint meeting of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Surveyor Kevin Hatch of Cornerstone Survey in Chester and his client, Stephen Vadney, appeared before the Commission on Monday night to discuss the wetland impact of a proposed cul-de-sac at the end of Ferland Drive. The developer is seeking a special exception to allow one of the buildings to be within the 150-foot wetland setback.

Conservation members wanted more information and scheduled a site walk with Hatch for the evening of Aug. 13, after the Nutfield News went to press. Hatch said the cul-de-sac was needed for public safety, including winter plowing and as a place for police and fire vehicles to turn around. “It cuts into the property, so the developer was forced to move the buildings to the side,” he said. “One of the buildings would be within the 150-feet wetland setback.”

Hatch said in order to develop anything on that side of the property, he needs a special exception from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. With a special exception, he can reduce the setback from 150 feet to 75 feet, he said. Hatch said the design provides for on-site drainage, including an old sandpit that is a natural filter for run-off.

“All our development,” he said, “is on the upward side of the sewer line.” The storm water runoff will be away from the wetland, he said. Hatch said the upper end of a prime wetland ends at Vadney’s property, but added that other properties in town are developed right up to the edge of a wetland. Chairman Margaret Ives expressed concern at the development’s proximity to Hood Pond, a major recreation area for the town. She referred to a memo from Public Works Director Mike Fowler outlining the project and urging “careful review” of the proposal.

Fowler quoted two of the conditions for a special exception for wetlands, including the first, that it would be essential to the productive use of land not in the prime wetlands buffer zone, and the third, that “economic advantage alone is not a reason for the proposed construction.”

Ives reminded the Commission that the project would also affect Horn’s Pond, an 1848 railroad pond just below Hood Pond. She listed some of the vegetation in the area, including Jack in the Pulpit, ferns, blueberries, sumac, maple, red pine and white ash, as well as cattails, wildflowers and many bird species. She said she recently saw Canada geese, ducks and a heron there.

“I think we will have questions on this development,” Ives said. Member Dennis Wiley observed that the six-unit building appeared to be “90 percent in the prime.” Hatch countered that the alternative did not provide enough room for the turn-around. “The location of the building is driven by life safety issues,” he said. “And the portion we’re talking about does not take away from the value and function of the wetland.”

Member Marianne Page said she was “curious” about the request, noting, “We worked so hard on the setbacks. You knew about them. Were you banking on getting the exception? “If everyone wanted an exception, why have setbacks?” she added. Hatch said he is sensitive to wetlands. “The town adopted the policy with a provision for special exceptions,” he said. “We believe we met the guidelines.”

“I respect what you’re saying, but I respect the prime wetlands more,” Ives said. “Hood Pond is a valuable recreation area, and we need to approach it seriously,” Ives said.