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Neighbors ask Concom to abide by buffer-zone rules for Spy Pond development

Woburn company vows no harm to environment; new plans discussed

Vacant home at 47 Spy Pond Lane. / Bob Sprague photoVacant home at 47 Spy Pond Lane. / Bob Sprague photo

UPDATED, Sept. 1: A large, vacant home on the shores of Spy Pond could be heading for a teardown, to be replaced by two homes, and concerned neighbors want to make sure the Conservation Commission abides by its rules.

After circulating a petition, which collected 375 signatures by July 7, neighbors attended the July 14, 21 and Aug. 18 Concom meetings. Following a walkthrough of the property by commission members in July, discussion was continued to Sept. 1.

Seaver Construction of Woburn presented new plans Aug. 18, but the commissioners did not have them to review in advance, so discussion of them is expected to occur after 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept 1. The new meeting location is the main room at the Senior Center, 27 Maple St. This issue is the lone agenda item.

"We are not advocating for 'no development' -- just smart development," wrote Alice Trexler, an immediate neighbor of the property at 47 Spy Pond Lane. Built in the 1940s, it was the first residential house on the street.

Seaver has proposed splitting one large parcel to build two large homes, one on each lot. Both would be sited within the 100-foot buffer zone around the pond.

SOne of the proposed homes extends to within 50 feet of the pond, petitioners say. The developer seeks Concom approval for an exception to rules about building in these zones.

Scott Seaver, president of Seaver Construction, issued a statement Monday, July 11, saying that the company does not intend harm to Spy Pond and that it has altered its plans, so building will remain within the 50-foot buffer zone. Read the full state statement below.

If built as proposed, neighbors say, the project will create water-management problems in the buffer zone and set a dangerous precedent for future construction along Spy Pond.

The sale of this property to Seaver has not yet closed, neighbors say. "Our understanding is that he has a contingency on the purchase and that actually buying the site will depend on if the Conservation Commission approves his proposal," they say in their petition. "We have a short few weeks to tell the Conservation Commission what we think and ask them to deny this proposal. Now is the time to act."

Overhead view of plan for 47 Spy Pond Lane.Overhead view of plan as shown on citizens' petition.

The neighbors try to make clear that they are not antidevelopment: "We ... are in favor of thoughtful development and home construction on the lots along the shores of Spy Pond. We seek a balance between fulfilling human needs and acting as stewards of Spy Pond, a natural resource that belongs to all of us and to the wildlife and ecosystem in and around it."

At the same time, they say, "Spy Pond is already stressed. We need to avoid further stress to this natural system in our midst."

They ask the Conservation Commission to deny this proposal and require Seaver to rework plans so that the back of any new construction be in line with the ear of an existing and neighboring homes on Spy Pond Lane.

Neighbor's background

Neighbors learned about the project in June, when the Conservation Commission notified them about an initial hearing, held June 16. Trexler said 20 neighbors "were motivated on their own to attend the hearing and to express their hopes for responsible development. They spoke eloquently on behalf of the wildlife, the land and possible consequences for abutting houses should the protected zones be built upon."

Subsequently, a core of neighbors created a petition to share with Arlingtonians on a wider basis. Trexler wrote that 100 signatures "seemed unreachable, but the petition which circulated during the distractions of the Fourth of July weekend surpassed that by a lot ....

"One of the basic takeaways from this story is how strongly many Arlingtonians feel about the health of the pond and its adjoining land even when they don't live directly on Spy Pond. Many houses around it were built prior to the town conservation policies of the 1970s, so they are grandfathered in. Unless new houses are built or the footprint of an existing house is changed, there are few chances to advocate for the type of responsible waterfront development that works for ecological health of the pond and its surroundings."

Under state and local environmental regulations -- see links below -- buffer zones aim to help maintain the health of water bodies. The land in such zones absorbs excess water from storms.

Petitioners say two large, fixed structures in the 100-foot buffer zone will mean excess flows into Spy Pond and potential risk to neighbors' basements.

An increase in impervious area on the pond's waterfront site means more water from storm runoff, neighbors says, and could include fertilizers, phosphorus and other organic material. This material, especially phosphorus, stays in the pond for a long time and results in increased growth of algae and other invasive vegetation.

They fear this might return the pond to conditions in the 1980s and '90s, when eutrophication appeared in areas of the pond, spurring the town to manage the overgrowth of weeds from chemical run-off.

Full statement from Seaver Construction

Seaver Construction has no intention of harming Spy Pond in any way. Our plan is to tear down the abandoned fire-damaged home and build two beautiful new homes without any negative impacts to the pond. We have carefully addressed all of Conservation Commission's comments into our development plan. Below are the facts that surround this proposal:

1. The property will be divided into two lots -- Lot 1 at 8,456 square feet and Lot 2 at 8,784 square feet. Both lots are more than 40 percent larger than required by Arlington zoning.

2. The property is currently occupied by a single-family home with a large paved parking area with the remainder of the lot covered by lawn down to the pond.

3. Arlington wetlands regulations require a 25-foot no-disturbance zone from the pond. We have no plans to do any type of work in that zone, unless requested by the commission to add more vegetation.

4. The commission asked us to move the deck on Lot l out of the 50-foot buffer zone. We have moved the entire house closer to the street and reconfigured the deck so everything is out of the 50-foot buffer zone.

5. Our engineer performed test pits onsite and found excellent percolation rates of 1 minute per inch. He has designed a storm-water infiltration system to transfer the storm water to underground chambers and not to the surface. This measure alone makes our new proposed development superior to the existing condition.

6. The pond will be protected during construction with two rows of Filter Soxx. [These are erosion-control devises similar to a line of hay bale with erosion barrier.]

7. The home on Lot 1 will be approximately 60 feet and the home on Lot 2 will be about 80 feet away from the pond.

8. There are existing homes on the pond that are much closer to the pond than our proposed new homes.

9. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has conclusively determined that this project, as currently proposed, will not adversely affect the actual Resource Area Habitat of state-protected rare-animal species.

10. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has also determined that this project, as currently proposed, will not result in a prohibited "take" of state-listed rare species.

It is our intention to work with the commission and any other involved agency to protect the pond and at the same time create two beautiful new homes that will enhance the neighborhood.

Letter from Fisheries & Wildlife

Points 9 and 10 refer to a July 8 letter to the Conservation Commission from Thomas W. French, assistant director, Massachusetts Department of Fisheries & Wildlife. It says:

"The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (the "Division") received a Notice of Intent with site plans (dated 5/3/2016 & 5/20/2016) in compliance with the rare wildlife species section of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act Regulations (310 CMR 10.59). The Division also received the MESA Review Checklist and supporting documentation for review pursuant to the MA Endangered Species Act Regulations (321 CMR 10.18).

"Based on a review of the information that was provided and the information that is currently contained in our database, the Division has determined that this project, as currently proposed, will not adversely affect the actual Resource Area Habitat of state-protected rare wildlife species. Therefore, it is our opinion that this project meets the state-Listed species performance standard for the issuance of an Order of Conditions.

"Please note that this determination addresses only the matter of rare wildlife habitat and does not pertain to other wildlife habitat issues that may be pertinent to the proposed project.

"Based on a review of the information that was provided and the information that is currently contained in our database, the Division has determined that this project, as currently proposed, will not result in a prohibited 'take' of state-listed rare species. This determination is a final decision of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife pursuant to 321 CMR 10.18.

"Any changes to the proposed project or any additional work beyond that shown on the site plans may require an additional filing with the Division pursuant to the MESA. This project may be subject to further review if no physical work is commenced within five years from the date of issuance of this determination, or if there is a change to the project.

"Please note that this determination addresses only the matter of state-listed species and their habitats."

Conservation Commission regulations for wetland protection

Concom also administers the state Wetlands Protection Act (includes 100-foot buffer zone)

This report was published Thursday, July 7, 2016, and updated Sept. 1.

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