Vice Chair David Farrag voted in favor of granting the storm water permit to 559 Jerusalem Road with orders of condition. Commissioners Ed Graham, Jim Marten, Chair Jack Creighton, Jamie Gilman and Alex Koines voted to deny Ford’s application without prejudice. Commissioner Vee Roebuck was absent. Associate members Pat Kennedy and Dr. Bill Henry weighed in on the issue but did not vote. This is the second time the commission has voted to deny a permit to the applicant.
Ted Ford, owner of the property, has already filed suit at Norfolk Superior Court for a final determination. The property owner has received Ok’s from all town boards, sewer, the building commissioner and the DEP. Even Paul Shea, the Conservation Commission’s Agent, has said the Ford property meets all wetlands requirements and should be approved with conditions.
His brother Chris in the almost yearlong proceedings has represented Ford, a resident of California who plans to retire to Cohasset. Ford has provided the committee with a 365-day shadow study (not required by the wetlands protection act) and even hired a wildlife expert Brad Holmes to design the property with native trees and bushes. Holmes said he hadn’t seen one native tree in the area that has been populated by trees brought over from Europe in the 1800s and which are now prohibited in Massachusetts. “Only a few bushes are native.”
Commissioner Patrick Kennedy asked Holmes if the proposed project would be as good if not better for wildlife. Holmes said he believed so.
Commissioner Dr. Bill Henry asked how many trees would be taken down.
Greg Morse, engineer, said they were not taking down all of the trees. “We’re preserving many of the trees. The 3,500 sq. ft. thresh-hold limits the size of house.”
Atty. Charlie Humphreys said Ford was prepared to condition the height and mass of the house. Holmes noted that the 50-foot buffer zone was mostly lawn.
Also, Holmes noted that shadings (shadow study) do become significant over salt marshes, but that this was not the case here as the shadows were in a buffer zone, not a resource area. Humphreys noted that the shadow affects no other structure in the area and that any condition the conservation made would be subject to any person who purchased the property.
In answer to commissioners’ questions, Morse said any future owner of this property would cognizant of maintenance procedures in accordance with the storm-water bylaw. “Drainage on this site is triple-redundant. We went above and beyond requirements, there are three systems on this property.”
Ford’s neighbor, Peter DeCaprio, submitted a letter to the commissioners from his attorney, Jay Talerman. Humphreys had not seen the letter until the night of the hearing. Humphreys called Talerman’s letter “hyperbole.
Abutter Virginia Jenson spoke about how she enjoyed the wildlife on Ford’s property.
DeCaprio said the proposed rain gardens would fail, as all 34-rain gardens put in by the Cohasset Water Department, of which he is chairman, have failed. “We cannot over the fact that things go wrong. You prohibit impervious driveways -how do you permit this? Under new development you cannot put an impervious surface next to Straits pond. Is a house impervious?
Kennedy: “We’re talking about a buffer zone to a resource area. There is more imperious area now then here will be after the house is there. (We should) discourage, not prohibit impervious surface.” Paul Shea agreed.
Graham: “The Pond has always been area of critical environmental concern,” said Graham, who lives on Straits Pond. “There is no more pollution – my property is tested twice a week and ozone levels and water quality keep getting better and better.
Discussion of Order of conditions
Patrick Kennedy said, “We’re not talking about a resource area. I’m not convinced by Talerman’s article this area should be subject to no development under our bylaw. Barring any development within 100ft. buffer zone would be traumatic. The legal argument being advanced should not sway us. I’m more concerned about construction. That’s the most troubling one. Conditions can be put in place. The relatively small paved area is overgrown with weeds.” Kennedy said he felt the construction impacts on safety and that one condition might be to require the applicant to rent a staging zone.
Graham also was concerned that the entire house stock would be put put on same driveway.
Marten too was concerned about the very sensitive area and that there are a number of building sites along Jerusalem Road.
Gilman said his concern was that “100 % of development occurs within the 100 ft. buffer. It’s a 10-pound project in a 5 lb. bag. I agree with what everyone’s been saying.
Farrag: “I feel it’s sufficient.”
Graham: “Most of our rain gardens have failed.”
Creighton said he felt the commission has been charged with a special responsibility for Straits Pond. (But) …we need to be careful. I don’t want to set a precedent that every project in the 100 ft. zone will be denied.”
Henry: “I live on Little Harbor. I have no vote (as an associate member) but have a voice. I’m opposed to any infringement of these buffer zones. Paul Shea has stated in past that 100 ft. buffer should not be violated, I believe it should be upheld.” He said cutting down large trees no matter their species may not have been native in 1800s, but they’re native now. It Impacts wildlife when those trees are cut down.”
Writer’s notes for the readers’ edification: It appeared commissioners made their decision to deny the permit on issues not in their purview: dangerous construction area, traffic, number of non-native trees which would be cut down, impact on wildlife. The applicant was never considered, the fact the applicant complied with the wetlands regulations were ignored. It is more than travesty of justice when the majority of this same political commission had absolutely no concern for the wildlife at Cat Dam – another environmentally sensitive area in the Town of Cohasset where 10-15 environmental experts weighed in on the matter. How do these people look at themselves in the mirror every morning?
Permitting boards should attempt to conduct enforcement of state and local bylaws and work to allow man and nature to live in harmony. The 559 Jerusalem Road property is a buildable lot, and the property owner has a right to enjoy his property. It is expected that a Norfolk Superior Court judge will remand the issue to the commission and they will have to hammer out conditions that they should have done at their meeting last Thursday, after great expense to the Town. To just say NO is a red flag to a judge, particularly when the applicant has offered up myriad of conditions. The property owner was totally ignored.
Readers should also take note of the fact that the Cohasset Board of Selectmen who replaced 2/3rds of the commission for political reasons over a year ago decimated this commission. Marten, Gilman, Koines, Kennedy and Henry are all new to the commission. It should not be up to applicants’ attorney, in this case Charlie Humphreys, to instruct the commissioners as to their charge. Also not fair to any applicant.