Two Fridays ago a local developer bought a two parcel 1.33 acre piece of property across the street from my house. On my way out to my car the following Monday I noticed a chain saw sitting on the driveway and thought to myself "he is not wasting time". A couple hours later my wife calls me to tell me that he has a large excavator on the property and is loading out what the official in charge of construction and the developer call "brush". I like to call it plant material (swamp cabbage, pitcher plants, anything that loves growing in a small spring fed creek, plus some trees) that may have had a chance to lower the density of this development if its location would have made its way to the preliminary subdivision plat map. A few calls were made, and I was told that it is private property he can do what he wants.
Some discussions were had about tree size and city regulation. At this point I raised the issue of site work prior to subdivision approval. I asked a city official if anyone had measured the stumps. No one had, they measured the stumps, i was told that some stumps where over six but they must have been smaller than eight because no fine was issued. (there is a hole in the regs regarding trees between 6 and 8 inch trees) All parties learned something. The next day it looked like all the stumps were gone. By mid afternoon on the next day some where between a quarter of an acre and a half acre of top soil had been stripped. The meandering stream channel had been reduced to a 40 foot long ditch and somewhere between 5 and 10 loads of stabilizing crushed rock and perforated drainage pipe had been brought on site. Again I raised the question of site work prior to subdivision approval. The answer again was private property. I was also told at this point he was just going to stabilize the hill that the stream was on with those materials. At this point I was feeling like the city engineer and the building inspector were taking a lot of liberties with on site approvals. Why no construction drawings? Will anyone know the location of these structures after they are placed underground? We all know that not every homeowner gets a permit to do everything they need a permit for, but not everyone is a developer. After pushing the site work issue again next i was told he is just filling in the spring fed pool. I asked why he needed to clear so much "brush" to fill in the pool. When he had an excavator that could reach the pool without removing any "brush". No answer. Thursday afternoon a discussion is had with the Army corp of engineers regarding wetland jurisdiction (size, location, statute of limitations on filling, segregation by owner ) They said that they would do a site visit. The Army Corp rep. said that the combination of the three properties (171 Union, the developer owned former stream now construction dump to the south and the Parsonage property at the top of Vail St where one of our Beaconcitizens lives) where water was visible, was enough to raise some flags. Friday, no work takes place. I'm thinking yeah the Army Corp at least put a temporary stop until someone can quantify what resources are on site. Monday rolls around some serious earth removal has taken place. There is now a full size excavator, a large bulldozer and a very large front end loader on site. Again i'm told it is just private property. The reason there is a public meeting on site plans is because the city engineer, the developer and the building inspector know very little about the site as compared to the surrounding neighbors. Are there endangered species nesting in the trees, burrowing underground? Since the house on site is partially constructed from the 120 year old gardeners cottage from one of the more important farm houses in Beacon is there any historic artifacts that are being bulldozed. We will never know the answer to these questions because he is just a private land owner. There are all sorts of questions that will come up in the approval process but if the property is just green grass and a chain link fence the questions will be few. What a developer really wants before his subdivision approval is a flat lot with no trees on it so the only thing he has to fight for is setback variances. Today I come home to find out that he has been chipping rock out with a jack hammer attachment for his excavator while my wife was trying to sleep (she works at night). Again private land owner is the response. I work in a survey department for an engineering company, conservatively i've probably been on 1000 construction sites in all stages of development. I know what he was trying to do. And with this guys local reputation. What if I hadn't called? It probably would have been better if I just let him continue until he had made a huge change in the property prior to subdivision.
What ever he does will be a huge change in our neighborhood. It will affect noise, air temp. if trees are removed, ground water, wildlife habitat. etc.
Once he builds the houses, he is out.
The neighbors will have to live with the consequences until they die or move.
Am I being too NIMBY?
§ 223-16 Wetlands and watercourses; hilltops, ridgelines and steep slopes.
A. Alteration of wetlands or watercourses. In any district, no alteration of wetlands or watercourses, whether by excavation, filling, grading, clearing, draining or otherwise. and whether or not incidental to activities otherwise permitted, shall be made in contours (whether submerged or above water level), water levels or flow of such wetlands or watercourses without review as to the effect of such alteration and any related facilities on water recharge areas, water table levels, water pollution, aquatic animal and plant life, temperature change, drainage, flooding, runoff and erosion. This review and approval of such alteration shall be made by the Planning Board.
B. Hilltops, ridgelines and very steep slopes. For the purpose of preventing erosion, minimizing stormwater runoff and flooding, preserving the City’s underground water resources and protecting the City’s character and property values, it is the intent of this chapter to avoid the development of hilltops, ridgelines and very steep slopes, and toward this end, wherever practicable, new construction shall avoid such areas, and existing vegetation in such areas shall not be disturbed wherever practicable. The City Council, the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Building Inspector shall take these objectives into consideration in reviewing and acting on any plans submitted pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. Further, no building, development, construction of other site improvements, excavation, filling, grading, or removal of significant vegetation shall be permitted on a very steep slope unless the approval authority has determined:
[Amended 3-1-2004 by L.L. No. 2-2004]
(1) That there is no other suitable alternative area within the lot available for the proposed use, improvement or development of such lot;
(2) That the activity proposed is the minimum necessary to make reasonable use of the land;
(3) That all feasible construction standards and precautions will be taken to assure that environmental impacts will be minimized; and
(4) That the purpose and intent of this section are satisfied to the maximum degree feasible.
C. Procedure. Before granting or denying any request in accordance with this section, the Planning Board:
(1) May require a public hearing, the notice of which shall be published in the City's officially designated newspaper at least five days prior to the date of such hearing.
(2) May request a written report on the effects of such alteration by the Soil Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture or other expert of the Planning Board's choosing at the expense of the property owner or developer, and payment in advance of the amount of such expense, if any, shall be a condition of further consideration.