August 13, 2014
By Nancy Arsenault
The Board of Selectmen conducted a nearly three hour meeting Tuesday night and addressed a number of issues including earth removal permits, economic development, Town Hall rental and Boxboro Road traffic.
Resident Faces Stiff Penalties for Earth Removal
Nathanial Smith of Randall Road is facing possible fines as high as $16,550 for illegally removing over 3,000 cubic yards of earth materials from his property earlier this summer. Smith, with plans to build a multi-bay garage on the site, arranged with Bentley Builders to remove approximately 166 10-wheel dump truck loads of mostly gravel and sand from a hillside slope on his residential lot. The builder is developing a subdivision on nearby Walcott Street, and trucked the fill to that location.
All of that work was done without the required permit from the Town, according to Stow Building Inspector Craig Martin. Acquiring the permit is the responsibility of the party that owns the property from which the materials are being removed, explained Martin to the Selectmen, who must now determine the consequences for such actions. The Town has already placed a cease and desist order on the removal, as of mid-June.
Several abutters to the Randall Road property were in the audience, expecting to participate in a public hearing to determine if Smith could now obtain a permit for the past work and get permission to remove an additional 3,000 cubic yards, as he had recently requested. Instead, they were told that Smith had removed his permit application Tuesday afternoon and there would be no hearing, though the matter would be discussed by the Board. Smith was not in attendance at the meeting.
While the earth removal bylaw states a fine of $50 for the first truck load and $100 for each subsequent truckload of materials illegally removed from a site, the Board is considering other penalties. The Conservation Commission suggested the Board require Smith to restore the site in a manner that would encourage groundwater retention and erosion prevention through re-grading, replacement of loam and reseeding the area. Selectman Don Hawkes said, “That seems to be the minimum he should do. There is still a severe slope. There could be serious erosion there.” Selectman Brian Burke questioned if the Board has the authority to add conditions of penalty beyond the monetary scale indicated in the bylaw. “I’d like to give Mr. Smith a chance to be heard,” he said, while the Board agreed to investigate the power they hold for issuing other penalties.
The Board appeared unanimous in their agreement that a monetary fine should be imposed. “Without hearing anything from him, I would assume he got paid for this [fill, by the builder], and more than $16,000, and he can afford to pay the fine,” said Selectman Jim Salvie. Don Hawkes added, “If we uphold the bylaw, there needs to be a substantial fine. You can’t ignore the bylaws and just get a slap on the wrist and go on about your day.” The Board will contact Smith directly and encourage him to come before them at their next meeting.
Collings Foundation Earth Removal Permit Denial is Official
The Board determined that a notification letter will be sent from the Selectmen to Bob Collings of the Collings Foundation stating that his earth removal permit application has been denied. This permit was requested in order to remove a portion of a hillside located at the southern end of Collings’ private airfield; a project designed to improve the safety of the landing strip, according to Collings. Several public hearings were conducted by the Board to address the request.
Though their denial was announced publicly at the final forum, with Bob Collings present, the Board and Town Administrator Bill Wrigley felt a clearly written letter stating the decision would be beneficial. The letter will announce the decision and very briefly state the Board’s findings, conclusions and rationale with more detailed summaries to be found in the attached Minutes of those meetings.
Economic Development and Industrial Commission Lives Again
Taking direction from a Town Meeting vote of 1966 to establish such a committee, the Board voted unanimously to form an Economic Development and Industrial Commission. Though a positive vote was taken decades ago, that particular committee and its efforts, reborn again in the 1990s, most recently, voters were wary of encouraging business growth or commercial endeavors in the town, and efforts suggested by the group were not accepted favorably by residents. Eventually, those volunteers disbanded and attention to such matters was cast aside, according to Bill Wrigley, though the vote was never rescinded.
Today, an approved public water supply source is poised to transform the options in the Lower Village commercial district, while Gleasondale Village is being examined for development opportunities and industrial land could be put to active use if the right developers choose to come to Stow. The Planning Board told the Selectmen it is time to create such a Commission so that the goals of the Master Plan can be carried out without neglecting the business potential of the Town.
Planner Karen Kelleher said the group would immediately begin work to familiarize themselves with local businesses and their owners and create a channel for direct communication. She stated that businesses have already spoken of difficulties they feel they face in obtaining permits or even being aware of the bylaws that might affect their businesses. “This would be a way to transmit the concerns of existing businesses to town government,” explained Jim Salvie of work that could be done as soon as the committee is formed.
The Planning Board is seeking seven members for the committee with terms of varying length. A posting of the vacancies and areas of experience and expertise that may be desirable in candidates will be available later this week.
Town Hall Rental Policy Gets a Makeover
It appears that the rental of Town Hall, the historic 1800s-era building across from Town Building, is one of the best deals around for group meetings, according to the Board of Selectmen. For a fee of only $25 per event, not per hour, any non-profit group or resident group can hold their event there. For years, that low rate has remained unchanged, attracting all kinds of groups and activities from recreation programs, to toddler playgroups and annual potluck dinners for town groups – but without Saturday as a schedule option. As requests for use of the building grow, the Selectmen have decided to add Saturdays to the availability calendar and are also considering increasing the rental fee. While Saturdays have not been available due to janitorial or staff availability, the Selectmen feel that those needs can be met in order to open up that day to requesting parties. “Taxpayers have spent a lot of money to develop Town Hall as a resource,” said Selectman Don Hawkes. “Saturday is a logical date to be considered.”
Boxboro Road Traffic and Speeding Being Addressed
With the recent repaving of Boxboro Road completed, resident Bill Nelson reported that his formerly bucolic road is now a speedway, especially for heavy truck traffic. He said that Astro Crane trucks appear to be using the roadway as a cut through to and from Stow and the Rt. 111/495 area on the other side of Boxboro. Large construction trucks and other heavy equipment are also using the road, and according to Nelson, at very high rates of speed.
Nelson hoped the Selectmen could take action to ban truck traffic from the road or restrict it to weights of 10,000 pounds or less. “That road is not made for two 40,000-pound cranes traveling together. You’ll need a new road before you know it,” said Nelson. Town Administrator Bill Wrigley addressed that by saying that if trucks could be banned on Boxboro Road they would soon find their way to other nearby roads in Stow, thus just transferring the problem. He suggested an increased police presence on Boxboro Road, something that Nelson said has already been done after he spoke with Police Chief Bill Bosworth. “If we continue to pay attention to that road, it can discourage that behavior and can persuade truckers to go in very different directions,” said Wrigley.
The Board also agreed to Nelson’s request to put up a traffic counter, owned by the Highway Department, and see if numbers of vehicles on the road have increased substantially since a count was taken there several years ago. “Right now, there is excessive speed, increasing in frequency and a growing number of trucks and vehicle traffic overall,” said Nelson of his observations. Mark Jones, an audience member, added that he believes excessive vehicle speed is a problem on all of the town’s major routes and is something that needs further investigation.
Town Positions Filled
Maureen Trunfio was named as the new Administrative Assistant to the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator. She formerly was the Administrative Assistant to the Conservation Committee.
Theresa O’Riorden was selected by the Selectmen to become a voting member of the Lake Boon Commission. O’Riorden, a lake resident, has served as a volunteer to the Commission for several years, and has been monitoring and maintaining water level records of the lake during the draw down process.
Sandra Grund, formerly an Associate member of the Conservation Commission, was named as a Voting member. She brings years of experience in environmental management, both in the private sector and working with municipalities.