TOWNSEND — If all goes well, according to engineer Jesse Johnson, the proposed Sterilite-funded Highway Department garage may begin construction before Halloween.
The news came after the Conservation Commission ruled during their Wednesday, Oct. 10 meeting that the controversial access road to the garage was not a cause for any ecological concerns.
Over a dozen area residents were in attendance for the public hearing on the project’s filed notice of intent, though any concerns they may have had were swiftly allayed by Johnson’s presentation.
“The entrance is proposed off Main Street,” he said, displaying a sketch of the road. The layout of the road was planned to avoid threatening any protected areas.
The primary concern was that the road would be built within 100 feet of a protected, isolated wetlands area. Johnson explained that the 22-foot-wide road would have a pair of swales to redirect any runoff into a pre-existing drainage grate near the proposed entrance on Main Street.
“To mitigate stormwater runoff, we’ve proposed the swales with ‘check dams’ to promote infiltration immediately instead of gathering in puddles,” Johnson said.
The left swale will run approximately 225 feet while the right will run 600 feet and allow for open access. When questioned about the grade of the land, Johnson replied that it isn’t very steep and shouldn’t require too many cuts.
The goal, said Johnson, is to “minimize impact in that area as much as possible.”
Once the Conservation Commission was satisfied, Chairman Michele Cannon gave the assembled public a chance to ask questions. She noted that the commission is well-acquainted with the property.
“We’ve already walked the site,” she said. “We’re very familiar with it.”
Main Street resident David Werlin, a self-described environmentalist, was the only one to question Johnson about details of the road construction, adding that he and his wife had concerns over the direction of any salt runoff.
Johnson, and Gary Shepherd from Sterilite, assured Werlin that the salt shed would be well off the road and that the grade of the road, only 4 percent, requires a lot less salt for maintenance. Werlin seemed satisfied with the answer, but asked to borrow a copy of the plans so that he and his wife could look them over as soon as they were available.
With no further questions, the commission closed the public hearing.
Before members took a vote, Shepherd addressed any lingering questions over the decision to abandon the Highland Street entrance to the site. By changing the location, he said, the road could avoid protected areas.
“Having everything off the aquifer is more important than coming in off Highland Street,” he said.
The commission voted unanimously, with member Jennifer Pettit abstaining due to her residency in the proposed area, to allow the construction of the road despite its proximity to protected land.
While a major step forward, the project still has to gain approval from the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. A Planning Board public hearing was scheduled for Monday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m., with the ZBA set to hear the proposal on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m.
If all goes well, Shepherd told the assembled public, construction could begin the week of Oct. 22