HARVARD — Adam Brodsky, an attorney representing Fox Realty Trust, is hoping to obtain a site plan approval, driveway permit and scenic-road consent for the company’s proposed single-family home on Stow Road.
However, several issues have plagued the site, including fire safety and the safety of a historic oak tree.
At the Planning Board’s May 5 meeting, Brodsky reported that one of the issues brought up at a previous meeting had been resolved.
The Fire Department has rescinded its previous suggestion to install a water cistern on the site as a water source for firefighting, he said. The department has found the nearby brook to be acceptable with the addition of a dry hydrant and possible sprinkler system, he said.
Other safety issues the board wants addressed include concerns about emergency vehicle access and the ability of multiple vehicles to traverse the driveway.
Fox Realty Trust engineer Gary Shepard, of Ross Associates, said he’ll get clarification on those issues, particularly since there’s some question as to what the most likely route to the location would be for the Fire Department in case of an emergency.
Having completed a recent site walk, board Chairman Joseph Sudol said he’s concerned about the line of sight necessary for road safety at the end of the proposed driveway because of a 60-inch-wide oak tree believed to be at least 200 years old and a historic border tree between Harvard and Boxborough.
“Everyone agrees we should find a way to protect that tree,” said Sudol. He added that he doesn’t feel alternative locations for the driveway have been explored yet.
Planner Barbara Brady also voiced concerns about the welfare of the oak tree.
Having previous experience working with the tree warden, she said cutting and digging under a tree’s canopy has an adverse affect. The current design of the proposed driveway crosses within five feet of the trunk of the tree, she said.
Since the previous meeting, during which input and letters from multiple boards, departments and other concerned entities were presented, Brodsky said the owners have been looking into applying those suggestions, including protection for the tree.
“I think we can implement all of those best management practices and improve on them,” he said.
Some of the suggestions are contradictory, said Planner Kara Minar, particularly opposed concerns of preserving the tree as a historical location and removing the tree as a safety hazard.
Other concerns raised by the driveway include interwoven issues of drainage, safety and wetlands protection.
“There is a balancing we need to go through here,” said Planner Peter Brooks.
The current design is for a 10-foot wide driveway, which has wetlands nearby on either side, he said. Due to safety concerns the driveway may need to be wider, he said, but a wider driveway may increase the impact on the wetlands.
There are also concerns that drainage trenches lining the driveway haven’t been tested.
“In this case it may be a problem,” said Sudol.
There’s little leeway on either side of the driveway for changes to the drainage trench locations, he said.
There were similar concerns about snowplowing along the driveway filling the trenches and pushing salt or dirt used during the winter directly into the wetlands.
The driveway was designed using guidelines set down in Harvard’s driveway bylaw, said Shepard. It takes safety and environmental concerns into account, he said.
The site also has an ongoing wetlands permitting issue.
The Conservation Commission denied the application, but the Department of Environmental Protection overturned the commission’s decision. It issued a superseding order of conditions the commission is currently attempting to appeal.
The board decided to look into hiring a wetland scientist consultant to provide an independent report on the wetland issues on the site. It found that under Harvard town bylaw 125-46, paragraph C, it doesn’t need to consider the wetlands issues during the permitting process.
As the realty trust would be required to pay for such a consultant, Brodsky said it may contest the request, but will wait for the specific proposal. It cited that their position is that the wetlands and planning permits are separate processes as its reason for doing so.
Brodsky also agreed to provide the accident history of the adjacent intersection at the next meeting. The board voted to continue the hearing to June 2 at 8 p.m., at which time the applicant plans to respond to the issues raised by the board.