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Board weighs requests for projects within protected wetlands

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

GROTON — It was strictly by the numbers for the Conservation Commission in late September when members considered a number of applications by homeowners to build within100 feet of wetlands protected by state law.

First up was owner John Brooks, who planned on building an addition on his home and installing a new septic tank at his 74 West Main St. property.

According to engineer Dan Wolf, who represented Brooks, the 30-by-18 square-foot addition and a small deck attached would not exceed the current area of the house and so would not increase the home’s pre-existing nonconformance.

That nonconformance was due to the portion of the house where the addition was to be built that already is within 65 feet of the wetland, 35 feet less than the 100-foot buffer zone required by current statutes.

Technically, said commission Chairman Bruce Easom, Brooks’ request was grandfathered and because it was not making conditions worse, had to be allowed.

Commissioners also heard from Wolf on a second project atr 49 Cherry Tree Lane, owned by Richard Flaherty.

Describing the proposed work at the acre-sized property as “a unique project,” Wolf said that when Flaherty signed a purchase-and-sales agreement for the house located there, he did not realize the magnitude of a mound that had been constructed directly in front.

Known as a “mounded system” in the parlance of local engineers, the huge pile of soil is one way of overcoming deficiencies in the soil’s ability to absorb water, allowing installation of a septic system where one might not otherwise fit.

In Flaherty’s case, the mound in front of his house was so high that he could not see the road or the end of his driveway from the ground floor of his home.

But describing his client as being more fortunate than most, Wolf said there was a remedy if Flaherty was willing to pay for it. Since he was, the next stop was the ConsCom, which needed to sign off on the alternative due to part of the property being within the 100-foot buffer zone of nearby wetlands.

Wolf told commissioners that his plan called for removal of the septic system from the front yard of the house to back and then reducing the height of the mound by a good 6 feet, while removing and replacing the driveway on a new grading.

Permission of the ConsCom was needed because some of the regrading would take place within the buffer zone.

“This is an expensive undertaking for something that is not really needed,” observed Wolf, asking the commission not to recommend anything that would unnecessarily add to his client’s expense.

Asked why builders of the home constructed a mounded system in the front yard if a septic system could fit in the back yard, Wolf said it was a story that would take too long to tell.

— Pierre Comtois

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