Planning Board Jumps on Grasshopper
by Paul Saulnier 9/22/12
This pile of dirt/compost, at times 25 to 30 feet tall according to abutters, and other activities on this Jeffery Avenue property, has caused abutting property owners to cry foul.
The Building Inspector visited 67 Jeffrey Avenue in response to complaints of odors that, according to abutters, were making it impossible to conduct business as usual in the area. As a result, Grasshopper Tree and Landscape Company was directed to file for a new Special Permit with the Planning Board.
The original special permit was for much less intense use of the property. But the business has grown requiring the use of remaning areas of the property. Additional storage areas were created to segregate and store for reuse materials salvaged from projects. New construction materials are also being stored in and among the trees along the property lines. The owner would like to cut down the trees to make it easier to work the inventory.
Planning Board Chairman Parashar Patel, second from left above, opened the application hearing by asking the proponent to present the request.
Participants wait for their turn to be heard.
Joyce Hastings, GLM Engineering Consultants, reviewed the details of the plan for the board, as the owner looks on. She pointed out that the application is a request to approve what is already in place, rather than for proposed operations, which is usually the case for special permit requests.
Hastings pointed out that the offending pile of dirt/compost has been lowered from the previous highs to 15 feet, the legal limit of such piles.
The gray areas on the right side of the plan above are paved. Grasshopper is requesting approval for the use of the green area, including the gravel roads (gray) and additional bins at the top of the plan.
Larry Gordon, president of Cold Chain Technologies, above left, brought attorney Scott T. Fenton of Bowditch & Dewey, to present the complaints of abutters. Concerned neighbor, Milton "Uncle Milt" Cohen waits patiently for the facts to be aired.
Fenton questioned the owner's right to store large volumes of materials on the site, especially dirt/compost. He feels that the present operation is not in keeping with the rest of the businesses in the park, which are geared towards manufacturing inside buildings. Fenton pointed out that the bylaw limits coverage of the lot to 40% but stated that currently 100% of the lot is covered in some form. Fenton pointed to photographs taken from Cold Chain's property that show a recent excavation of materials, leaving a near vertical face which will erode and collapse, in his opinion. He questioned whether the material excavated was taken off site in violation of town bylaws. Fenton asked the board to stop the piling of dirt/compost entirely rather than allow it up to the 15 feet tall requested.
Mr. Gordon said that this past summer the odors eminating form the site have created an unpleasant work space for his employees. When his loading doors are open to receive or ship products, the smell enters the building. Employees no longer eat lunch outside due to the odors eminating from the site.
Abutter Geof Zeamer recused himself from the deliberations and stood to speak to the issues created by the current use of the property. Zeamer asked the board to require a storm water management plan for the site. He has witnessed water being pumped off the site onto the abutting property, eventually running into a pond below, clogging it with silt.
Patel was clearly irritated by the owner's disregard for the existing special permit and his lack of care of the site. He questioned whether the owner would respect a new special permit, given his disregard for the current permit and suggested that stiff financial penalties be included in the permit. The owner stated he is already incurring financial penalties by having to hire professionals to help him obtain a new special permit.
The board directed the owner to submit a remediation plan by Tuesday, September 25, 2012, and will visit the site for an inspection before 8:00 PM, October 4, 2012, the date of the continued hearing.
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