Representative from W.D. Cowls and Landmark Properties appear before ConComm
Amherst Conservation Commission
A half dozen employees representing the interests of the current landowner, W.D. Cowls, and the buyer/developer, Landmark Properties, who wish to build a student housing project on 147 acres of woodland in North Amherst came before the Conservation Commission again to explain how damage occurred to wetlands and how they will ensure it does not happen again.
W.D. Cowls, the largest private landowner in the state, has always allowed the general public to use the property for recreation. And mountain bikes, all terrain vehicles and jeeps can leave behind ruts which the commission considers unacceptable in protected wetlands.
Cowls may reconsider keeping the property open to the general public and could install gates or cables at the three main entry points to keep out motorized vehicles.
Conservation members site visit to damaged area 6/25
But much of the (self reported) damage was caused by a contractor doing geo-technical drilling for the proposed buyer of the property, Landmark Properties. Commission member Christiane Healey said, "I'm perplexed. Don't you have experience with this?"
"We don't do this very often," responded the contractor, Mike Talbot. "In my 30 years this if the first time doing work around wetlands on such a large tract of property. We crossed wetlands to get to drilling sites. We thought using logging roads was okay."
Talbot said from now on "wetlands" had been added to their job sheet checklists for awareness and a wetlands expert or land engineer would be consulted before any work took place in sensitive areas.
The "Preliminary Restoration Plan" was pronounced "thorough" by town wetlands administrator Beth Willson, but she preferred all restoration work be done by hand rather than mechanized equipment -- especially considering it was mechanized equipment that caused the damage in the first place.
The commission agreed and made that a part of their requirements as well as a paragraph about maintaining communication with the Conservation Commission and obtaining permits anytime work is performed in and around wetlands.
About 25 concerned neighbors show up
The environmental consultants will return to the July 23rd meeting with a final Restoration Plan and begin the work (by hand) immediately after approval by the Conservation Commission.
Vince O'Connor worried about Fire Department access in case of a forest fire