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North Adams Conservation Commission OKs Parking, Footpath
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
08:55PM / Monday, June 10, 2019
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The Conservation Commission approved a walking path near the Hoosic River.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city was approved to move forward with a parking lot as part of the planned renovation of Brayton Park. 
 
The Conservation Commission had reservations about the additional hard surfaces near the Hoosic River and the city and its designer, Jeff Squire of Berkshire Design Group, had decided to hold back on that piece. 
 
However, Squire and Community Development Director Michael Nuvallie were back before the commissioners on May 28 with a revamped parking plan that would make use of the proposed rain garden that was already in the park's plans. 
 
"Because we had already made our determination at that meeting, there was really no way to reverse," said Chairman Jason Moran. "After some conversations with the state saying that may be allowable, given the existing catch basins and stuff like that. So I suggested that they refile for just the parking lot itself.
 
"So that way, it can all be permitted, and it's all accepted."
 
Squires said the plans he'd provided show the details of the rain garden for run off from the small parking lot and an existing subbasin for overflow. 
 
 "This will be a big improvement over the water that's going in there now," he said. All the details of the rain garden hadn't been finalized yet but these latest plans show the curb cut to allow for the water to flow into it. "The idea is that there's an existing catch basin there right now. And for the regulations, were allowed to drain into an existing catch basin, and we're simply providing the rain garden as an improvement."
 
 Commissioner Elena Traistor tried to recall of the request for determination at the Berkshire Design's last appearance was a matter of jurisdiction. Moran said it wasn't. 
 
"The RDA was submitted to us because they are within resource areas because of the riparian zones," he said. "And the question for the RDA was whether the work depicted, we would allow or would require a negative or positive determination and positive determination would have kicked these guys into a notice of intent. And we had ruled a negative determination."
 
He believed it was either a 2 or 3 negative determination to indicated the commission knew the work was in a resource area but not enough to file a notice of intent. 
 
Commissioner Andrew J. Kawczak agreed with Traister that it did fall under the Wetlands Act but said whether it fell under a notice of intent was a bit more nuanced. 
 
"The project is fairly simple and can be categorized as an RDA negative, should it be decided," he said. 
 
The city and its designers have pointed out that the area has been heavily settled for decades, with a school, housing projects and commercial businesses all clustered around the Hoosic River, which is contained by concrete flood control chutes in the area by the park. 
 
"I think it would be more of a challenge if the flood chutes weren't there," Moran said. "And if this was grass area, no road associated with it, things like that. But in this instance, it's an improvement to something that's already pre-existing."
 
The commissioners voted to give the project a negative 2 determination that acknowledges it falls under the Wetlands Protection Act because of its proximity to the river but it will not remove or alter the area in anyway and so does not need a notice of intent to do the work. 
 
This approval will allow the project the first phase of the project to be completed together. The $455,000 renovation will include a new playground, basketball court, youth baseball field, soccer-sized multi-use field, practice wall, walking path and parking area. Across Brayton Terrace on the Hoosic River side will be two pocket parks, picnic tables, information panels on the river and wildlife and a focal element that would be a replication of a waterwheel.
 
The Tourists' inn also was approved last month for a pedestrian path on the property that will go under the railroad line. The design, by Tighe & Bond, will include native plantings and gravel paths.  The notice of intent was filed on behalf of Blackinton Backwoods LLC. The commissioners voted to approve with the standard order of conditions. 
 
Moran expressed concern about outstanding orders on the property. Manager Eric Kerns said he anticipated the orders on the pedestrian bridge to be closed soon and that the landscaping behind the farmhouse — delayed because of the unseasonal and rainy weather — to be wrapped up as well. He also believed the order for the hotel itself to be completed. 
 
The commission also gave the OK to an emergency certification to remove trees that had fallen into Phillips Brook at Southview Cemetery. Timothy Lescarbeau, a member of the commission and also the city's commissioner of public services, provided the panel pictures from Trinity Engineering showing how the trees had forced a diversion of the brook that had taken out about 6 feet of the banking. A couple old headstones had also fallen in. 
 
"We just want to get in there and cut them up by hand," he said. "We're going to put some mats down and see if we can get a machine in there to pick them up ... We're going to try to get most of with hand work without stirring up too much of the area."
 
Lescarbeau said he would return with a plan for stabilizing the banks once the debris is removed. 

 

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