|BRO MX Ordered to Comply With Conservation Restrictions |
|By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff|
02:58PM / Tuesday, May 30, 2023
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission gave BRO MX until July 28 to place signage marking conservation-restricted area they improperly mowed as well as hire a botanist to review the area.
The commission on Thursday went over some conservation restrictions included in the deed of motocross track owners Jason and Jessica Langenback that they unknowingly violated.
"The reason why you are on the agenda is that there have been suggested anomalies of the management and the use of the conversation restriction … wetlands encroachment and things along those lines," Chairman Andrew J. Kawczak said. "So I am hoping … this gets the conversation started."
Specifically, the restrictions control mowing in a meadowed area as there are endangered insects and plants.
The Langenbacks purchased the property in 2021. With only some guidance from the previous owner, they were unclear on the specifics of the wetland restrictions.
Kawczak said this was clear per a conversation he had with the owners.
"I just don't feel, based on our conversation, that you were in a position to know all of the elements of the restrictions," he said. "I don't know if the previous owner exposed you to those requirements when you acquired the property."
Commissioner Heather Williams added that she had witnessed mowing in the restricted area of the property. Per their restrictions, the Langenbacks can only mow after Aug.1 at least every other year.
The conversation then shifted to the nature of this observation and how the item ended up on the agenda. Commissioner Glenn Murray alleged that Williams and Kawczak were possibly overstepping their jurisdiction and at times trespassing on BRO MX property.
Specifically, Murray felt Kawczak's conversation with the Langenbacks was inappropriate as it was not a scheduled Conservation Commission meeting that would have given BRO MX fair notice.
Kawczak said he was on a neighboring site on Conservation Commission business and he was able to see the BRO MX property and observe. He said he was not trespassing. He did approach the owners and discussed the mowing restrictions that are included in the deed.
Jessica said they had not been mowing at all as they just did not have time. She said they only decided to hire someone to mow after their conversation with Kawczak.
"It is just very odd that Andy says we should mow and then Heather just happens to just drive by on this two-hour period in the past two years we mowed," she said.
Jason Langenback also alleged that Kawczak held a bias against BRO MX, citing past involvement at a Planning Board meeting.
Kawczak said he spoke out against a BRO MX application at a past Planning Board meeting only as a resident who lives more than 2,000 feet away.
He said his only concern now is conservation.
"I don't have anything against you," he said. "I want to see you succeed. I am just worried about the Wetlands Protection Act."
The Langenbacks did say they want to comply.
This still didn't sit well with Murray, who said he was having a hard time putting the timeline in order. He felt the state Department of Environmental Protection probably wouldn't have gotten involved if it wasn't for Kawczak's intervention. He also had major concerns about his meeting with the owners outside of the commission, as normally they would schedule an official meeting giving an applicant notice.
"I can't make sense of this because truthfully a lot of this does not make sense to me," he said.
He also alleged Kawczak and Williams violated the Open Meeting Law and held conversations outside of the public meeting forum.
He went as far as to motion that Kawczak, Williams, and Commissioner Jennifer Dunning recuse themselves from the conversation and all other BRO MX business.
The motion failed with only Murray and Robert Reynolds voting in favor and Jason Canales abstaining.
Canales wanted to refocus the meeting and asked the commission to instead aim to correct the issue.
"What can we do to help them or ask them to do to rectify what has been done," he said. "It already happened and we can't put the grass back."
Jason Langenback said the state did contact him and requested that they hire a botanist to survey the area. This seemed at first to be a consequence of the Conservation Commission's findings, but it is actually built into their deed that a botanist visit the site every five years. At this point they are overdue.
In other business, the commission approved an application from McCann Technical School to construct a new building to house its HVAC building
Canales added that he thought clear signage marking the restricted area would go a long way in limiting access to the conservation area.
After this is done, he felt it would be a good time for the commission to undergo a scheduled visit to the site.
After a vote, Murray said he planned to file an Open Meeting Law violation and file with the state Ethics Commission.