Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Conservation Commission, September 14, 2022
This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. It can be viewed here.
Jen Fair (Chair), Michelle Labbe, Laura Pagliarulo, Fletcher Clark, and Andrey Guidera
Staff: Erin Jacques (Wetlands Administrator), Dave Ziomek (Assistant Town Manager)
Permit For Small Wedding On Mount Pollux Granted
Although the Conservation Commission voted 4-1 to grant a permit for a 25 person wedding on November 5 on Mount Pollux, the commission agreed to have further discussion about private use of public lands after commissioner Laura Pagliarulo recounted a recent incident where she encountered a police officer preventing cars and pedestrians from entering Mount Pollux because a movie was being filmed at the site.
The commission had previously approved a permit for Janet Plant Films to use Mount Pollux for one day with the provision that access to the site not be not restricted. The date of use was not specified, because filming depended on weather conditions. Despite the direction to preserve public access, people were not allowed at the site during the filming. Although Pagliarulo understood the need to keep people away during filming, she objected to this restriction on public land. She provided the one vote against approving the November 5 wedding and urged the commission to discuss its policy on use of public land for private functions. She suggested that private entities be charged a deposit that would not be refunded if the terms of the use were not followed.
With the approval of the wedding, the commission specified that the wedding could not have exclusive access to the site and the applicant was urged to have guests carpool from parking on the South Common. Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek said that in the past, there were many more weddings on public land, and some larger weddings got out of hand with damage to sites. The topic will be placed on a future agenda.
Battery Energy Storage Facility Planned For Site Of Former Annie’s Garden Center
BWC Eastman Brook, LLC and Blue Wave propose an 18.87 megawatt battery energy storage facility in the buffer zone bordering vegetated wetlands at 515 Sunderland Road. Josh Lariscy of Wood Massachusetts, Inc engineering firm presented the plans for the project. There are no structures currently on the site which until 2013 housed Annie’s Garden and Gift Center.
Leriscy said the project would occupy slightly less than an acre of the site which is a grassy plain. Six concrete pads would be built for the battery containers, with room to add more over time. A seven-foot fence will surround the pads and a narrow gravel road will provide access. There will be minimal grading and minimal increase in impervious area. All work will take place more than 50 feet from the wetlands. Poles will be constructed to connect the batteries to the substation at the solar field to the south.
Further discussion about the project will take place at the September 28 meeting.
More Tree Removal Denied At Private Home Site
The commission declined to modify their previous decision to prohibit trees to be removed from the slope behind a house to be built on Trillium Lane in Amherst Woods. The landowner Amir Mikhchi requested a modification of the previous granted permit to allow more light to reach the site. Wetlands Administrator Erin Jacques said she visited the site and found two dead and one diseased pine tree among the 15 pine trees on the slope. Although she agreed that the diseased trees could be removed, she felt the rest of the trees stabilized the slope in the wetlands. The rest of the commission agreed with her and denied Mikhchi’s request to remove all 15 pine trees.
Further Commission Business
Ziomek said that the Conservation Department was catching up on mowing. Atkins Flats was recently mowed and will hopefully again host bobolinks and pollinators. The site had gotten so woody with undergrowth that the tractor got stuck twice and had two flat tires while completing the mowing. There were two kestrels nesting at the site this year. Ziomek said the department usually tries to mow in the late fall to balance the welfare of birds, turtles ,and pollinators, but if they wait to long and it snows, the whole mowing season is lost.
Ron LaVerdiere was granted approval from the commission to construct a multi-family residence at 395 West Street in Amherst Office Park. The construction plan includes the protection of turtle habitat as requested by the Natural Heritage Commission.
The Conservation Commission will meet again on September 28 at 7 p.m. with a full agenda.