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Williamstown Con Comm OKs Waubeeka Repair, Rural Lands Parking Lot
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
03:34PM / Thursday, March 21, 2024
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission last week gave the green light to two projects along Route 7.
The new owner of Waubeeka Golf Links and the executive director of the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation were before the commission seeking negative determinations of applicability under the Wetlands Protection Act for activity on their lands.
A negative determination from the panel means that landowners do not have to file a more costly and time-consuming Notice of Intent, which involves a full engineering study.
Waubeeka owner Chris Kapiloff sought and received the Con Comm's permission to replace an existing but failed pipe that was installed to carry drainage from Route 43 (Hancock Road) to the Green River, which flows through the course.
Rural Lands Executive Director Robin Sears got the OK to expand a gravel parking lot at the non-profit by about 600 square feet.
The commission was scheduled to open a public hearing on Williams College's proposed multipurpose recreation facility, but just five members of the seven-person panel attended the March 14 meeting, and two — Cory Campbell and Henry Art — recused themselves due to their connections to the college. The Con Comm's next chance to hold a hearing on the college's proposed building will be March 28, if it has a quorum of at least four members available.
On the Waubeeka request Art questioned whether an NOI would be more appropriate given the nature of the work.
"The state's view of taking an already daylighted source of water and putting in a pipe and connecting it to another pipe — to me that seems to be not just an RDA," Art said.
"I'm curious whether the Wetlands Protection Act applies. … I'm in a quandary as to what the law and regulations are. Is that something minor enough in terms of its impact that we could find a negative [determination] on that? It's certainly an intermittent stream. Or would that require the filing of an NOI?"
Community Development Director Andrew Groff, who functions as the town's conservation agent and advises the commission, said it was within the Con Comm's discretion to decide whether or not the WPA applied.
"The real question is how long has it been daylighted," Groff said. "It was daylighted through, essentially, lack of maintenance, as I understand it."
The Waubeeka pipe restoration will benefit the course by helping with drainage on the property but, more importantly, help the environment, Kapiloff argued. Rather than letting water flow over the course and, potentially, pick up chemicals used to treat the grounds on the way to the Green River, the pipe will keep the water discharged into the river free of such contamination.
"The amount of water you saw today [on a site visit by the commission] has already subsided, and we could get across the bridges and the paths fine," Kapiloff said. "I'm not coming here today to ask you to allow me to do this so I can run my business better. I'm doing it so I can make an honest effort to return streams to their rightful flow so that the golf course and its environment can meld better together.
"If I was coming to you saying, 'I need this so I can increase revenue,' I think it would make sense for you guys to say, 'Let's talk to an engineer.' But these two particular things are so we can keep pesticides and fertilizers out of the Green River."
The commission voted, 5-0, to give Waubeeka the negative finding after adding a condition on the project that the replacement pipe be at least as large as the original so it could handle the same volume of water.
It also voted unanimously to allow Williamstown Rural Lands to proceed with the parking area expansion in an area within 100 feet of the property's pond.
"We are so popular, with many programs, events and occasional rentals that we have parking problems at our center," Sears said of the foundation's headquarters at 671 Cold Spring Road (Route 7). "Not only that, but the current lot that's on the level of our offices isn't marked for parking, and there is often mayhem.
"So, for safety purposes, because we have many kids coming to our programs, and to accommodate a few more cars, we would like to expand our existing lot by about 600 square feet."
The vote to OK the expansion was 4-0-1 with McKnight, who sits on the board of the WRLF, abstaining.
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