Amherst appeals MassDEP’s overruling Conservation Commission on wetlands parcel

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 7/13/2022 4:36:14 PM
Modified: 7/13/2022 4:35:59 PM

AMHERST — A state Department of Environmental Protection decision that overruled Conservation Commission findings about wetlands on properties at the corner of Fearing and North Pleasant streets is being appealed by Amherst officials.

Through attorney A. Alexander Weisheit of KP Law in Boston, the town on June 30 requested an adjudicatory appeal of the superseding order of resource area delineation, also known as a SORAD, that was recently granted to 52 Fearing Street LLC, a corporation managed by local developer Barry Roberts.

In the correspondence to the Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution, the town contends that revised delineations of bordered vegetated wetlands on the properties at 52 Fearing and 336 and 346 North Pleasant, provided to the state agency, were missing from the original plans brought to the commission in July 2021. The commission made its decision last fall.

“MassDEP’s SORAD incorrectly approved certain flagged resource areas as bordered vegetated wetland when they are in fact identifying top of bank to an intermittent stream,” reads Weisheit’s introduction to the appeal.

In addition, the appeal calls out the state for ignoring first-hand observations by Erin Jacque, the town’s wetlands administrator, as well as the commission’s third-party reviewer, of flooding that takes place on the properties, totaling close to 5 acres, and that the state also incorrectly approved delineation of Tan Brook as an intermittent stream, rather than a perennial stream.

The original abbreviated notice of resource area delineation was filed with the town by SWCA Environmental Consultants of Amherst for “confirmation of the delineated inland bank and bordering vegetated wetlands on the site along with their associated jurisdiction and buffer zones.”

The filing was done to give Roberts information about what could be done on the site, which includes the Mount Pleasant Apartments, and whether any future work in the area would be subject to jurisdiction of the Wetlands Protection Act.

How the Tan Brook is defined could have ramifications for any development that might occur, according to information contained in a newsletter sent to constituents by District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam last year.

“This distinction can have serious impact on building plans because the stream, its wetlands, and natural life are to be protected and preserved from being filled in for construction,” Pam wrote 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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