Watershed Protection Committee
May 24, 2012
Committee Members Present: Warren Archey (WA), Neal Carpenter (NC), Eugene Chague (EC), Jo Anne Magee (JAM), Tom Romeo (TR), Jeff Vincent (JV)
Also in attendance: Mary Albertson (MA), Lenox Town Planner, Tad Ames (TA), Rick Fuore (RF), David Lane (DL), John McNinch (JM), and members of the public
JM called the meeting to order at 9:03 am.
TR moved approval of the May 10 minutes. EC second. Approved unanimously.
Following discussion, committee confirmed that TA, RF, DL (and JM?) are considered members of the committee, and may vote, record minutes, etc. Question was raised as to whether Town of Richmond would be allowed a representative on the committee. Committee agreed that participation by a resident of Richmond was acceptable and JM said he would bring the matter to BOS.
MA was invited to discuss existing restrictions on the Watershed. Following are statements by MA; committee member comments indicated by initials.
- Pursuant to DEP specifications, the Watershed is broken into three zones, with Zone 1 being closest (within 400 feet) of any stream or reservoir, and Zone 2 and Zone 3 incrementally further from water supply. Use restrictions relax as one moves further from the water.
- Under current Town of Lenox Zoning Bylaw, the watershed lands are zoned R3A, subject to dimensional (minimum 3 acre lot size, with 200 feet of frontage, various setbacks) and use regulations (Single Family Residential – very little other uses permitted, though some exceptions. See table.)
- Some communities place a Watershed Protection Zoning overlay on their watershed lands. Such an overlay would regulate potential threats to water supply, such as underground tanks, gas stations and other uses. This is more common in situations where commercially zoned land or other more highly developed land lies above an aquifer. However, it could be employed in Lenox to add an extra layer of protection.
DL asked whether any of the land could be developed. Committee discussed and RF clarified that if the Town sold any of the land, it could be developed for residential lots. DL: “With today’s ownership, there are no building lots on the watershed.”
MA observed that though a zoning overlay did not seem a critical step, if it were pursued it should be done in conjunction with Town of Richmond because some of the Lenox Mountain Brook drainage basin lies in Richmond. JAM stated that the committee’s first objective should be to think about 50-60 years in the future – “The future is the open question – that is the thing we should be looking at.” DL: “I agree, today we’re good. We need to look forward.”
TR cited sections 12-3, 12-4 and 12-5 of the Scenic Mountains Act (page 1&) which provide exemptions from the SMA for electrical transport. “We may not be protected from ourselves.” NC observed that one can do almost anything within the SMA area, but new uses require public review.
Committee discussed possibilities of reviewing zoning overlay models. Discussed Article 97 and its potential relevance to the situation.
EC: Which tool is the most protective?
MA: “I would definitely recommend the Conservation Restriction. It is the strongest protection.” Observed that zoning overlay would only guide development in a certain way. This could be useful for the small portions of the Lenox Mountain Brook drainage that remain owned privately. JAM pointed out that 7 landowners in Richmond and Lenox own small slices of the watershed.
TA estimated that BNRC might own 60-70 acres of the drainage. Stated that BNRC staff had recommended considering that BNRC’s 16-acre Williams parcel, so-called, situated on the fire tower road and located partly within Zone 1, could be conveyed to Town for no consideration if the CR went forward. Such a conveyance would need to be approved by BNRC Board of Directors, which has not reviewed the idea.
MA stated that how a Town acquires land (by gift for specific purpose, using governmental funds, etc.) will govern future use. Discussion ensued of how the Town had acquired the watershed, and whether it was subject to Article 97. In RF’s phrase, which no one challenged, written records of the Town’s acquisition were “very vague.” MA suggested that because the land was being managed in accordance with watershed protection, it was probably considered by the state to be in Article 97, but recommended reviewing with town counsel to see if there is any definitive protection on the land already.
- TA said he would check with Mass Division of Fisheries & Wildlife to see if their title research of 2007-8 prior to the proposed purchase of CR could shed any light on the subject.
- JAM offered to find and circulate statutory Article 97 language.
JAM asked whether the committee’s proceedings and materials could all be posted online. RF cautioned that some material, including maps, should be kept offline to maintain security of the water supply. Committee agreed to proceed cautiously with online posting, if at all.
JM: Next meeting’s agenda: review DFW history and review CR template.
The following is the list of documents distributed at the meeting:
- Proposed Model CR--2009
- Town of Lenox Scenic Mountain Act
- Overlay map of the Lenox Mt Brook Watershed, the Lenox Watershed, BNRC Holdings and Other Conserved Land (supplied by BNRC)
- Excel files of Richmond and Lenox Landowners who own a portion of the lands that make up the Lenox Watershed
- Overlay map of the Lenox Town Boundary, the Lenox Watershed and surrounding parcels (supplied by BRPC)
- Conservation Restriction Defined
- Lenox Zoning Bylaws, Sections 3 and 4
Meeting adjourned at 10:05 am.
By Tad Ames