Acton Town Hall has released a new version of the draft modified special permit decision for Concord’s application to increase its water treatment capacity at Nagog Pond. This document emerged from closed door sessions between the Acton and Concord Select Boards over the winter. It will be deliberated at a second “Remand Hearing” on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at 7pm in Acton Town Hall. [This is an update: Originally posted date was March 29.]
To recap how we got here (feel free to skip):
- In March 2017, the Acton BoS approved Concord’s application for a special permit and special use permit to build an expanded Water Treatment Plant on Nagog Pond — but with many terms and conditions.
- Concord sued in Land Court for judicial relief of “onerous” terms and conditions.
- In November 2017, a revised version of the special permit emerged from closed door discussions between Concord and Acton, with most of the terms and conditions deleted.
- Acton held a public hearing on this revised document, the BoS deliberated again, and voted again. Green Acton took an official position to urge the Selectmen to vote no. The revised version did not reach the supermajority required for approval.
- The case went back to the Land Court, and was scheduled for a July 2018 court date. In the meantime, settlement negotiations between Acton and Concord continued.
- The document provided in this post emerged from this the most recent round of negotiations (Nov 2017–March 2018).
- The original (March 2017) version of the permit decision included a provision that Concord should continue to provide water service to customers, along Rt. 2A (Great Road) in Acton, who have historically been served by Concord. This provision is now the subject of a separate inter-municipal agreement, which was discussed by both the Acton and Concord Select Boards on March 19, 2018. The inter-municipal agreement will become effective only if it is affirmed by vote of Acton Town Meeting, for which it is on the warrant as Article 26. [Update 14 April: Article 26 was defeated.]
What’s in the new version of the permit document?
Three versions of the new document have been released:
- A clean copy
- A red-lined version showing changes between the new version and the original (March 2017) version
- A red-lined version showing changes between the new version and the November 2017 version
It’s important to remember that Acton’s Board of Selectmen have already voted (March 2017) to approve the building of a water treatment plant at Nagog Pond and associated modifications to the water intake system. Still under negotiation/litigation are the terms and conditions under which the plant can be built.
Looking at the terms and conditions that are relevant to the environment:
- The section on “Monitoring” is still gone (section 3.3.8 of the March 2017 version, absent from the Nov 2017 version).
- The section on “Water Supply and Coordination and Planning,” which had been substantially weakened between March 2017 and Nov 2017, remains in its weakened state (section 3.3.9).
- Paragraph on bald eagle habitat protection, added in Nov 2017, remains [section 3.3.11 (4)].
- A new section on “Withdrawal Reporting” has been added (section 3.3.8). This requires Concord to provide to the Acton Water District and the Acton Health Department a report on how much water it has drawn monthly and annually from Nagog Pond. This is the same information that all water suppliers are required to supply annually to the Bureau of Water Resources Drinking Water Program at MassDEP. Concord would supply this information to Acton at the same time as it submits to the state. Since these data are public records, and Acton could obtain them from MassDEP at any time, this is a trivial accommodation on Concord’s part.
- The section on “Protection of Environment and Natural Resources” has been modified (section 3.3.8). A new clause has been added, saying that “Concord shall construct and operate its facility… (ii)…in a manner that appropriately prevents significant damage to the environment in or adjacent to Nagog Pond [our emphasis added].” However, the paragraph then goes on to say that the Applicant [Concord] believes that this clause may be beyond the authority of the Acton BoS, and that Concord may challenge the validity or enforceability of subsection (ii) in the future.
Next steps and what you can do:
- Come to the Remand Hearing, and consider speaking when the floor is opened for citizens’ comments. This hearing is currently scheduled for March 29, 2018, at 7pm in Acton Town Hall. However, the agenda has not yet been posted and there is some possibility the hearing will be delayed. [Update: remand hearing has indeed been postponed. It is now scheduled for April 26, 2018.]
- Come to Town Meeting, and consider speaking when the microphones are are opened for comments from the floor. Town Meeting is held in the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School Auditorium, 36 Charter Road. Article 26: Water Service on Great Road, is likely to be dealt with on the second day of Town Meeting: Tuesday, April 3 at 7pm. [Update: thanks to Town Meeting for voting no on Article 26.]