Category Archives: Water Quantity

Green Acton Public Statement re: Proposed Piper Lane Building Project, 7/9/2019

[Sent on 7/15/19 to the Board of Selectmen and the Zoning Board of Appeals, from Debra Simes (President) and Jim Snyder-Grant (Co-President), along with a request that this be taken into account in any future deliberations on this project.]

This statement asserts Green Acton’s opposition to the proposed application currently under review for the Piper Lane 40B building project because it will cause a number of unacceptable environmental outcomes in Acton. 

This project proposes 28 townhouses in 8 buildings on what is known by many as the Magoon Property, at Piper Lane near School Street and abutting the Great Hill Conservation Area. The Magoon property significantly protrudes into the Great Hill Conservation Area. This project would negatively and irrevocably impact precious conservation land; disrupt wildlife habitat and vernal pool uplands; destroy acres of trees and wetlands; demolish hiking trails1; and increase our carbon footprint. 

Other shortcomings of the project are: it would decrease neighborhood access to greenspace and increase traffic in this South Acton neighborhood. Further, the developer has not committed to using renewable energy sources, water-saving fixtures, or environmentally responsible materials for the project. 

Beyond the environmental harms noted, Green Acton is mindful of the need for genuinely affordable housing for some of our most vulnerable residents — those with lower incomes (including some seniors) and people with disabilities. As proposed, this project would not provide affordable accommodation for such residents.2 

The Town of Acton identified this parcel as a priority conservation land acquisition, but has not reached an agreement with the property owner.3 The proposed project would disrupt this effort. Green Acton urges the Town to redouble its efforts to purchase the land for conservation. 

Especially in this time of climate emergency and tremendous biodiversity loss in our town and region, we believe that this project undermines the Town’s sustainability and other goals, and should not be approved. 

END NOTES 

1 The Acton Conservation Commission has stated that there is a vernal pool on Town land abutting the parcel. That nearby vernal pool is home to creatures that live and thrive in the vernal pool and need an upland to go to for food. If the building project goes forward, the upland abutting this vernal pool would be made into a constructed wetland for drainage. Hence, the vernal pool and its wildlife are seriously threatened by the construction plan. We take this opportunity to remind readers that vernal pools are shallow depressions that usually contain water for only part of the year, and are often associated with forested wetlands. Vernal pools and nearby uplands are essential for healthy ecosystems. Vernal pools serve as essential breeding habitat for certain species of wildlife, including salamanders and frogs (amphibians). Amphibians associated with vernal pools provide an important food source for small carnivores, as well as for larger species. The uplands adjacent to the flagged wetlands are a natural habitat for many native species that utilize the wetlands, and this habitat would be eliminated as a part of the development. This project would disrupt this natural ecosystem. As the Acton Open Space Committee (OSC) stated in its October 29, 2018 memo, “This densely developed penetration into the Great Hill conservation lands will greatly impact both the passive recreational nature of the property and the habitat and habitat connectivity value of these lands.”  

The Acton Conservation Trust (ACT) is Acton’s local, non-governmental land trust. In its memo of October 22, 2018, ACT stated that it is particularly concerned about the proposed development for a number of reasons. ACT holds a conservation restriction on the adjacent property, known as the Gaebel Land. This gives ACT a perpetual responsibility for enforcing the terms of the easement that is part of the proposed project. ACT and OSC have attempted for several years to acquire the Magoon property as part of a long-term goal to preserve the remaining undeveloped land adjacent to the Great Hill Conservation Area. 

ACT has stated that “Great Hill Conservation Land [sic] is the last remaining intact large area providing passive recreation and appreciation of nature for people of South Acton,” and that the parcel is “important for maintaining wildlife habitat and corridors, and the frequently used human trails that cross the proposed development site.” 

Both ACT and OSC have expressed concern that a building project on the parcel at the scale proposed would destroy acres of trees, including many very mature trees. 

2 According to the project application and official, state-published income levels, relatively few (7 out of 28) units would be deemed “affordable,” and in order to apply for such a unit, a family of 2 to 3 persons would be required to earn $64,900 to $73,000 per year. A family of up to 6 individuals would be required to earn between $94,100 and $131,428 annually to be able to apply for an “affordable” unit. (Technically, a 2–3 person family could apply with an income as low as $56,800; however, as a result of decisions made by the developer, the units would be considered “affordable” for such a family beginning at the $64,900 level). This would leave out a crucial segment of our population (the many individuals and families earning less than $64,900 per year) and contribute to the number of individuals and families in Acton that, through no fault of their own, are at or near homelessness and are compelled to wait years on a waiting list, unable to afford units deemed “affordable.” Further, the decision by the developer to provide only duplex apartments, with no vertical access, makes the entire building inaccessible to many people with physical disabilities, including wheelchair users and those with mobility challenges. Our Acton 2020 plan has a goal to create a diverse town: this project, in failing to accommodate some vulnerable and diverse people in town — both very-low-income individuals and many people with disabilities — works against Acton’s stated goal. 

3 The parcel was identified as a priority parcel for protection 21 years ago in the 1998 Town of Acton Open Space and Recreation Plan; the designation was confirmed in the more-recent 2014–2020 Open Space and Recreation Plan, in which the parcel received a ranking of 10 out of 10 for open space value, and 8 out of 10 for habitat value. The Open Space Committee asked, in its memo, for the Board of Selectmen to consider the natural value of this property and “the irreparable damage to one of Acton’s finest conservation lands that will result if this development proceeds.” 

More details on 2019 Warrant Articles #39 & 40: Stormwater

Stormwater is water that runs off the land, typically following rainfall, snow melt, or a leak or overflow. On landscapes impacted by human development, stormwater can carry sediment, fertilizer, harmful bacteria, oil, gas, toxic metals, and salt into nearby waterways. Water that runs into storm drains is water that is not available to nurture plants or recharge aquifers. The 2019 Acton Town Meeting Warrant has two warrant articles concerning stormwater and stormwater management. Green Acton recommends voting in favor of both of them.

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What happened at the Acton Water Workshop?

On September 22, 2018, Acton held its first “Water Workshop.” Representatives from the Board of Selectmen, the Acton Water District, Town staff, and selected Town committees worked together in small groups to consider five scenarios about possible future developments related to water in Acton.

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Mark Your Calendar for Two Important Water Events

Two interesting events about water in Acton are coming up this fall. Continue reading

What would a good outcome to the Nagog Pond controversy look like?

There has been a lot of negativity around Concord’s proposal to expand its water treatment plant at Nagog Pond and Acton’s reaction to the same. In this post, let’s take a step back and try to envision what a good outcome might look like. A good outcome would safeguard the ecosystems of Nagog Pond and Nagog Brook, and would be a win-win-win for the three towns that share legal rights to the waters of Nagog Pond.

A good — and possible — outcome would:

  1. scale the water treatment capacity to the size of the pond
  2. develop a protocol for timing water withdrawals and releases so as to minimize harm to the downstream ecosystem and aquifer
  3. collaborate on data collection and hydrologic modeling to provide decision-makers with answers to “what if” questions
  4. construct and administer the water treatment plant as a regional facility with costs and water shared among the three towns

Kim Kastens floated some of these ideas in her talks at the First Parish of Concord on February 25 and at the Acton Senior Center on April 5. (Thanks to the attendees for their enthusiastic reception and insightful suggestions.) This post is not offered as a complete and final answer to the question posed in the title, but rather, as an invitation to consider a wider range of possibilities.

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Green Acton Position for April 2018 Nagog Pond Hearing

The controversy over Concord’s application to expand its water treatment plant at Nagog Pond has entered a new phase. Negotiators from the Acton and Concord Select Boards have brought forward another draft of the modified special permit decision, with a new set of terms and conditions. The Land Court has remanded the case back to the Acton Board of Selectmen, who will hold a hearing on April 26. A new round of public comments will be accepted, and the BoS will deliberate, and then vote.

If a supermajority (4 out of 5) of the Selectmen vote Yes, then the permit will have been approved with these new terms and conditions. Green Acton has taken a position urging the Selectmen to vote “no.” Our rationale for this position is explained below, followed by links to relevant documents.

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Nagog Pond & Nagog Brook

Nagog Pond is a kettle hole lake situated on the border between Acton and Littleton.  Water flows out of Nagog Pond into Nagog Brook, which flows into Nashoba Brook, and then into the Assabet River.

The town of Concord has been using Nagog Pond as a drinking water source, and in 2015, they applied for permits to greatly expand their water withdrawal and treatment capacity.  This application has been controversial.

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Green Acton Position on Town Meeting Article 26: Great Road Water Supply

Article 26 for Acton Town Meeting 2018 is a non-binding resolution which asks Town Meeting to approve an inter-municipal agreement between Acton and Concord.  In this agreement, Concord agrees to continue to provide water service to customers along Great Road (Rt 2A) in Acton.  In return, Acton agrees to allow Concord to build their proposed Water Treatment Plant on Nagog Pond, and to forebear from efforts to secure water from Nagog for Acton or to limit Concord’s Nagog withdrawals.

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New Version of Nagog Pond Draft Modified Special Permit Decision

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.]

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2018 Candidates for Acton Water District Board of Commissioners

The Acton Water District is an independent government entity, separate from Acton Town Government. As such, it is led by a Board of Water Commissioners, analogous to the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Acton; both serve as the legislative bodies for their respective entities. The three Water Commissioners are elected officials, who serve three-year terms of office. In the upcoming Town election, two candidates will be competing for one available Water Commissioner seat: Len Phillips and Erika Amir-Lin.

The Water Committee of Green Acton posed a set of six questions to the two candidates, intended to help voters make more-informed decision. The questions and the candidates’ answers are shown below.

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