Video: Conservation Commission Meeting of 5/28/09; Discussion of Hydrogeologist to Evaluate Kohl Condo Proposal

Here is a video of the first 2 hours and 14 minutes of the 5/28/09 meeting of Northampton’s Conservation Commission. This video was recorded by Lachlan Ziegler.

Here is the agenda of the meeting:


Approval of Minutes for 05/14/2009

5:30 PM
Discussion of minor amendments to the Northampton Wetlands Ordinance.

6:00 PM
Notice of Intent filed by Lynne Wallace for construction of a driveway. Project is proposed to take place in the Buffer Zone of Bordering Vegetated Wetlands. Project location is 110 Cardinal Way, Map ID 36-305

6:15 PM
Notice of Intent filed by Bruce Shallcross for construction of two outdoor equestrian rings. Project is proposed to take place in Bordering Land Subject to Flooding. Project location is the Three County Fairgrounds on Fair Street, Map ID 25C-251.

All other business:
Land use and management updates

Below is a 13-minute excerpt from the video that covers the Commission’s discussion of the selection of a hydrogeologist (not on the original agenda). The Commissioners want this expert to evaluate how Kohl Construction’s proposed condo development off North Street might affect a wetland on the property. Some of the condo foundations would need extend below the level of seasonal high groundwater in order to anchor them below the fill that lies on some of the property. Commissioner Paul Wetzel has also expressed concern that an underground stormwater detention system might interact hydrologically with groundwater. NSNA further points out that groundwater has been known to rise in wetlands transition zones when numerous trees are removed, as Kohl is proposing to do.

See also:

Video: Conservation Commission Reviews Latest Kohl Condo Proposal on 5/14/09

Kohl’s own test pit data (PDF,
735KB) shows areas along and south of Northern Avenue where removing
existing fill (necessary to secure the condo foundations) would involve
work below the level of seasonal high groundwater…

The potential impact to groundwater flows appeared to concern some
members of the Conservation Commission, who called for an independent
expert evaluation of how the proposed development would impact the
hydrology of the site. The condo proposal will be taken up again by the
commission at its June 11 meeting.

Video: Planning Board Reviews the Latest Kohl Condo Proposal on 5/14/09

Gazette: “Early count too close to call on Kohl project” (5/19/09)
The Conservation Commission decided to hire a hydrogeologist to assess
how the project’s stormwater plan might impact the wetlands in the

The commission will take up the matter again at a public
hearing June 11 meeting, when it hopes to discuss the results of the
independent study before making a decision on a notice of intent to
build near wetlands.

Gazette: “Wetlands, density bog down Northampton condo plans” (5/15/09)
After a two-hour discussion that touched on several issues related to
managing stormwater in the flood-prone area, the Conservation
Commission decided to continue the public hearing and to seek out the
opinion of a hydrogeologist on how the project’s stormwater plan might
impact the wetlands in the area.

“I want an independent opinion,” said member Downey Meyer, who floated the idea because of the project’s size…

Tropical Storm Floyd Flood Damage Report (1999)
In the map below, the red flag behind View Avenue (the topmost
flag) indicates a flood damage report from Tropical Storm Floyd (1999).
This area is in the eastern portion of Kohl Construction’s proposed condo site, one of the more elevated portions. We infer that much of Kohl’s property may be at risk from heavy rainfall events.

Valley Advocate: “Bogged Down – Doug Kohl runs into trouble with plans for his subdivision off North Street in Northampton” (3/17/09)

Video: Conservation Commission Meeting of 3/12/09; Deadlock on Kohl Condo Proposal
Paul Wetzel and Downey Meyer refer to a version of Kohl’s condo
proposal with 23 units and 1.10 acres of impervious surface. The
current version has 23 units and 1.04 acres of impervious surface. NSNA
argues the two versions are not much different.]

3:00:22… Commissioner Paul Wetzel: “…I’m just going to say
something, we’ve spent a lot of time listening… right now as this
plan…I’m inclined to deny it. And its just because…if we were
looking at whether this development has an impact on the wetlands, I
think it’s going to have an impact on the wetlands. And, I see, a
number of things, primarily the underground [detention basin] getting
in the way of the hydrology connections underground…”

3:01:06… Wetzel: “…and the fact that everything is so close,
and the people are…it just seems too crowded, and it seems like for a
first project it’s not a precedent I want to set…

3:11:40… Wetzel: “So to me, getting rid of these guys [points
to condo units 1-10]…is a big help” because they are at a relatively
low elevation close to the water table…

Watering-up: Studies of Groundwater Rising After Trees Cut

Conservation Commission Meeting of 1/22/09; Non-Compliance with
Wetlands Protection Agreements; Kohl Asked to Revise Condo Proposal

Of note during the EBD (David Ruggles Center
and live-work space) portion of the hearing were general concerns
raised by Land Use and Conservation Planner Bruce Young. He finds
many property owners around Northampton are not giving their wetlands
buffer zones the respect that was originally promised. No-disturb zones
are being violated and enforcement is a tedious process.

Alex Ghiselin, Letter to Gazette: “Don’t let development encroach on our wetlands”
failure of the storm water system built as a part of the Northampton
High School renovation six years ago illustrates why protecting
wetlands is so important. Silt has filled the retention pond so there
is no capacity to slow a storm surge which now flows unimpeded into the
Mill River and contributes to flooding downstream. This accumulated
silt also raised the water table and spills ground water into nearby

Without maintenance, these [storm water mitigation] systems are part of the problem, not the solution…

Wetlands do not need to be maintained; they just need to be protected.

Video: School Committee Meeting of December 11; Regionalization Discussed
Funding Approved for Bridge Street School to Address Flooding
Problems: Process Stormwater with Sewer Tie-in Rather Than Detention


“Bridge Street School has an issue
with flooding because of the detention basins which are underground
there. And every time we get a downpour we have issues of flooding in
the cafeteria and then up that hallway. This will help tie into the
city system, rather than have the water go into these detention basins
which are supposed to then have the water percolate down into the
groundwater. So this will be a major improvement for Bridge Street

City of Northampton, Memo from Mayor Clare Higgins to City
Councilors, “FY 2009 Capital Improvements Program Recommendations”

Bridge Street School – Detention Basin/Sewer Tie-in – $22,000
Repairing the three dry wells at Bridge Street School was ranked as the
[Northampton Public Schools’] second highest priority. The wells are
filled with silt and the ground water backs up into the building. The
DPW has cleaned the wells but the problem still exists due to the lack
of slope and the deteriorated condition of the wells.

Carlon Drive: Compensatory Wetland Not Working