WETLANDS WATCH: Milbrook Crossing Raises Concern about Flooding, Pollution, Loss of Stabilizing Trees

On Monday night the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency gave feedback on Milbrook Crossing, a proposed redevelopment at the Hillside Rd and East Putnam Ave to create 16 dwelling units in three buildings, with driveways, utilities, drainage and landscaping in and adjacent to wetlands and a watercourse.

Director Pat Sesto said she had received a grading plan and low impact development plan dated Feb 19, 2019 and updated in June, as well as letters from neighbors Ashley Cole, Jill Marchak and Mr. & Mrs. Burke Dempsey.

The proposal would repurpose two historic houses, construct three new structures, and tear down a third dwelling to the rear (on Hillside Road).

East Brothers Brook runs through and divides the dwellings.

“It’s in a floodway and 100-year flood plane,” director Sesto said. “I have significant concern – it’s not clear how the site would be protected in small events, let alone significant ones.”

Engineer Tony D’Andrea said the applicant is requesting a continuance in order to respond to comments from the Dept of Public Works.

“It was submitted and took some time for DPW and their consultant CDM to review the application,” he said. “CDM is involved as a peer review, which is standard when there is potential impact on the flood way or flood plane.”

D’Andrea said the project is totally in compliance with the town drainage manual.

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“I know you appreciate the time that goes into a back water study. I hope you grant the continuance,” he added.

Ms. Sesto acknowledged the engineering challenges, but, she said, “I don’t want the applicant to have a sense that if DPW says it’s fine with a one year storm event that we are fine with a one year storm event. There is a fair amount missing from the application.”

Elliot Benton, Bill Galvin and Patricia Sesto at the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency meeting. Aug 26, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

Elliot Benton, Bill Galvin and Patricia Sesto at the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency meeting. Aug 26, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

D’Andrea said he did not disagree, but he said, “We recognize there sometimes are discrepancies between your department and the engineering department. …For all those who walked the site last week, I hope you observed the one area of  alluvial is at this point an alluvial dump, a litter dump.”

“We’ll restore that area,” he said. “We’ll eliminate lawn and pavement that encroaches down to the brook.”

Ms. Sesto read out loud all her concerns from the staff report. She started by saying the application underestimated the extent and frequency of flooding and threats to aquatic ecosystems.

“Development will certainly be a source of pollution, which threatens aquatic ecosystems,” she said, adding, “With a site that will flood as often as the subject property, the development will certainly be a source of pollution to the wetland and watercourse beyond what it is today.”

She said it was not clear how flood waters would be drained from the proposed garage spaces, which would flood as frequently as the 2 year storm, and perhaps even a one year event. In a 2-year storm 6″ to 8″ of water will be in the garage and parking areas. In a 10-year storm there will be nearly three feet.

Sesto said flood modeling does not account for bursts of rain such as occurred on August 8, 2019 when .75″ of rain fell in 15 minutes, nor do models account for frozen or drought stricken soil.

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Some of the other concerns included the loss of mature trees and the value of their root systems in the floodways and floodplanes. Sesto said existing trees provide deep root stabilization and valuable shading.

Section 7.10.e requires the applicant submit alternatives considered and rejected, which had not been submitted.

Sesto said the project engineer, Mr. D’Andrea, had stated that there will be a positive effect on water quality and the quality of the wetlands without providing any baseline information or post construction data.

“With due respect to Mr. D’Andrea as an engineer, this profession is not qualified to make such impact assessments,” Sesto said.

No details of the proposed sewer main under East Brothers Brook have been provided.

The DPW Engineering division’s comments need to be addressed.

Colonial Revival house at 3 Hillside Road would be part of Milbrook Crossing. Dec 7, 2018 Photo: Leslie Yager

505 East Putnam Ave was designed by local architect Frederick GC Smith who also designed the Armory on Mason Street. Photo: Leslie Yager

At 7 Hillside Road, the single family house that dates back to the 1950s would be demolished. Dec 7, 2018 Photo: Leslie Yager

Photo of flooding at Hillside and East Putnam Ave from the GHS Compass yearbook 1977.

Jenny Larkin said that since 1989 she has owned 3 Hillside Road, a house that would be preserved in the redevelopment.

“This all started this because I’ve been told my house is a tear down since 1998 when I first tried to sell it,” she said. “I’ve been trying to find someone to preserve it and the other houses on the Post Road.”

“We never saw flooding until 2007,” she said. “We’ve had two major floods. One caused the water to top over the Post Road and it was pretty spectacular.”

But, Larkin said she was pleased to learn of the State’s plans to raise the bridge on Route 1 in front of her house. The water passes under Route 1 and down through the private community of Milbrook.

“The State said they started doing preliminary work on utilities underground, and investigative work. They said it is now on the books for spring 2021,” she said.

The Agency agreed to a continuance, based on “the amount of outstanding documentation needed to substantiate the proposal and comply with regulations.”

See also:

WETLANDS WATCH: 28 Proposed Residences at Former Mel Gibson Estate Scrutinized

“Milbrook Crossing” Seeks to Use P&Z Historic Overlay to Preserve Grand Homes on Post Road December 17, 2018