Environmental consultant Amanda Atwell explains a change in the railway line.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission had only a few words for the consultants appearing on behalf of the rail extension to Hoosac Street: Get it moving.
"Even as late as 2016, we've already approved it as it was presented to us," said Chairman James Fassell said on Tuesday. "You have more details, and that's fine, but we're ready to move."
Amanda Atwell of environmental consultants Epsilon Associates Inc. of Maynard and Maeve Ragusin of infrastructure engineering firm HDR, with offices in Albany, N.Y., represented the state Department of Transportation's Rail and Transit Divison.
The state had filed a Notice of Intent for the construction of rail tracks along the .9-mile extension from Renfrew Street to Hoosac and a boarding platform near the Adams Train Station on Hoosac. The line will host the Berkshire Scenic Railway that currently runs between North Adams and Renfrew Street. Officials in both communities see the tourist rail as an economic driver linking the town and city.
Atwell said there was a minor change in the rail line in one location to move it slightly farther west and that the culverts installed when the parallel Ashuwillticook Rail Trail was constructed last year could handle the change.
"We're building on the original ballast," she said. "The culverts are sized enough to move it without affecting it. ... the western side of one swale needs to be shored up."
Ragusin said the realignment was less than 5 feet off the original path.
They also anticipated the now open bike path extension to Lime Street to be disrupted at times during the rail line's installation because of materials coming in and the fencing between the two paths having to be removed at times.
The commission was presented with large maps of the site and very thick project books.
But the three commissioners who had been in place during the "months and months" of meetings and discussions several years ago were fine with the minor adjustments without further explanation. The project has been through the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act and several rounds of hearings. It had been delayed in part over funding and the state's acquisition of the defunct rail property.
"I'm very comfortable with the decision that we made," Commissioner Corey Bishop said.
Fassell agreed: "This is the third time we've gone over the same project."
The newer members bowed to their experience, with Commissioner David Lipinski pointing to the heavy report as a "great submission."
"This is all professional to the nth degree," he said, and alleviated any concerns.
The commissioners voted to approve the Notice of Intent application and extend the conditions first imposed in 2011 and expired in 2015 that largely dealt with rights of ways and project oversight.
There was no time line proposed and the state Department of Environmental still had some elements to sign off on, but Ragusin anticipated the project starting sooner rather than later.
In other business, the commissioners approved changing a Request for Determination by Jacob Belanger to construct a retaining wall at 86 Lime St. to an emergency order.
Seven years ago this month, Tropical Storm Irene washed out sections on the north side of Lime Street. Much of the "river front area" along a small brook that runs down the street continues to be a hazard.
Engineer Charles LaBatt of Guntlow and Associates said the plan was to install a gravity, precast retaining wall to stabilize the banking and protect Belanger and his neighbor's properties downstream. There was concern another storm could wash away a small garage and damage more property.
"The construction of a wall and it's reduction of the erosion is an improvement to the waterfront," he said. "He could protect his property from further damage from the stream."
The commission reviewed several applications on Tuesday.
LaBatt said another intense storm could wash out the section and described the area as "like a ticking time bomb, you can't predict when it's going to go off."
"There is no doubt about it in my mind this has got to get done before the next big storm erupts," said Lipinski, who added he was familiar with the site and had spoken with Belanger. "We don't know when that's going to occur."
• Commissioners also accepted a remediation plan for Stanley's Lumber; the commission had issued a violation against owner John Duquette for using property too close to the river front. Emily Stockman, of wetlands consultant Stockman Associates, outlined a plan in which Duquette would remove the gravel mixture that had been put down within 30 feet of two waterways and moving cribs being used for mulch and other materials.
• Stockman also spoke on behalf of the contractor for Maia Robbins-Zust, who had applied for a request for determination applicability for the demolition of a three-bay garage near a riverfront area at 7 East Hoosac St.
An earlier application had been confusing, referencing a single-family home, and the check accompanying had not cleared. Stockman said that application was incorrect and she detailed plans that consisted of removing the garage and building a one-bay garage within the current footprint but of a different configuration.
The garage's concrete pad is within 25 feet of the waterway but is pre-existing. She said she had also recommended that debris in back of the garage and invasive brush be removed and the area mulched. The commission voted a negative determination, meaning that is not subject to the Wetlands Protection Act, and approved the corrected application with the detailed cleanup plan.
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Adams Board of Health Ready to Finalize Tobacco Regulations
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health wrapped up final edits on new tobacco regulations last week and inched closer to a public hearing.
Members answered some lingering questions Wednesday in regard to the proposed tobacco sales permit and hope to vote on a final draft next month.
"Thank you for going through this with a fine-toothed comb," board member David Rhoads said. "It looks good."
Some months ago, the Board of Health agreed to implement a new regulation that would limit the amount of tobacco sales permits allowed in town. The new regulation would not affect those already selling tobacco.
Director of Community Development Donna Cesan said the town has decided to terminate the proposal process for the Memorial Building redevelopment with the hopes of reissuing the RFP again in September.
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Council on Aging Director Erica Girgenti said COVID-19 has created new challenges for seniors and elder services throughout the country are finding new ways to protect the community's most vulnerable.
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