By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – Difficulties enforcing an order to cease development on most of a local parcel prompted frustration at last week’s Sept. 23 Conservation Commission meeting.
The Coolidge Street parcel is owned by Edge Landscaping, which purchased it about three years ago, according to the town. However, it soon emerged that much of the property is protected under the provisions of the Wetlands Protection Act.
Hog Brook runs through the property, with one-hundred-foot buffers on all sides, town officials say. Review by a wetland scientist found that almost the entire property is protected, with only a small corner available for development and use.
The result was an enforcement order by the Conservation Commission to cease cutting and construction. But enforcement has been a challenge according to town officials.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recently contacted the Town of Hudson as a result of a complaint they received about continued activity on the parcel, according to Conservation Agent Pam Helinek.
When Helinek visited the parcel in August, she said she saw clear evidence of activity, such as a new dirt road, she told the commission Sept. 23.
“It’s been frustrating,” Helinek said.
She later added, “I can’t fine, we don’t have a bylaw. I have nothing I can do except keep calling them and issuing enforcement orders. I don’t know what else to do.”
“We have no teeth, but there is continuance of encroachment,” observed Commission Member James Martin, who added, “It looks like they’re preparing to build a wall already.”
A wetlands scientist meant to be hired by Edge Landscaping was scheduled to appear at the Sept. 23 meeting, but no representative of the firm made an appearance. This was one reason several members of the Commission expressed the belief that Edge Landscaping is in violation of the standing enforcement order.
Indeed, Helinek said that, after follow-up conversations, she believes no contract for a new wetlands scientist had yet been signed.
Members of the commission also expressed frustration with the slow pace and the nature of communications with the Edge Landscaping team.
“It sounds a lot like deliberate evasion to me,” said Board Member Debra Edelstein.
“They keep insisting that they haven’t altered the property, but they have very clearly, clearly altered the property,” Helinek told the commission.
She added, “Do I trust anything anybody says? No.”
Helinek told the Community Advocate in communication following the meeting, on Sept. 24, that she believed some effort had been made to come into compliance. For example, at her most recent visit, a gate to the parcel was locked, and no additional new activity was visible to her.
Helinek said she has granted Edge Landscaping an extension on this matter to Nov. 4, at which point the Conservation Commission will take up the issue again.
Complicating the issue is the fact that Edge Landscaping’s owners are expected to be overseas for the next month, Helinek said.
But that didn’t hold water with some on the commission.
“It’s been ongoing long enough,” said Member Brandon Parker, who said it wasn’t the board’s responsibility to accommodate international travel.
“There’s a lot of filling in this soup sandwich,” Commission Vice Chair James Martin said.