TRURO — Health and Conservation Agent Emily Beebe told the zoning board of appeals last week that the proposed treatment system at the 39-unit Cloverleaf development would reduce nitrogen in wastewater to levels far below what most home septic systems achieve.
A campaign against the Cloverleaf project waged by planning board member Peter Herridge and others had claimed that excess nitrogen from wastewater would contaminate nearby wells, especially in the Pond Village neighborhood to the west.
While the affordable housing plan has been edging closer to a final vote on a comprehensive permit from the ZBA, with signoffs from technical experts and other committees, the planning board continued to raise objections, with Chair Anne Greenbaum arguing falsely that its approval would go against a 2016 town meeting vote.
Greenbaum said that town meeting voters had approved only 12 to 16 units of housing at the Cloverleaf. She referred to Article 20 from 2016, which authorized the town to accept state land for affordable housing. (See box.)
“Things changed and the town issued a request for proposals for 30 to 40 units,” Greenbaum told the ZBA. “You are voting on something different than you voted on at town meeting.”
While no one at last week’s meeting could recall the history of the project, Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer later told the Independent that Greenbaum’s statement was not true. Palmer noted that the comment accompanying the warrant article mentioned numbers of units; the actual article authorized only the transfer of the land.
The change in number of units occurred after 2016, Palmer said, when the town received a $1.2 million state grant to extend a public water line to the site. Using town water instead of a private well meant the density of the development could be increased. The select board publicly reviewed and approved the density to be 40 units, Palmer said.
Greenbaum declined to comment, writing by email, “The board speaks through its written comments and the testimony I was authorized to provide at the public hearing.”
But Herridge has been outspoken in opposing Cloverleaf. “The thing to do now is to delay in every way possible, because there may be state and federal money available now, but there sure as hell will not be next year,” he told the Independent last month. “My motto is never give up, never surrender.”
At last week’s meeting, Beebe said the redesigned bio-microbics septic system at the Cloverleaf would reduce the concentration of nitrogen in wastewater to 10 milligrams per liter in the effluent and 9 milligrams per liter at the property line. This is “better than the standard residential Title 5 systems found in the neighborhood of this parcel, including the Pond Village area,” she wrote. “Standard systems typically generate wastewater with nitrate/nitrogen concentration of 35-80 milligrams per liter.”
Much ado has been made about the Pond Village neighborhood’s water quality. Herridge has said the wells there have high concentrations of nitrogen and have the poorest quality water in town. Thus, he argued, homes there would be vulnerable to high concentrations of nitrogen from a development of 39 units on just four acres to the east, across Route 6.
Beebe attested to the ability of the septic system to protect the surrounding wells. She also reviewed water quality data in Pond Village and found that 28 wells there had been tested over a 10-year period. The most recent results, she said, showed four wells, or 14 percent of the total, had nitrogen levels exceeding 5 milligrams per liter. (The state safe drinking water standard is 10 milligrams of nitrogen per liter.) Another four wells had nitrogen levels between 2 and 5 milligrams per liter. The rest of the wells recently tested showed less than 2 milligrams of nitrogen per liter.
Beebe concluded that there are a number of wells with between 5 and 10 milligrams per liter of nitrogen, but “this does not appear to be widespread, or trending generally, as the results that we have show vast variation from one sampling/testing session to another.”
Cloverleaf developer Ted Malone also received a positive review from the Truro Energy Committee, which had recommended that the Cloverleaf’s 11 buildings be set up for solar panels.
Malone said his architect has made adjustments to the roof designs so that the buildings could be fitted with solar panels if the funding and rebates are there to make it happen.
“So, we’re very much on the same page,” Malone said. “We started to meet with the energy committee 10 months ago.”
Brian Boyle, chair of the energy committee, said, “We’re very encouraged.”
The next ZBA meeting on the Cloverleaf is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m.
From the 2016 Truro Town Meeting Warrant
ARTICLE 20: ACQUISITION OF STATE PROPERTY
To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to acquire from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a parcel of land containing 4 acres, more or less, located near the intersection of Highland Road and Route 6 for affordable housing purposes, and for the purpose of conveyance and/or lease (which may be a 99-year lease), and further to authorize the Board of Selectmen to dispose of said property and grant easements therein for the purpose of developing affordable housing, said acquisition and disposition to be on such terms and conditions consistent with this authorization, and for such consideration, which may be nominal consideration, as the Board of Selectmen deems appropriate; or take any other action relative thereto. Requested by the Board of Selectmen
Finance Committee Recommendation: 3-0-0 in favor. Board of Selectmen Recommendation: 5-0-0 in favor.
Comment: This land, located north of Highland Road and east of Route 6 is currently owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The parcel is being made available to the Town under the Governor’s initiative to make State owned land available to communities for affordable housing. It is the goal of the Board of Selectmen to recruit a developer who will build between 12 and 16 units of community and affordable housing.