By Stephen Dravis
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission on Thursday OK’d Williams College’s plan to replace the culvert that carries Christmas Brook under downtown, and the panel took its first look at the final plans for the new Williams Inn.
The culvert replacement project will replace an existing, undersized pipe with a conduit that is at least 5 feet by 12 feet and hopefully eliminate the flooding that occurs during heavy rain events.
The senior project engineer from Manchester, Conn., civil engineer Fuss & O’Neill was on hand to answer any final questions from the commission in a public hearing continued from July.
The commissioners were satisfied that engineer Kristine Baker had addressed the concerns raised in the peer review the town ordered from Marlborough’s Comprehensive Environmental Inc.
“His comments on the plan, most of them are about labeling,” Baker said. “There are actually no design changes. The other thing that’s nice about CEI’s review is he reviewed the whole [hydraulics and hydrology] report. He did a very detailed review of the hydraulics of the culvert and looked preliminarily at the parking lot because it does tie in.
“When he gets the parking lot materials, he is very familiar with it.”
The “parking lot project” is a complete redesign and rebuild of the municipal lot owned by the college and operated jointly with the town at the bottom of Spring Street. The lot is being expanded to create a bay designated for the hotel, and the college plans to install new water detention systems under the lot to handle runoff from the watershed to the north and west.
All that water eventually ends up Christmas Brook, which is why the parking lot work ties in with the new culvert, which runs to the east and carries the brook into the Green River.
The hotel project falls into the Con Comm’s jurisdiction because of the wetlands abutting the area to be developed. Engineer Charlie LaBatt of Williamstown’s Guntlow & Associates explained the college’s plan to mitigate the impact of the hotel, plans that include the restoration of the nearby habitat by removing invasive species and replacing them with native plants.
Like the culvert replacement, notice of intent for the hotel project will be subjected to a peer review — ordered by the town but paid for by the applicant. The Con Comm hopes to have that analysis in hand so it can condition the project at its Aug. 31 meeting.
In other business on Thursday, the commission continued its public hearing on a notice of intent to build a residence and improve an existing driveway off Petersburg Road. The commissioners raised questions about the existing condition of the property — in particular whether the existing driveway is pervious — and the completeness of the application.
The commissioners also fielded a question from a potential applicant for a project on Cold Spring Road (Route 7).
Architect Martha Montgomery told the Con Comm she is working with the owner of Mezze, which wants to do work on the walkway leading from its lower parking lot to the restaurant.
Montgomery said she needs to design a walk compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and suspects that the Architectural Access Board in Boston would sign off on a plan that would bring the proposed path within 10 feet of a pond on the property (the current walkway is about 50 feet away).
The commissioners expressed sympathy for the restaurant’s situation, and the chairman suggested that the pond in question may not even be a jurisdictional wetland for the body. In the end, it recommended that Montgomery take the issue to the access board first and then return to the commission with a request for determination of applicability to see if the project needed approval through the expensive NOI process.
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