Concordians urge town to steer clear of septic

Sudbury City officials were delighted when last year they struck a deal to sell the former Melon gravel mine for conversion into much-needed housing in exchange for 40 acres of land in the town centre.

The 36-acre property, which straddles the Concord-Sudbury line of Route 117, was the site of the Melone sand and gravel pit, owned and managed by the City of Sudbury since the 1990’s. As the quarry exhausted its resources, the city began looking for ways to rehabilitate the property that would benefit residents the most.

In 2018, the City of Sudbury issued a tender and selected a proposal from Quarry North Road LLC to build Cold Brook Crossing, a 274-unit development that will include a mix of apartments, condominiums and townhomes – some of which are considered affordable or old -restricted.

Cold Brook Crossing is Sudbury’s first Chapter 40R project – which encourages smart growth with denser development – and will help the city maintain the state’s 10% affordable housing stock requirement by 2030.

The development is already leasing units and construction is expected to be completed this fall.

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Development of the Concord package

Quarry North LLC now intends to expand development onto the Concord side of the property. In June, the developer submitted plans to build four single-family homes and one semi-detached home on the 16-acre lot, half of which has already been dismantled and cleared of vegetation.

But the site has its challenges. It is “landlocked” within the city of Concord, with access only from Route 117 within the city of Sudbury. There are currently no municipal utilities in this area, so Concord Power and Light would need to expand utility there at the developer’s expense. The project is expected to have a water supply from Sudbury through an inter-municipal agreement.

The site of the former Melone gravel quarry spanning the Concord-Sudbury line.  The Sudbury part is already in development.  Plans are now being submitted to build four homes and a duplex on the Concord portion of the property.

Another problem is the wetlands on the site. Quarry North is naming the project “Rookery Lane” because of the gray heron nesting sites in the wetlands there, which the developer says will be preserved.

Concord’s director of natural resources, Delia Kaye, has recommended that the open space be protected, even though the heron population there has been declining in recent years, she said.

Concord residents worry about White Pond

A portion of the development falls within the 100-foot buffer zone for these wetlands. This closeness is a concern for the White Pond Advisory Committee and the Friends of White Pond, two groups working to preserve the pond. The wetlands adjacent to Rookery Lane flow into White Pond to the north of the project.

The committee has been vocal in recent years about preserving the water quality of their beloved Kettle Pond after harmful cyanobacteria blooms closed the pond to swimming for much of last summer.

Rookery Lane plans call for four single family homes and one semi-detached home at 48Y Fitchburg Turnpike on the Concord-Sudbury line.  A portion of the development is within the 100-foot buffer of vegetated wetlands that empties into White Pond.

The committee’s research and consultation with environmental scientists shows that cyanobacteria blooms are caused by excess nutrients, often drained by human activities. In particular, the committee believes septic tanks around White Pond are a major cause of excess nutrients and cyanobacteria blooms.

Dealing with waste water treatment

Now the group is asking the city to either link the development of Rookery Lane to a neighboring sewage treatment facility, install improved septic tanks that filter out nutrients, or help develop a sewage system around White Pond.

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“Other communities in Massachusetts have identified wastewater treatment as a major cause of toxic pond water algal blooms,” the committee wrote in a letter to city planner Elizabeth Hughes. “The White Pond Advisory Committee spoke with dozens of state and New England pond experts to validate these findings, and its Sewage Subcommittee has confirmed that septic tanks are a major source of harmful nutrients for White Pond. The White Pond Advisory Committee presented itself to the city before the Concord Select Board on November 8, 2021 with the identification of sewage systems as White Pond’s primary concern.”

Concord's White Pond has been temporarily closed due to cyanobacteria blooms that can sicken people and pets.  Residents examining the pond believe that nutrients from neighboring septic tanks contribute to flowering.

The committee recommended that the city either connect Rookery Lane to Cold Brook Crossing’s sewage treatment, install modernized septic tanks that filter out excess nutrients, or help the developer create a sewage system at White Pond that would connect this project to.

“The City of Concord’s Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan of August 21, 2000 recognized the need for wastewater treatment in the White Pond area. No action has been taken since then due to a combination of finances and resources. While a financial and land contribution won’t create your own local wastewater treatment plan, it could go a long way in kickstarting a solution to a long-standing problem of neighborhood septic runoff into the pond,” they wrote.

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Concord’s White Pond municipal fountain is north of the site, which is also a concern for local residents. At a recent meeting of the Natural Resources Commission, Quarry Road North legal representative Bill Henchy said wastewater from the project is unlikely to reach the well.

“The proposal here is entirely outside of this zone two, so no sewage here will flow towards the White Pond well in any way,” Henchy said.

Building height becomes a problem

Other residents wrote with concern about the developer’s request for a special permit to circumvent the 35-foot maximum building height. The developer states that due to mining, the land is artificially low so the houses don’t appear too high.

“Currently it’s a beautiful area that’s popular with wildlife and hikers. It would be awful to destroy this area of ​​facing homes where there is now only open space,” Jeff Parker wrote.

The project was originally scheduled to appear before the Concord Zoning Board of Appeals on September 8, but the developer has requested a continuation of the October 13 session. Please check again for updates.

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