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Town Brook plan likely to advance
at Aug. 3 conservation meeting

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 24, 2011 12:14 PM

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Quincy’s Conservation Commission will take another two weeks to look at the Town Brook proposal, following this week's review of the project.

According to director of the Planning Department, Dennis Harrington, the commission will need the additional time to look at reviews received earlier this week from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, neither of which was available for the meeting.

Many Quincy officials hope that the commission will make a decision by its Aug. 3 meeting, concluding a months-long process to receive federal, state, and local approval to move the culvert from its existing location inside Quincy Center to an area along the Concourse.

"I'm confident they will have everything they need to make a decision," said Jay Duca, manager for the Quincy Building and Zoning Department, who attended Wednesday's meeting.

Although the state agencies’ reports will be factored in later, the commission did hear from Horsley Witten representatives, an engineering firm from Sandwich hired to conduct a peer review of the project.

The company suggested some technical revisions, but overall approved the plan as is.

DEP and Marine Fisheries also suggested minor changes, Harrington said, though “it’s the same project, same place, same thing, but with some technical differences,” he said.

It was an important step for Harrington, who asserted that having the blessing of an external review will mean a better project overall.

“It’s an extremely important project that we need to do right, which is why we engaged another party to review it,” Harrington said. “We want to make sure it's done right procedurally and that it’s a proper plan.”

Street-Works Development LLC, the city’s partner in the $1.6 billion redevelopment of Quincy Center, paid for both the design and the peer review, a factor specified in the development agreement signed by city officials and Street-Works earlier this year.

The $12 million relocation of the Town Brook is one of three infrastructure improvements the city is required to make for Street-Works to continue along with the city in the center’s revitalization.

According to Harrington, the commission approval will be the last piece in enabling the city to actually operate the book in the revised location.

The city already received permission from Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency to begin the construction next to the Concourse, which started in early June.

The plan is to move the brook from a connection point upstream of Quincy Center to along the south side of the Concourse, through 1,200 linear feet of closed and open channel culvert sections, and then out to a proposed connection point downstream of Quincy Center to join with the existing culvert.

Despite Harrington’s hopes that the commission will issue an order of conditions for the brook during their next meeting, continual opposition from the Quincy Environmental Network and the Wollaston Garden Club is sure to put somewhat of a hold on the process.

“We would fully expect given that the QEN group and others keep making the same comments in opposition that they would file an administrative appeal to the DEP,” Harrington said.

DEP would then issue a site visit and move forward with a superseding order.

“It may well impose more conditions, more stringent conditions, might impose anything. But since they’ve weighed in in advance, I wouldn’t think, given that circumstance, that there would be too much variance in the future,” Harrington said.

QEN officials were present at Wednesday’s meeting with the request that officials move the brook from outside the city center to within the city limits.

The group has been continually vocal about wanting to move the brook to an area where it might receive more daylighting, something that would only help the smelt population, QEN representative Steve Perdios has said.

Yet Duca does not feel their objections will hold water.

"If someone had some credible scientific reasons, we would like to address them, but everything has been addressed by the designer, and overseen by the consultant. These are qualified people. There has been a lot of money spent on engineering to address all of the issues," he said.

Harrington too said an alternative route would not be possible.

“There are still people who would like to see a different alternative for a babbling brook scenario in the five acre development parcel, which would have impacted the downtown redevelopment in such a distinct way that it would probably kill it,” he said.

The commission will meet again on Aug. 3 to discuss the Town Brook.

Even if the project receives the go-ahead from the commission, it would still be some time before the brook is able to begin operating in its renewed location, Harrington said.

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