Missing Buffer at Bourne DPW Site Sparks Concern, Frustration

An aerial photograph shows how extensive the land clearing has been on the new public works building site in Bournedale. Town officials this week expressed concern about how many trees have been removed between the work site and the Bournedale Elementary School, which is the building just above the work site in this photograph.
COURTESY Christopher J. Hyldburg - An aerial photograph shows how extensive the land clearing has been on the new public works building site in Bournedale. Town officials this week expressed concern about how many trees have been removed between the work site and the Bournedale Elementary School, which is the building just above the work site in this photograph.

Town of Bourne facilities manager, Jonathan R. Nelson, sat down with the school committee last night to answer questions and discuss concerns regarding the DPW building project next to the Bourndale Elementary School.

When plans were drawn up for the new town public works facility, schematics called for a tree line buffer that would separate the new building from Bournedale Elementary School across the road.

Two weeks ago, work crews started taking down trees and pulling up stumps, clearing the site for leveling. However, the workers appear to have gone too far, as they removed all the trees on the 10-acre site, including those meant for that buffer.

Last Thursday, the Enterprise ran a front-page photograph of the cleared land with the school in the background.

Selectman Peter J. Meier said this week that he has received 18 phone calls from residents who said they saw the photograph in the Enterprise and were angry about how close the land clearing has come to the school. School committee member Heather A. M. DiPaolo said when she received her Enterprise, she was shocked to see so few trees remaining. “Really? Eight trees is all that there is for a buffer. Seriously? How did that happen?” she said.

This week, Bourne town planner Coreen V. Moore confirmed that the plan on file in her office for the new facility shows a 50-foot tree line buffer between the school and the construction site. The Bourne Planning Board agenda for tonight includes a review of the site plan, and Ms. Moore said board members will probably want to know what happened.

“That would be a good question to ask,” she said.

Last night, before the discussion with Mr. Nelson, Bourne School Committee and facilities subcommittee member Christopher J. Hyldburg gave a verbal account of the site visit he did with school superintendent Steven M. Lamarche, and Mr. Nelson on Tuesday showed a PowerPoint presentation that depicted several aerial views of the project.

Project is Only a Visual Distraction

“It is important to note that the project is only a visual distraction to the students and teachers because while we were inside the building we heard very little to no noise coming from the project, even though it was very loud when we stepped outside,” Mr. Hyldburg said as he addressed the committee. 

He then went on to discuss other impact concerns, beyond the noise, such as school safety, especially if vehicles and construction personnel are getting too close to the school.

Selectman Peter J. Meier said this week that he has received 18 phone calls from residents who said they saw the photograph in the Enterprise and were angry about how close the land clearing has come to the school. 

Mr. Nelson addressed the safety concerns by letting the committee know that he had already spoken to the construction company to keep personnel and equipment out of the school parking lot and off of the school grounds. He took this action after he witnessed a tractor trailer truck try to turn around by entering the school parking lot. He is thinking of imposing a penalty if he finds out about any violation of this order.

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When Mr. Nelson was asked how the clear cutting could have gone this far, when the committee was expecting a swath of trees to shield the school from the construction and the final building, he blamed geographical issues with the terrain of the site. Mr. Nelson said that nothing had changed about the building site, except that the slope of the land up to the site where the building will sit was found to be very steep and the trees had to be cut to allow for a drainage catch basin.

“Most of them will be at the proper height to screen the building. Some trees may have to grow in a little,” he said, adding that re-planting at the site had been built into the project’s budget.He said that the plan is to replace the trees with new ones that have already matured enough to screen the new DPW building from the school.

“The big takeaway is that when the building is done, we will re-vegetate,” he said.

There was some discussion about the catch basin and how deep the water in it will be. Anne-Marie G. Siroonian, school committee member, asked if there will be a fence surrounding this basin but the superintendent told her there is a similar catch basin on school property to help with drainage of the parking lot and it does not have, or need, a fence.  Mr. Nelson also chimed in to say that the DEP does not allow standing water in a catch basin, the water must drain within 72 hours and the DPW drainage basin is being designed to comply.

Frustration Over Clear Cutting

“What you are witnessing is the frustration of expectations not met. We are shocked and surprised by the work that was done and the misunderstanding of what the school committee meant when we said we wanted very little impact” said Matthew B. Stuck, chairman of the school committee. Mr. Stuck did thank Mr. Nelson for coming to the committee to help them understand and to answer their questions, and for his willingness to withstand scrutiny.

Three suggestions to possibly mitigate the visual distraction that students are now experiencing were put on the table. The first suggestion was to install a 30-foot heavy panel screen like the ones at the dump. The second suggestion was to plant vegetation, or more trees. But the third option is to use an opaque window film on the lower half of windows. This last option was supported by both the superintendent and Mr. Nelson because it is already being used in the school and is familiar to the staff and students.

Other areas of the school use this technique when the classroom window is facing a roof or blocked vista.  Only the bottom half will be filmed so that natural light and skyline can still be seen.

“The main issue with the DPW construction right now is the distractibility to students.” Mr. Lamarche said.  “Using window film is the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to solve the problem in the short term and it is only temporary. This may be the best solution.”

Mr. Nelson pointed out that there could be six weeks to three months more of land preparation, depending on the weather, before the actual construction of the building takes place in the spring. The building itself may take approximately one year. Mr. Lamarche said “After that the town can put in some permanent landscaping to take care of this issue.”

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  • vineyarddiver

    As many, I was appauled even as the work started. I had seen drawings of the site, but apparently I viewed them in too casual a manner. It appeared that the entry road to the new DPW site would be very close to the school. I was relieved when I saw that this access road, coming from the main road to the school, was not near the school: hence a buffer. My relief was shortlived as I watched the clear cutting and the very close proximity to the school. Almost enough has been written about the construction impacts and distractions. Essentially there is no real buffer between the school and the DPW site. I hope that at least major landscaping will be done to facilitate a realistic buffer. The present situation now prompts more concern: 1. Is the present road that accesses both sites adequate for the heavy equipment that will use it - or will the access road need major work? 2. Has the amount and type of traffic been addressed? Are there mitigating plans to address periods of heavy traffic to and from the school and probable competitive traffic from DPW vehicles? I see at least a bottleneck situation at the intersection to the Scenic Highway. Fleets of school buses plus other school related vehicles verses multiple industrial size vehicles is not a healthy equation.