WESTFIELD – The Full Gospel Church at 102 and 110 Union St., represented by Ryan Nelson of R. Levesque Associates, has been before the Conservation Commission several times this summer seeking expansion of its parking lot, portions of which are within the buffer zone of bordering vegetative wetland (BVW) areas.
At the Aug. 17 meeting, Nelson said a single family home on the property had been razed and the site cleared, and presented a plan for an additional 53 parking spaces for the church, along with associated site improvements to include paved drive aisles, landscape areas and a stormwater management system.
Conservation Coordinator Meredith Borenstein noted following a site visit that mowing and dumping of grass clippings had been occurring in the BVW alongside the current parking area.
Conservation member James Murphy asked Nelson why the previous conditions had not been honored. Nelson said the previous work had been done under a request for determination (RDA) for additional gravel parking spaces granted in 2016, and there were no long-term conditions, “per se.” He said as of 2018 the church was compliant, but since then mowing had occurred in the BVW, some trees had been cleared, and conservation signs had been moved and altered.
The commission agreed that an enforcement plan needed to be approved before the new parking lot expansion would be considered.
At the Sept. 10 meeting, the enforcement order was reviewed. Nelson said a wetlands consultant would mark the delineation of the 50-foot buffer zone, boulders would be installed to demarcate the limit they can no longer mow beyond, and unaltered signage would return to the correct location.
Borenstein said in 2016 the commission had given the church permission to create the gravel parking area within the 50- to 100-foot buffer zone. She said the signs had been moved to the edge of the paved parking lot, to mark the area where they didn’t want more gravel placed, and the signs could remain there or be moved to the edge of the wetland area.
“I don’t think they were purposely defaced, (but placed) to ensure no more gravel be put there. The signs should remain in place, with additional signs at BVW along with boulders and birdhouses, or something,” Borenstein said. She said the BVW goes right up to the gravel parking lot, so the church wouldn’t be able to mow or dump grass from there on back.
The commission voted to approve the enforcement plan with added signs and boulders marking the wetlands resource area.
Nelson then presented the paved parking lot expansion plan to meet the identified off-street parking needs of the church. He said the stormwater plan, which includes concrete containment vessels on a stone pad and a pea stone outlet had been approved by the Engineering Department. The proposed work will not disturb the BVW.
The commission discussed maintenance of the stormwater catch basins, and landscaping to include planted trees. Several members expressed regret that a mature bald cypress tree located within the proposed parking area could not be saved.
“I did talk to the landscape architect who designed it, and he explained why the stormwater had to go there and the tree was in the way, which had to do with Planning Board bylaws. I would like landscape architects to think more about saving trees,” Borenstein said, adding that the tree is not in the buffer zone and not within their jurisdiction.
The parking lot expansion was continued to Sept. 22, to follow completion of the enforcement plan.