Public Hearing – Westberg Property

TOWN OF WALPOLE

PUBLIC HEARING

MARCH 16, 2017

 

Selectboard Present:     Steven Dalessio (Chair); Peggy Pschirrer; Whitney Aldrich

Others Present:             J.B. Mack (Southwest Regional Planning Commission); Karen Crowley (Walpole Foundation and representing an abutter); Cheryl Mayberry (Commissioner in Village of North Walpole); Sarah Downing (Manager of Administration); Regina Borden (Recording Secretary)

Call To Order:  Mr. Dalessio called this Public Hearing to order at 6:00 PM in the Walpole Town Hall.  He announced this Public Hearing was advertised and duly posted that “The Walpole Selectboard will be holding a Public Hearing Regarding the Donation of Map 20, Lots 65 and 66 from the Estate of Niles Westberg (former site of Central Plating) to the Town of Walpole at 6:00 pm at the Walpole Town Hall”.

A large map of the area was on display.  Smaller copies of the map and minutes of previous public hearings held on January 26, 2017 and March 2, 2017, were available.  Mr. Dalessio turned this public hearing over to Mrs. Pschirrer as she was the first Selectboard member contacted by the Westberg Family and is in charge of this project.

Mrs. Pschirrer advised that in 2002 the Town of Walpole adopted “RSA 41:14-a” which enables the Town to accept this property provided they hold two Public Hearings and have meetings with both the Conservation Commission and Planning Board to get their approval. The Selectboard has done this.  Both the Conservation Commission and Planning Board will write letters of support to accept this project.  Two weeks after the conclusion of this second Public Hearing, the Selectboard can vote as to whether or not to accept this property being offered to them.  This offer came to the Town from the Westberg Estate; they would be happy to give it to the Town for $1.00 as it would enable them to close the Estate.  This is a “Brownsfields” property because of the past contamination.  If the Town takes control of this property, it will blend into the village area.  After all the testing is done and if it meets the requirements, the Town will apply for federal grants to have this property cleaned-up. The area will be refilled with clean soil and put to good economic use by the Town because more parking is needed in the center of town.  That land is basically land-locked at this point. A right-of-way was given to the Walpole Foundation who would like to have discontinued for the safety of their tenants.

Mr. J.B. Mack explained the plan from his perspective.  He thanked everyone for having him attend this public hearing.  He is not a scientist, so any questions about chemistry and other similar items he might have to get back to the Selectboard with answers.  SWRPC has had a Brownsfields Program since 2003.  They have worked with about 15 towns in this region on close to 50 different sites during this time period.  This is a site they were looking at.  Typically when they work with a site they want to see if there is a plan.  They were originally approached by a private entrepreneur in Town who had an interest in purchasing this property for an office building.  He invested a lot of his own money on Phase I and Phase II assessments. But after the Phase II assessment, the State came back and advised there were still some things that needed to be done.  He came to the SWRPC about doing another Phase II assessment but then decided to drop the project.  They worked with Ransom Environment Engineers and Scientists on this Brownsfields Assessment Program including the various monitoring wells and test pits, the locations of those that were tested and sent to laboratories that understand soils and groundwater.  The outcome of those tests was the Phase II environmental assessment. The Town of Walpole has a copy of that report.

They basically found a few things. There is chromium contamination in a confined area.  The State is probably going to require that a future owner remove this.  They also found some nickel and arsenic but not as much as the chromium where the electro-plating was being done on the property. In addition they found some petroleum contaminants on the property in the groundwater.  It was determined during their Phase II assessment that these were associated with the Sunoco gas station on the corner abutting the property.  That is the responsibility of the owner to work with the State to improve those conditions and they have been monitoring them.

Ms. Crowley noted the owner of the gas station just recently did another monitoring well to the west and behind Murray’s building.  Mrs. Pschirrer mentioned the owner of the Sunoco is fairly active in monitoring this.  Mr. Mack said after the consultants finish their Phase II assessment, they will make a recommendation to the Brownsfields Advisory Committee to give them a better understanding of the chromium situation.  This information will tell them how much money would be necessary to remove and replace it with clean fill.  Ransom Consulting presented a new scope of work to the Brownsfields Advisory Committee.  He noted on the map that they plan to do another test pit in a different area to better define the chromium between the two buildings.  Because there is some groundwater contamination, they are proposing it is possible the property will have a Groundwater Management Permit just like the gas station owner.  The sump pumps will also be tested.

Mrs. Pschirrer has a copy of the new scope of work document.  When the Advisory Committee heard the scope of work, and Mrs. Pschirrer was in attendance, they were supportive.  The Advisory Committee wants to be good stewards of their federal dollars. They want to have some sort of assurance that the Town is serious about looking at this property and using the resources they have through the SWRPC to attain one of their goals.  They heard from Mrs. Pschirrer that it would be a parking lot; an asset to the Town.  The Advisory Committee recommended they go through the public hearing process and have letters confirming they would like to move forward with this project.  The SWRPC would then contact Ransom Consulting to move forward with this work as well as develop a Mediation Action Plan that will have alternatives.  It would give the Town an idea as to whether or not the grants would cover their costs.

An EPA grant is typically $200,000 per parcel and, in the past, have been available annually.  SWRPC does this program because there are a lot of Brownsfields properties in this region.  After clean-up, these properties would go back on the tax rolls, provide spaces for new facilities, clean-up the environment, and improve health conditions.  This is a tool towns can use to achieve their goals.  In addition to the scope of work the Advisory Committee is likely ready to approve paying for the Phase I Assessment. The Town would want this completed before they take possession of the property. It would protect the Town from any federal liability associated with the property.  The document has to be less than six months old.  In terms of State liability, they have their own program.  There is an application that SWRPC and/or the State will assist the Town in filling it out at no fees.  This assures the Town they are protected from State liability provided they meet conditions.  It could be a Groundwater Management Permit.  It would require the Town to continue monitoring otherwise they breach the contract.  The State wants to see these things work.  Mrs. Pschirrer feels the DES representative at the meetings seems supportive of this project.

Ms. Crowley asked why the present owners are not responsible for the clean-up of their property.  Mr. Mack said it is because they are not doing anything on the land.  Eventually the State would go after them and require they have a plan to clean-up the property.  The State has limited resources for enforcement.

Mrs. Pschirrer pointed out the Selectboard has two weeks before they vote on the project.  They will immediately send a letter with their decision to at SWRPC.  Mr. Mack noted the Advisory Committee recommends they conditionally vote for acceptance of the property based on the results of the reports.  Mrs. Pschirrer confirmed this will be an Agenda item for their meeting on March 30thMr. Mack mentioned it is really conditional on Phase II.  Phase I is basically for federal protection for liability.

Ms. Mayberry knows that chromium is a metal that is isolated to the center area but it is not water soluble. By removing the soil, they will be removing the metal.  Mr. Mack confirmed this.  She asked about the groundwater contamination in Phase II and if any are above the federal level.  She assumes some are; for example; contaminants from the gas station.  Arsenic is inorganic.  Mr. Mack read a portion of the Scope of Work that addresses this issue.  Ms. Crowley noted the level of petroleum products was not significant from the gas station.

Mr. Dalessio confirmed the Selectboard is positive about moving forward with this project.

Mr. Dalessio announced that Ms. Cheryl Mayberry is the newly elected Selectboard member who will be replacing Mr. Whitney Aldrich who is retiring.

Mr. Mack mentioned at the last Public Hearing on March 2nd it stated that SWRPC added $5,000 to their budget for testing on Felicia Phillips property. That figure should have been $500.  He asked Mrs. Pschirrer to obtain permission, in writing, from Ms. Phillips to allow this testing on her property.

 

There being no other public comments, Mr. Dalessio closed this Public Hearing at 6:35 PM.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Regina Borden, Recording Secretary

 

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