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Richmond Planning Board Meeting update for October 25th, 2022


Board approves aquifer protection ordinance amendments


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA

October 25th, 2022

RICHMOND – At the Oct. 25 meeting, members of the Planning Board approved amendments to the town’s aquifer protection overlay district zoning ordinance. The process of considering the amendments has been a lengthy process, which began in January.

The aquifer protection district preserves and protects the quality of Richmond’s groundwater. The proposed amendments to Chapter 18.21 of the aquifer protection overlay district ordinance, which will be submitted to the Town Council for approval, divide activities within the zone into three categories: permitted, permitted with a special use permit, and prohibited.

The board will also recommend the council approve a second zoning ordinance amendment which divides the aquifer overlay protection district into two sub-districts. “Sub-district A” will include the sole source aquifer and well head protection areas, and will have the most restrictive use regulations. “Sub-district B” will pertain to groundwater recharge areas.

In a staff report to the board, Town Planner Shaun Lacey stated that the amended ordinance includes a provision for a review process for development proposals in the aquifer protection district.

“The ordinance also outlines a review process and procedural requirements for new construction and changes of use within the aquifer overlay,” Lacey wrote. “Single-family and two-family development within an aquifer overlay would be exempt from the Development Plan Review or Major Land Development Review process.”

Engineer Todd Greene of the firm GZA Environmental Inc. has provided technical assistance to the board. Appearing at Tuesday’s meeting, Greene provided additional information on secondary containment devices that help prevent groundwater contamination from fuel oil spills, noting that leaks are usually caused by the corrosion of older tanks, over-filling and damage caused by activity near the line to the tank.

“The comment that we provided to the ordinance was based on experience at GZA responding to residential fuel oil leaks, so given the town’s primary residential nature, there are hundreds of ‘ASTs,’ above ground storage tanks, that service the residents of the town,” he said.

Greene explained that in addition to more costly double - walled oil storage tanks, a less expensive device, a kind of tray, or pan, can be installed under oil tanks to catch leaks.

“They’re readily available, and the cost is $400 to $800,” he said.

Secondary fuel oil containment measures appear on Page 4 of the draft amendment and read as follows:

“Every interior and exterior above-ground storage tank for fuel or heating oil, except those in single-family and two-family residential structures, shall include a secondary containment system with a capacity that is 110% of the tank volume. The system shall include a dedicated basin, tub or tray specifically manufactured for use as a secondary containment area for petroleum products.”

Acknowledging that the ordinance could be amended in the future, if necessary, the board agreed that the proposed changes were ready to present to the Town Council.

Board member Nancy Hess made a motion to adopt the amendments, which the board will recommend that the council approve.

Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said it was important that the council understand the amendments.

“Shaun [Lacey] did a very thorough job, but I had a feeling when I wrote this draft that the Town Council would not understand about 75%,” she said. “They just don’t. They don’t have any reason to be familiar with any of this.”

Board Chair Philip Damicis replied that the board did not intend to overwhelm the council with technical details.

“They’re going to get a summary of it basically,” he said. “We’re going to have another meeting with them.”

The board will present an overview of the amendments to the council at a workshop, the date of which remains to be determined.

Lacey said the changes would benefit the town by creating a process for the reviews of proposed projects in the aquifer protection district.

“What these drafts do is that they allow for the vetting process,” he said. “It allows for those uses to be a little more permissive in the areas that we want to see them, subject to development plan review or major land development review process, which are under the charge of the Planning Board, so it works quite well.”

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