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An updated letter to State Senators and Representatives

Dear State Senators and Representatives, I trust this letter finds you well and safe.

I write to you as a Pembroke citizen and on behalf of the eight abutters (Captain River Association) to the River Marsh, LLC project in Pembroke MA., (River Marsh, LLC, located at O & 274 Water Street, adjacent to the scenic North River). Regarding the proposed River Marsh, LLC project, we seek your continued support in efforts to protect the North River from environmental and ecological damage, as well as negative impact on area traffic safety.

As you may know, on December 10, 2021, the Town of Pembroke Zoning Board (ZBA) voted unanimously to deny the comprehensive permit application for the River Marsh project on several grounds (See the attached ZBA letter of denial dated December 10, 2021). However, from attorney Dennis A. Murphy, Hill Law group, whom we have retained, we understand that the developer's application process continues with several hearings with the MassHousing state agency. We are now concerned that MassHousing will, as they have done in the past, ignore the town's decision yet again! The aforementioned project has been refused three times. Once in September 2005 by MassHousing, then in 2017 by the Town of Pembroke Board of Selectman (the Town declared the 10% affordable housing safe harbor), and now in December 2021, by the Pembroke ZBA.

Importantly, the very reasons that MassHousing denied the developer's application in 2005, (see attached MassHousing denial letter September 9, 2005), still exist - with the exception that in December of 2015 the developer purchased the property at 274 Water Street (through a straw buyer -see attached letter from Brian Lenaghan then property owner) and therefore, gained a second access point to the project site.

Since 2005 and 2017 many additional issues have surfaced with the developer's submitted project plans:

• First, the project site plan is comprised of 50 acres in total, but the site has only 22 acres of buildable uplands to include the housing of a wastewater filtration plant, as well as infrastructure and storm water basins - this causes the density of the project to be far above typical site density in the town of Pembroke.

• One of the two access points to the project site is through a driveway easement located at 248 Water Street, (the oldest home in Pembroke), and is one of the reasons the developer is claiming site control. However, the owner of 248 Water Street, has refused to grant the developer easement access and has filed legal action against the taking of their driveway. Since the time of the developer's applications, the developer has relied on having two access points to the project site, a condition cited in a MassHousing 2018 Site Approval letter as a substantial change since the 2005 MassHousing rejection letter. Based on research conducted by attorney Murphy, his legal opinion concludes that the developer does not have control over the anted to 248 Water Street easement, which is cited by the developer as the second access point to the project site. Note, that the easement in question, is not a standard easement. The prior owner of 248 Water Street crafted the language of the easement to protect this specific driveway area, (in existence for literally centuries), in its current form for now and forever! As shown in a 1985 plot plan, Approval Not Required {ANR), the exact coordinates, rights granted, and restrictions imposed, all restrict the developer's ability to install a roadway, retaining walls, or utilities, or to perform grading, such as the developer depicts on the current River March, LLC project site development plans.

Hydrology report by renowned Hydrology scientist Scott Horsley: With the Town unable to afford the expense for a hydrology expert, and the project site in question being placed on the scenic and environmentally sensitive North River, we retained Professor Horsley. (Attached, Horsley's letter of findings/recommendations).

o Horsley cites the fact that the property site depth of shallow ground water, (page 2 of Horsley's letter), will cause ground swelling and will exacerbate the groundwater. If so, imagine thousands of gallons of water being pumped into the site for the proposed 56 buildings and then released into the already shallow ground water through the proposed wastewater treatment plant. Note, the developer refused to do a ground water swelling analysis until the Town pushed that it be done. It was eventually conducted but not in the actual area necessary to show that the North River would be protected.

o The project does not comply with MADEP standard 6. As Professor Horsley points out on page 4 of his letter, the North River is "impaired by pathogens" and this proposed development is upstream from the closed shellfish beds. The stormwater discharge coupled with all the waste from the wastewater treatment plant will certainly cause the site to have significant runoff into the North River.

o The project is also inconsistent with the North River Scenic River and Protective Act. As Professor Horsley points out on Page 6 of his letter, the developer used boundaries outlined from 1978. The natural bank 300-foot buffer zone is certainly not in the same place as it was in 1978!

o Mapping of wetlands on the North side of the project site - it is pointed out by both the Hydrologist as well as a wetlands scientist that the north side of the development has not been mapped by the developer and developer's plans show proposed buildings on said wetlands.

o Another concern is the amount of animal/pet feces that would eventually flow into the North River.

o Finally, concerns that the Stormwater catch basins will not hold and instead will breach

Wetlands Scientist Environmental Review by Patrick C. Garner: After Hydrologist Horsley toured the Crossley farm property located at 286 Water Street (a direct abutter's property, built-in 1702, and the oldest operating farm in Pembroke) and noted that there were more area wetlands than shown by the developer's plans, we hired Wetlands Scientist Patrick Garner. Garner investigated the completeness and accuracy of environmental resources depicted on the developer's project plans. (Attached copy of Garner's letter dated September 17, 2021).

  • During Garner's tour of the Crossley farm, he discovered that the developer's plan "does not depict the state-protected wetlands and streams that lie on abutting properties." Garner further states that of bordering vegetated wetlands (BVW) within 100 feet of the project must show on project plans but they are not shown and thus misrepresent the number of unencumbered wetlands.

  • Garner notes that there is a stream flowing from the proposed development at 274 Water Street through the BVW into the Crossley farm and the North River marsh and into the North River.

  • Further noted is that streams like bordering vegetated wetlands (BVW) are protected by the100- foot buffer zone.

  • Finally, this stream appears to be a tributary of the North River and therefore, should be covered by the North River Commission and the 300-foot setback.

Other Information to consider:

• There is a certified vernal pool on the south side of the proposed development which has given hatch to many yellow spotted salamanders and other rare species that must be protected!

• Traffic safety issues have not been fully addressed. Water Street is 19-feet wide at its widest point. Water Street empties traffic onto Route 139 either through the intersection of Water or Cross streets. Both intersections are presently hazardous points of entry and exit. With the addition of some 120 plus cars during both the morning and afternoon commuting times emptying onto Water Street from the River Marsh project, the vehicle hazard will only increase. Note that traffic was a reason for the MassHousing denial in 2005 ! Nothing has changed, so traffic safety should still be a major issue.

• Additionally, as the developer's "south" entry from Water Street to the project site, as mentioned earlier, will not be granted by the abutter, leaving only one point of egress. The safety issues related to 120 plus vehicles entering and exiting onto Water Street to include emergency vehicles and delivery trucks i.e., UPS and Amazon remain unanswered.

• Again, the density of the project - after deducting 28 acres of wetlands from the project plans stated 50 acres, there will be 56 townhouses with a planned 157 bedrooms built on 22 acres of upland. Additionally, these 22 acres are planned to support a wastewater treatment plant, 2 stormwater drainage systems and 4 leeching fields, significantly decreasing the actual building acreage. As a result, this project, which sits on the most sensitive of sites, dwarfs other Pembroke 40b projects in terms of total units, total bedrooms, units per acre, bedrooms per acre, lack of maneuverability, lack of greenspace and presents snow storage, drainage issues and traffic safety concerns.

• Pedestrian safety on Water Street, as well as inside the proposed development, is an extremely potential safety hazard. There are no walkways on Water Street. Within the development's 20- foot-wide roads, there are no plans for a safe bus or waiting area for school age children.

• Every Pembroke Town Department has submitted letters asking that the River Marsh project be denied. (See copies of attached letters}.

• The North and South Rivers Watershed Association (NSRWA} have also submitted a letter of concern regarding this project. (Attached}.

• The developer continues to refuse to include a landscape plan for the proposed project. This is an important concern, as the River Marsh, LLC developer has a reputation for underdelivering on project promises. Note that MassHousing recently suspended this developer from entering 40B projects. (See attached - attorney Murphy's letter dated September 23, 2021}.

• Worth noting, is the fact that in 2017 the town of Pembroke claimed a safe harbor attainment of 10% affordable housing which was then denied by MassHousing as they evaluated Pembroke affordable housing at 9.5% and not the 10% necessary to claim a safe harbor.

In closing, we appreciate, where possible, your continued support in reaching out to the Town of Pembroke and appropriate state agencies to assist in putting a final stop to the River March, LLC project. Should you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Robert Schmitz

Captain River

Supporting information attached, download and read please:

letter to reps and senators (2)
Download PDF • 4.43MB

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