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Inland Wetlands Approves Plan for Business Park Off Bokum Road in Essex

ESSEX – After spending several months revising plans for two large commercial buildings on Bokum Road to address concerns about runoff into the nearby Mud River, the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission approved a permit for the project Wednesday night.

The George C. Field Company is proposing to build the Bokum Road Business Park – a 28,000 square feet and 24,480 square feet commercial building next to a wetland and the Mud River. 

The larger building is intended for one tenant, while the smaller building is a “flex” building that could be adapted to include spaces of various sizes depending on what the lessee needs for their business, Bob Doane, the engineer representing the George C. Field Company, said.

The project will still need to have a special exception approved by the Essex Planning and Zoning Commission before it can be built.

The project will have two primary impacts on the wetlands, said Mike Ott, an engineer representing the company, at a previous meeting of the commission: the need to temporarily fill a narrow strip of wetlands to build a retaining wall. Ott said that the wetlands would be restored after the work is done. The second impact would be stormwater runoff into the wetlands and the Mud River from the site – which became the key concern for the commissioners.

Commission Vice Chair Andy Roussel said the revisions made to the application in the months since it was presented to the commission in August have gone a long way to alleviate his main concern, which was what would happen if anything spilled out of the property, into the Mud River, and then the Falls River.

The lease agreement that any tenant would sign does not allow any hazardous materials on the site, and the operations and management plan for the building does not allow vehicles to be washed on the site, to prevent any potentially harmful runoff into the wetlands.

Doane said they also added three hydrodynamic separators at the outlets of the storm drainage systems on the site, which separate oil, dirt and trash from runoff. They also added a spill response plan and spill kits to the operations and management plan as an additional protection in case something like paint were to spill, he said.

Doane said the retention basins they are proposing to build would reduce the runoff from the site by two thirds, and the rest would run into 3.5 acres of wetlands before they reached the Mud River. 

“At the peak time of discharge, you could be on the other side of the 3.5 acres of vegetated wetlands that are down grade of our outlets, and you could not measure the effect,” Doane said.

The town contracted Geoffrey Jacobson as a third-party engineer to review the application on the town’s behalf, and the applicants worked to resolve most of the comments and concerns he had raised about the proposal. 

Jacobson said at the meeting he didn’t understand why there was a hesitation to look at the flow of runoff from the existing site, so they could have a benchmark to compare the projected flows from the development – but otherwise he said he had no more comments to add on the application. 

Herb Clark, the owner of the George C. Field Company, said that when they purchased the property, the property taxes were $16 a year because it was farmland. He said they estimate that after the project is built, the taxes would be about $40,270 a year – plus an additional $17,000 the tenants will pay for the personal property kept in the building. Clark said they anticipated as many as 24 employees on the site when it is fully occupied – with a $1.6 million payroll that would also bring economic benefits for the town.

Commission Chair Fred Szufnarowski said the commission is required by statute to balance the wetlands impacts of a development with the economic impacts. Even if the property taxes were half of what Clark said, it was still a significant economic boost for the town, he said. Roussell said the property tax impact of the development alone could hire a starting teacher for the schools.

“It seems like a great use of that property, which is one of the bigger infestations of ragweed that you could see in town,” Roussel said.

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