By Erin Post
Two members of the Warren Development Review Board (DRB) voted for stream.
The other two participating in a subdivision hearing May 23 cast their votes for 'not stream,' a category that includes drainage ditches, irrigation channels and other man-made features according to a definition spelled out in the town's zoning ordinance.
If the board decides the water is a stream, the subdivision proposal would not meet the requirement for a 50-foot buffer between any development and lakes, ponds, wetlands, rivers and streams. If it isn't a stream, the rule doesn't apply.
DRB chair Peter Monte recused himself from the hearing because applicant Bruce Fowler is his neighbor.
Fowler told the DRB that the channel was created in the mid 1990s when he re-dug a pond on the property. An existing culvert routed water underneath Senor Road but was replaced around the same time the pond was dug, he said.
An engineer working for the applicant said that the plan he submitted to the board does not address the buffer requirement because he did not believe the water to be a stream, pointing out that gravel soil absorbs much of the water.
"The fact that it disappears into that field is the prime reason I labeled it a ditch," said engineer Mark Bannon.
According to the definition of 'stream' in the town's zoning regulations, a stream is "any surface water course...as depicted by the U.S. Geological Survey on topographic maps or as identified through site investigation, excluding artificially created irrigation and drainage channels."
The flow of water may be "intermittent" but may still be considered a stream, according to the definition of 'stream channel' in the zoning regulations.
The water is not on USGS topographic maps, town officials confirmed.
But some DRB members said a site visit convinced them that the volume of water is such that the channel should be considered a stream.
DRB member David Markolf, serving as meeting chair in the absence of Monte, said it was clear to him that water has been "running in that ditch for quite a period of time."
Others disagreed, pointing to the overall flow of water-from swamp land at higher elevations to dissipation in the soil below-as a consideration.
"There is not a stream above and there is not a stream below," said DRB member Lenord Robinson.
In addition to returning to the stream issue at the next meeting, the DRB requested that the applicant draft covenants that would require portions of both proposed parcels within the meadowland district to be maintained as one contiguous unit.
The goal, DRB members said, was to preserve open space and prevent the properties from looking dissimilar to one another.
Attorney David Olenick, representing Fowler, agreed to present draft covenants to the DRB at the next meeting.
DRB members also wrestled with whether the application conformed to road frontage requirements. Attorney Dick King, representing an abutting landowner, argued that the town's zoning ordinance did not allow the requirement to be met by combining frontage on a town road with frontage on the right of way created for the subdivision.
Warren Zoning Administrator Miron Malboeuf said that the board has allowed applications to combine frontage on two roads in the past.
The town's zoning regulations require lots in the rural residential district to have a minimum frontage of 200 feet.