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Approval of Watson Park Splash Pad Could be Hampered by Appeal

Braintree's Conservation Commission voted 4-2 on Thursday to approve the conditions of the town's plan to put a splash pad at Watson Park. Parking additions and walking trails still need approval.

The construction details of the much-debated splash pad at received a go-ahead vote from Braintree's Conservation Commission on Thursday night, but the project could be delayed by an appeal one neighbor said he would file with the state over what he argued is an invasion of vital wetlands.

Commission members voted 4-2 to approve upcoming work on the 3,500-square-foot pad at the conclusion of a brief public hearing on Thursday evening at . It is expected to cost $250,000, paid for by Capt. August Julius Petersen money not headed for a . Last month officials to go over details such as landscaping, parking and security.

A separate approval process for the proposed addition of 95 parking spaces and the construction of new walking trails will be taken up in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, commission member Gail Feldman questioned why the pad needed to be built at the edge of the park's marshland, saying that her colleagues should do more homework before voting.

"We've worked too quicky," Feldman said. "This is our waterfront and we need to take this very seriously."

Kelly Phelan, Braintree's conservation planner, said that she has spoken with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and that they considered the project redevelopment rather than new construction, allowing for a smoother process. Furthermore, she said, the DEP did not submit any comments on the town's plans, an indication of the department's approval.

"I feel protective of the river too," Phelan said.

Feldman and Watson Park neighborhood resident Andrew Buttaro argued that construction of the splash pad intrudes too much on existing vegetation, and that chemicals stored in a building on the site and a drain pipe headed toward the river could cause environmental problems.

Buttaro, in a letter to the commission, also expressed concerns about the project making flooding worse in the area and the possiblity that the pad would be approved but the parking not, or vice versa.

"We just have a little bit of the marshland left," he said. "It's going to be a zoo down there."

Buttaro said after the meeting that he plans to file an appeal with the DEP within the next 10 days. That could delay the project, depending on how quickly the bidding process goes. The DEP's turnaround on complaints is normally four to six weeks, Phelan said.

The four commission members who voted in favor of the construction plans said they were excited about adding a recreation opportunity at the park.

"I don't see any issues here," Gus Murphy said. "I think it would be good for the town."

In response to some of Buttaro's concerns, Braintree's DPW director Tom Whalen said the chemicals in the building next to the pad will secured and the pipe headed south from the area will carry only rainwater. Also, the firm tasked with design, Warner Larson Landscape Architects, said any vegetation beyond turf grass that is disturbed during construction will be replaced.

Alex Graziano June 17, 2011 at 03:26 PM
To the resident: Oh stay home and watch your Walker Texas Ranger re-runs!!

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