Groundwater At Center of 40B Discussion


Engineering and environmental issues involving the proposed 136-unit apartment complex off School Street were discussed by the Manchester by-the-Sea Zoning Board of Appeals last week.  

Developer Geoffrey Engler of SLV School St. LLC is seeking a comprehensive permit from the ZBA under the state’s Chapter 40B laws for the apartment complex, which is proposed for off School Street, opposite the entrance of Atwater Avenue. 

Matt Cote, an engineer for Beals & Thomas, presented the board with a list of outstanding engineering-related concerns about the project.  Among those concerns are: 

•A waiver is needed for the new sewer pumping station that the developer has decided to use in place of the onsite wastewater treatment plant. 

•A waiver is needed for a booster station off School Street, which will supply water up to the apartment complex. 

•The board should request some basic designs for the pumping station and the booster station. 

•Some upgrade to the current sewer system along School Street may be needed. Six-inch pipes may need to be replaced by 8- or 10-inch pipes depending on the amount of sewage expected from the complex. 

•The sidewalk that the board has requested from the building down to School Street may push the amount of impervious surface over the threshold, requesting a waiver. 


While most of the concerns about groundwater, Cote said, have been answered, “we’d still want to have that (information) confirmed and worked out as part of the design processes.” 

Cote added that requests for additional geo-technical information have not yet been provided by the developer. 

 “We understand that,” said Cote.  “It will probably be rolled into the building permit process when they go for foundation builds and slabs and those kinds of things.” 

Members of the board and the public centered the discussion on those groundwater concerns. 

Scott Horsley, is a hydrologist hired by the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust, which abuts the site of the proposed 40B project. Horsley questioned the timing of the test pits conducted by Engler.  Test pits help determine the level of groundwater. Horsley said that when the test pits were done, the groundwater level was between 3 - 6 feet below where it could be. 

Last month, Horsley was also hired separately by the Town of Manchester to consult on the town’s water study for the Manchester Water Protection Task Force, chaired by Steve Gang of the Conservation Commission.

“I think it would be mistaken to interpret that as meaning that the groundwater is deep and there is plenty of room for these groundwater infiltration systems,” said Horsley. 

John Chessia, a licensed engineer, said that according to the plans, stormwater outlets were within 100 feet of a vernal pool and within 5- to 10-feet of a wetland.  He said neither of those are allowed. 

Engler said that his company will respond to all the concerns raised by Cote as well as concerns raised by the Conservation Trust.  

 But, he said, “the characterization by Mr. Chessia … who makes it sound like we are arbitrarily designing something is just false,” said Engler.  

Andrew Gorman, also of Beals & Thomas, presented an update on the Environmental Peer Review. But much of the review is incomplete since both the vernal pool survey and the wildlife assessment are ongoing. 

Ryan Roseen of Goddard Consulting said that both assessments would be complete in a few weeks and that they were looking at all wildlife in the area and making use of trail cameras to track animals on the land. 

A couple of people raised issues about the sewer and connecting to the town’s sewer system, but ZBA Chairman Sarah Mellish said all discussion on those topics would be put off until the board’s next meeting on April 27. 

zoning board of appeals, geoffrey engler, hydraulic engineering, horsley, groundwater, conservation commission, slv school st. llc, andrew gorman, ryan roseen, goddard consulting, john chessia, scott horsley, sarah mellish, manchester water protection task force, the environmental peer review, steve gang, manchester essex conservation trust