A WHOPPER OF A CHOPPER BY A LAKE
a personal webpage by A. Richard Miller
11316 visits since 070410; last updated 071025.

The next (NOT final?) session of this Helipad Public Hearing is on
November 14th, 2007 (at 8:45 PM)
in the Selectmen's Meeting Room, 2nd floor front in Natick Town Hall.

Public Hearing: Boston Scientific Corp. was scheduled for a Special Permit hearing before the Natick Planning Board on May 7th, 2007. Several hours before the hearing, we again discovered that we hadn't been informed. We protested, and happily the hearing was postponed to April 11th. That hearing was continued to
May 23rd, to July 11th, and (after several postponements) to September 26th and October 24th at 8:00PM, all in the same location.

NOTE: The Natick Planning Board requested an independent
Boston Scientific Helipad sound study report. A draft was presented at the Sept. 26th 2007 hearing night, but not released. A "final" version was released on the afternoon of the Oct. 24th hearing, but was updated before the meeting. I received that slightly-changed, 1.1MB .pdf file after the meeting, and placed it online the next morning.

This is about corporate responsibility. Many corporations help the environment. Boston Scientific Corporation thinks the right place to operate a very large and noisy helicopter is right by Cochituate State Park.

Perhaps that's not a surprise. This is the same Boston Scientific Corporation that moved its main operation from Watertown, Massachusetts to the old Carling Brewery site at Route 9 in Natick, built a blockhouse to guard the entrance road to its property and through to the Middle Pond shore of Lake Cochituate, and attempted to displace Amvets Post 79 and to usurp its lovely location within the state park for company use. When the Amvets said no, BSC solicited other veteran groups to say yes to a new joint facility on less-desirable South Pond, thus turning the current post into a minority vote. With the help of a few good state legislators, the veterans eventually managed to retain their location. To this day, Boston Scientific hasn't put in writing that the veterans are welcome to stay.

So, when BSC corporate executives decided that they shouldn't wait in traffic like others, they didn't think twice about noise pollution. They just ordered up a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, a very big one for company use. And the bigger a helicopter gets, the more power -- and noise -- it takes to ascend and descend. They did ask Natick for the Special Permit they'd need to install a helipad, and that hearing required that they notify abutters. But incredibly, they decided to place this intrusive operation on the side of their buildings closest to the lake. They didn't want to disturb their employees. They avoided notifying the state park, apparently because it wasn't an abutter. That is, a single railroad track sat between the helipad and the shore. Small sound-proofing protection, that!

The Natick Planning Board didn't notify Cochituate State Park, either. By the time the Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee got wind of this operation, we were told that it was "a done deal." Unwilling to accept that, we pressed for further hearings, many groups expressed their opposition, and eventually the Natick Planning Board denied the permit. Then BSC filed a lawsuit against the planning board, which wasn't in a spending mood and eventually permitted a trial use in 2000. Many people disliked the noise, but their only recourse was to notify a Natick official who filed the complaints without other action. That exercise in futility soon ceased. In 2002, with a little tightening of the conditions, a Special Permit was issued for five years. It permitted limited use between 7:30AM and 6:30PM on weekdays, for no more than 15 days in any month, and with no overnight parking of helicopters. That permit expired in mid-January, 2007.

Many groups and individuals had participated in the prior hearings, but again they were not notified of a new hearing on March 7th, 2007. By total coincidence, late that afternoon I was online wondering about another item and happened upon "Boston Scientific - Special Permit Hearing" for that very evening! No mention of a helipad, but after a half-dozen phone calls I found out that that was the topic. I had a conflicting meeting, and was barely able to e-mail a protest and request for a continuance. The Planning Board granted it -- to April 11th, the normal second Wednesday for CSPAC meetings. The next morning, I asked if it could be changed to another date, and was told, "No." I did, however, request and receive one copy of the Special Permit application -- which raised additional questions.

On the afternoon of September 26th 2007, I learned that a Boston Scientific Helipad hearing was scheduled for the same night! To its credit, the Planning Board mailed me a postcard; but (and as on March 7th), with no mention of the Helipad! A noise consultant's report was to be presented, but not yet available for public review. I asked the Planning Board to make that information available for me to post here, and to include the word "Helipad" in future announcements regarding this hearing. The hearing was continued to October 24th, at 8PM. After the Town noise consultant presents his initial report this evening, we'll have a chance to post and respond to his findings.

Translating to the bottom lines:

Boston Scientific wants to increase its hours of operation from 7AM to 9PM, and wants to park its helicopter (and its aviation fuel) overnight just uphill of Lake Cochituate and the Cochituate Rail Trail. Its executives do not want to drive to an airport, use a smaller and quieter helicopter, or move the helipad further from the lake (where one or more buildings could buffer that noise). The application says we should adjust to the noise, because it's important and won't be injurious to most people's health. It claims that no complaints were filed, which is untrue. It says that last year's level of greediness proved insufficient for its desires, and it wants more. It also wants us to ignore the possibility that the Natick Planning Board should just say no.

We moved the CSPAC meeting to another night. I sent a general notice to an e-mail list full of interested groups and individuals. And I asked to meet with Natick's Director of Community Planning, Patrick Reffett, to get some answers.

I thought that meeting would come soon. Week by week I reminded Patrick, and waited. Two days before the April 11th hearing date he finally e-mailed back, indicating that he'd see me at the hearing. One day before the hearing, on April 10th 2007, I'm ill-prepared and many others are far less-prepared than me. But I do have notes from the prior hearing rounds, a good newspaper article from last Sunday's Boston Globe (Globe West), and this conviction:
Lake Cochituate deserves responsible stewardship from its three towns and from our Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Responsible stewardship of a beleagured major public lake means reducing its noise pollution; not increasing it, and surely not to save a few Boston Scientific executives from driving to the airport.

Come to Natick Town Hall and participate. If you can't come down, send an e-mail to the Natick Planning Board, Ken Soderholm, Chairman, c/o Patrick Reffett (PReffett@natickma.org); please copy me, Dick Miller (TheMillers@millermicro.com). The next hearing should be interesting.
8 PM Wednesday, October 24th -- in the Selectmen's Meeting Room, 2nd floor front in Natick Town Hall.

April 2007 Hearing Correspondence:
BSC application to NPB for Special Permit (with prior ones attached)
News article from
Boston Globe (Globe West; April 8, 2007))
Letter from Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee
Letter from Natick Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Letter from Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
(coming)
Letter from Murtagh Hunt
Letter from Clyde Grant


Modest Proposals (coming)

2002 Hearing Correspondence: (coming)
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