A WHOPPER OF A CHOPPER BY A LAKE
a personal webpage by A. Richard Miller
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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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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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