Conservation Commission to hold public hearing on proposed changes to wetland bylaws

Apr 8, 2021

The Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing on two proposed wetland bylaw amendments at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 29. The board has previously expressed concerns about the amendments, which were proposed by Town Planner Ken Buckland after months of work.

The amendments to the wetland bylaws will come up for a vote at the Special Town Meeting currently scheduled for May 8.

David Pichette, the conservation administrator, recommended holding the public hearing because he didn’t think any other government body would be having one.

“We should have a public hearing for anybody who has questions or to have the proponent or the architect of [the amendments] make some commentary on it, but then have it such that the public can weigh in or ask questions if they feel like they want to,” Pichette said.

The Board of Selectmen voted to put the proposed amendments on the Town Meeting warrant during their March 30 meeting, after making some adjustments. 

The first amendment Buckland proposed would remove the “No Activity Zone” — which requires a 50-foot buffer between the waterfront and potential developments — for projects in the Wareham Village One zoning district with “water-dependent uses” or projects that require “development or alterations of land previously altered with structure.” 

The Wareham Village One district stretches from the Tremont Nail Factory property to the British Landing condos. When explaining the amendment in the past, Buckland also noted that a few developers have expressed interest in the region — one in the Old Greer Lumber site, two along Merchants Way and one at the Tremont Nail site.

According to Buckland, the second wetland bylaw amendment he proposed would mean “that the exemptions provided by the state law and regulations are available to be applied to municipal projects.” 

When the proposed amendment came before the selectmen, board members were concerned that the term “municipal projects” wasn’t specific enough. 

As a result, Teitelbaum suggested new language that would allow exemptions for “municipal projects relating to replacement, repair and maintenance of existing town roadways, facilities, installations and fixtures.” The selectmen agreed, and the amendment was added to the Town Meeting warrant with the new language.

During their April 8 meeting, members of the Conservation Commission agreed that the amendments needed to be discussed more, and opted to hold a public hearing Thursday, April 29 at 6 p.m.

“I think that there needs to be a lot more discussion on this,” said commission member Ronald Besse. 

He said he was particularly frustrated that the Conservation Commission wasn’t consulted until very late in the process — right before the Selectmen were asked to put the proposed amendments on the Town Meeting warrant.

“It doesn’t have my support — yet,” Besse said. “Maybe it could, if it was explained in a good way and there was some actual good, solid core discussion behind it.”