Conservation Commission rejects proposed amendments to wetland bylaw

May 6, 2021

After discussions at multiple meetings, the Conservation Commission ultimately decided not to recommend two proposed amendments to the town’s wetland bylaws that will be up for a vote at Town Meeting on June 12. 

The proposed amendments, which were brought forward by Director of Planning Ken Buckland, are Articles 10 and 11 on the Special Spring Town Meeting warrant.

The first amendment 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 that have “water-dependent uses” or for projects that require “development or alterations of land previously altered with structure.” 

At a previous meeting, Buckland explained that the idea behind the bylaw was to make the Wareham Village One zoning district more attractive to developers. He told members of the Conservation Commission that the bylaw amendment would not infringe on their ability to apply wetland protections for proposed projects.

The second amendment would make it easier for the town to repair and maintain its roadways and other facilities even in protected wetland areas. When explaining the second article, Buckland said the amendment to the bylaw would mean “that the exemptions provided by the state law and regulations are available to be applied to municipal projects.”

When asked to give final thoughts on the articles during their May 5 meeting, board members expressed their reservations.

“Generally speaking, with both of these, I’m not typically in favor of things that are going to make the bylaw weaker,” said Conservation Administrator Dave Pichette.

Other commissioners were in agreement.

“I don’t really see much benefit in this,” said commission member Michael Mercier.

Chairman Sandy Slavin said she was “very concerned” about Article 10’s removal of the “No Activity Zone” because it would impact land from the Tremont Nail Factory property to the British Landing condos, and little is known about the future of that property.

“I don’t like the idea of putting in a bylaw for an unknown project,” she said. “We saw what happened with a zoning overlay when no information was given on what a project would be — this is the same condition.”

She said she expected the commission would grant waivers for work on the waterfront Downtown and at the Old Greer Lumber site because “it’s all disturbed, it’s all pavement.” 

On Article 11, Slavin was also clear: “I think that’s a workaround from us, and I don’t think that should be allowed.”

All six commissioners present voted “no” when asked if they supported Article 10, and five of six commissioners voted “no” when asked if they supported Article 11. Kwame Bartie was the lone “yes” vote.