GROTON -- In their first comments on a draft prepared by the Wetlands Bylaw Review Committee, town officials were critical of what they term confusing language and vague definitions.
The draft report detailing changes made necessary by efforts of Groton Electric Light Department's application for a new headquarters complex on Station Avenue,
"We got the fact that this is an imperfect thing," admitted committee member Robert Pine, who reviewed the draft before selectmen at their meeting Monday.
Pine was responding to observations made by selectmen that wording in the key amending language regarding exemptions was too confusing. In other places, words such as "intermittent streams" and "structures" were not sufficiently specific, they said.
"Could beaver dams be considered structures?" board member Joshua Degen asked, half seriously.
"We are making the wording of this bylaw less restrictive," responded Pine.
"It doesn't sound that way to me," replied Degen.
The Wetlands Bylaw Review Committee was created earlier in the year following concerns raised during a protracted review process concerning approval of GELD's plan to build a new highway office and garage complex.
GELD's first application was turned down by the Conservation Commission, which refused to bend on the issue of a partial intrusion by the proposed building into a 100-foot buffer zone surrounding nearby wetlands.
Although after reapplying, GELD's plan was approved, the regulations by which the ConsCom conducted its review were criticized as being too stringent and the review committee was established to see if anything could be done to make the process easier.
"I think this was a really good process," said Pine of the committee's work in drafting changes to the by-law. "This is the way a bylaw should be reviewed. No agendas got in the way of anything."
With the committee having drawn up a draft of recommended changes to the bylaw, members embarked on a round of visits with the town's land-use boards, first visiting the selectmen.
The major change in the bylaw, Pine told selectmen, was in the exemptions portions where wording was amended to grant landowners more freedom to work within the 100-foot buffer zone.
But on closer examination by selectmen, it appeared the suggested language was not only vague but contradictory. It seemed to give more freedom with one hand while upholding stringent protections for the buffer zone on the other.
Other concerns raised by selectmen included definitions such as that for intermittent streams and the accuracy of maps cited for use and identification of streams.
With more work said to be needed, committee members intended to complete their round of visitations for more input before returning to the drawing table. Later in the fall, a public hearing on a subsequent draft will be held ahead of submitting the final recommended changes to town meeting for approval.