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This letter is to encourage the voters of Ayer to reject the proposed wetlands protection bylaw. The issues against the bylaw are numerous and to explain them all in depth would take too much space, thus risking the letter not being published, so here are the basics.

There has been no demonstrated need for the bylaw in Ayer.

Confusion exists whether or not Ayer already has a wetlands protection bylaw. (re: Article XXVI, Bylaw on Wetlands Protection, June 25, 1998.) Is this bylaw already on the books? Let us make sure of the current situation before adding new laws. This should have been clarified before now.

This bylaw is not about protecting the wetlands.

This is a power and land grab and is about stopping the developers. Remember those signs that sold us on the Community Preservation Act? They said “Stop the Developers.” This is just the continuation of an agenda. In the draft version of the bylaw, it read “Add to open space at no cost.” Was that a slip-up or indeed was the intent to add open space and not protect the wetlands?

The ConsCom has little or no credibility in enforcing the Wetlands Protection Act.

Yes, one of the main jobs if not the main job of the Conservation Commission is to protect our wetlands. But last October, in a two-plus-page letter from Mass DEP, the chairman and the Conservation Commission were cited for multiple violations of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act. These violators want to impose stricter restrictions on us when they themselves didn’t follow the rules. Once again, enforce the existing laws before writing new ones.

This bylaw doesn’t just affect those near a traditional body of water, so don’t think it won’t affect you.

What do you, as a voter, know about vernal pools?

The bylaw is over seven pages long and there is too little time to study the proposed bylaw before the town meeting.

The bylaw may risk the safety of our children.

What about fences; are they a permitted structure? That question supports the safety issue. I live on Flanagans Pond. Last year, when I learned my then 2-year-old grandson was going to be staying with us for a while, I put up a fence in order to keep him in the yard and reduce the risk of him drowning. If this bylaw goes into place, would my fence have been considered a permanent and thus a prohibited structure?

The value of your property is put at risk by possibly well-meaning volunteers but they are not professionals.

Remember, per the bylaw, the burden of proof is on you. Section 10 paragraph C says this: “regardless of whether the site has been certified by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.” Does that mean our ConsCom knows more than Mass Wildlife? Mass Wildlife is staffed by professionals; the ConsComs is not. When the ConsCom violated the Wetlands Protection Act this past fall they also went against standard practices (this is in addition to the Mass DEP citation) as detailed in Mass DEP publication “Guidance for Aquatic Plant Management in Lakes and Ponds as it relates to the Wetlands Protection Act.” Note: Mass DEP supplies each ConsComs with a copy of this publication.

The bylaw will increase the cost of housing, forcing more and more of our children — those who grew up here — out of the area.

The bylaw will make the affordable housing crisis worse. Look around Ayer, does anyone see any entry level housing being built? If you don’t believe me about the cost from the bylaw then believe the experts. According to the Builders Association of Greater Boston, such a bylaw takes away a state appeals process for municipal wetlands issues. Instead of a state review, which is readily available to builders, the only recourse is Superior Court. That would contribute to a longer permitting and regulatory process, and higher home costs. The commission may order an applicant to conduct a study of the natural resource and a survey of existing wildlife. ‘’Consultant Fees” for work that could include scientific or legal services range from $500 to $10,000, depending on the size of the project. The Homebuilders Association of Massachusetts references a 2005 land-use report by the Rappaport Institute at Harvard University and the Pioneer Institute, an independent, nonprofit research group in Boston, for their facts. Even the Boston Globe has detailed the rising costs of housing that can partially be attributed to over-regulation. (re: January 6, 2006, article by James Stergios where the first paragraph reads: “People have long suspected that local regulations are a major cause of the crisis in Massachusetts’ housing affordability.”) The article quotes Harvard University economist Edward L. Glaeser, who conclusively demonstrates how the price rise is due to regulations driving up housing prices across the region.

ED ORR

Ayer