AYER — In preparation for the Fall Town Meeting on October 28, the Conservation Commission will gather community feedback on its recommended additions to the town’s wetlands bylaw.
The commission claims that the current bylaw, Article 26 in the town code, doesn’t have higher standards to address specific situations. It also claims the town’s Wetlands Protection Act, passed in 1972, doesn’t provide enough statewide standards of protection.
The commission has offered two public sessions so far for residents to weigh in on the new bylaw: once on June 20 for a public meeting exclusively for the bylaw and on June 27 during a conservation meeting.
Residents will have one more opportunity to offer input on the new bylaw during another commission meeting on July 11 before the draft goes in front of the Town Council on August 15 for review. A final information session is scheduled for October 10 before the Fall Town Meeting later that month.
The current draft of the new bylaw offers more specific examples of the “resource area values” it protects. These include public or private water supplies, aquifers, groundwater sources, wildlife habitats and agriculture.
The values that the bylaw also take into account include control of floods, erosion and sedimentation, along with prevention of storm damage and flood damage.
Another section of the new bylaw is “Minor Activities,” which the committee says is to address projects by individual homeowners that don’t need extensive review. According to the bylaw, these projects would have to be temporary with “negligible immediate impact” and no “adverse impact” to nearby wetlands. With these specific “Minor Activities” present, the bylaw also allows the committee to write local regulations and set performance standards for these smaller projects.
The bylaw would also expand the abutter notification zone from 100 feet to 300 feet.
George Bacon, chair of the commission, said Tuesday that people who’ve attended the public meetings so far have been in favor of the new bylaw and have asked questions about how the bylaw would apply to certain examples. These include small homeowner projects, like building a deck for instance.
Bacon added that the commission has been trying to get this bylaw changed for over a decade, first bringing it town meeting in 2005 and having it be voted down twice. The chair believes this new bylaw highlights the urgency for specificity on what can and can’t be done to the town’s wetland resources.
“I think there’s a greater awareness of wetlands and the pressure developments apply,” he said. “It’s also not terribly burdensome on doing small projects.”
Jon Winkler: MrJW595 on Twitter