Letter: Leave it as is
Most Greenfield residents may not feel compelled to read the town’s wetlands ordinance, but here is my simple suggestion to the Town Council:
In 2008, in the middle of a wetlands hearing, the Town Council voted to amend Greenfield’s wetland ordinance to add waiver language, in a blatant attempt to help a specific private developer.
The language that the council added did not end up helping the big box proposal, because despite the Conservation Commission’s insistence that the wetlands there were “man made,” there actually was a wetland’s resource area on the site that the state Department of Environmental Protection said must be protected, and our local ordinance said replication could only be done if a developer could show that they would be deprived of substantially all economic use of their property — which they could not do. The result? The developer had to move his store 25 feet away from the wetland. Big deal.
Six years later, unelected officials are seeking to delete the section of our wetlands ordinance that makes replication of a wetland only a last resort. This is the key section of the current ordinance, and the only one that really goes stricter than the state Wetlands Protection Act.
The rewrite sent to the Town Council is basically about making it easier to pave over a wetland and to replicate it somewhere else — even though the process often fails. It admits that in the Conservation Commission version.
Removing the “last resort” language allows the ConCom to approve wetland destruction and approve replication in almost every case that comes before it, because wide discretion is created by the language. This turns the ordinance into a Developer’s Protection Ordinance.
The current ordinance did not stop the big box. It only saved a wetland. Yet the ConCom is trying to further weaken the ordinance for one reason: to make it easier for developers to put concrete over wetlands.
I repeat what I told the Town Council: The town’s current wetlands protection ordinance is not broken, so don’t fix it. Don’t accept any of Al Norman’s “rewrites of the rewrites,” don’t accept any of the rewrites of the ConCom — just leave the current ordinance alone.
Sometimes the best thing is to do nothing.