Wetlands discussion continues

Conservation Commission to answer questions

GREENFIELD — It looks like Town Council won’t be making any decisions about a rewrite by the town’s Conservation Commission of the Greenfield’s wetlands laws until May.

The council’s Appointments and Ordinances Committee held a 1 1/ 2-hour-long public hearing on Wednesday to discuss the rewrite of the current laws and found the hearing raised more questions than it answered, especially about a controversial waiver and replication of wetlands.

Therefore, committee Chairman David Singer closed the public hearing and said his committee will submit to the commission some of the questions raised by a number of the more than 30 people who attended the public hearing, along with councilors’ questions.

The commission plans to discuss those questions at its April 8 meeting and Singer said his committee will hold a special meeting in April — the time and place will be announced — where the commission’s answers will be presented to the public.

Two sticking points were the commission’s decision to allow replication of wetlands under certain circumstances and to keep a waiver that was voted into law by Town Council in 2008.

About 15 people spoke during the public hearing and half thought the commission’s rewrite was strong enough, even with the flexibility the waiver and replication clause allow, while the other half felt the ordinance needs to be stronger.

While the meeting was supposed to be strictly about the commission’s rewrite, both sides kept bringing up the big box project planned for French King Highway.

Roxann Wedegartner, the town’s Planning Board chairwoman, told people that Greenfield is fortunate to have volunteers serving on boards, which are authorized through state law and follow state laws, and taking their jobs seriously and sincerely.

Wedegartner said those volunteers learn everything they need to know about their board’s particular subject matter.

“They don’t want to make a bad decision for the town,” said Wedegartner.

“You have to trust these people,” she said, referring to the five conservation commissioners who spent the past 2 1/ 2 years rewriting the ordinance.

She said the commission has strengthened the ordinance while allowing itself some flexibility.

“I can’t think of a decision the commission has made that was detrimental to the town,” said Wedegartner. “Don’t tinker too greatly with what they have done.”

Several people echoed Wedegartner’s comments, while others said they fear allowing the commission to approve replication of wetlands at will or to use the waiver whenever it sees fit could end up destroying some of the town’s wetlands in the future in the name of development.

Commission Chairman Alex Haro reminded people that the state’s Wetlands Protection Act is also in place and must be followed to protect wetlands.

Haro said the commission’s rewrite goes beyond and strengthens state law.

Singer said he will soon announce the date and time of the next Appointments and Ordinances Committee meeting. He said it will not be a public hearing, but the public is welcome to attend and listen to the committee’s discussion on the wetlands ordinance.

The commission will meet April 8 at 7 p.m. in 114 Main St. It will discuss and possibly answer that night the questions Singer forwards it through the town clerk’s office.

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