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Wetlands ordinance appears ready for vote in Greenfield

GREENFIELD — It looks like a Town Council committee that has been reviewing the Conservation Commission’s rewrite of Greenfield’s wetlands ordinance will vote a recommendation on Monday, which means the full council will most likely vote on the rewrite this month.

There has been controversy surrounding the commission’s rewrite and, therefore, lengthy discussions about it for the past several months during Appointments and Ordinances Committee meetings.

The committee will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. at 114 Main St. to discuss and most likely vote a recommendation about the commission’s rewrite.

In February, Albert Norman, the Greenfield anti-big box development consultant who calls himself a “sprawl-buster” and currently represents seven abutters who are suing the town over the big box project approved for French King Highway, presented his own rewrite, which included removing a waiver that allows the commission some leeway when making decisions and restoring wording that allows replication as a “very last resort,” making it almost impossible for the commission to allow replication of a wetland.

Many, including several commission members, objected to Norman’s suggestions and to the Appointments and Ordinances Committee’s decision to allow Norman to present his changes before a public hearing on the commission’s changes had been held.

Norman has and continues to say that the town should “do nothing” and leave the ordinance as it is written now, rather than accept the commission’s rewrite.

He has said he believes the rewrite weakens town wetlands laws, while Conservation Commission Alex Haro has said he believes it does not, but instead strengthens and defines things more clearly.

During the public hearing, which was held in late March, more than a dozen people seemed to want to talk about the commission’s rewrite of the town’s wetlands ordinance in the context of the French King development, instead of how the new law, if passed, would affect the town in general.

Several people said at that hearing that they trust the commission to make the right decisions and write good wetlands laws for the town.

This will be the first time since 2001, or 13 years, that the town’s wetlands laws have been updated, except for the waiver, which was added in 2008 by a vote of the council.

The full council will receive a recommendation from Appointments and Ordinances and will most likely vote on the rewrite during its May 21 meeting at 7 p.m. in the studio in Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St.

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