Final draft of wetlands legislation submitted

WASHINGTON — After years of work, the town of Washington’s Wetlands Committee plans to hand over the final draft of the legislation at the town meeting on Dec. 9.

“Our work is done,� said Mike Murphy, town councilman and chair of the committee. (The Nov. 17 revision is posted on the town website.)

After two public hearings this year on the new law, letters from attorneys, the advice of internationally regarded environmental scientists from the Cary Institute, the opinions of local residents, and a petition with over 100 signatures supporting the law, the legislation has basically remained unchanged since its May 13, 2010, draft.

The revision does clarify that “the review of an application under this section shall be in conjunction with the property owner’s application for building permit, site plan and/or subdivision approval.� Certain provisions have been made more precise. “Alter� is eliminated as a definition and “impact on general public health, safety and welfare� has been added.

Probably the most obvious change is the addition that “certain structures� that are less than 100 feet in area may be approved at the zoning administrator’s discretion. Presumably sheds, duck blinds and tree houses might not need permits.

But the pro and con issues brought up in public meetings have not produced any significant changes to the document. Vernal pools under one-quarter of an acre remain unregulated. There is still disagreement about the best maps to utilize in identifying wetlands.

Citizen concerns about application costs, tax implications and constraints on growth remain, as well as the objections of Rob Dyson and his attorneys, who claim that no legislation is necessary as wetlands are already regulated.

At the town meeting on Dec. 9 another public hearing on the legislation probably will be set for early next year.

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