The Conservation Commission has finalized updating the Regulations for the existing Shutesbury General Wetlands Protection Bylaw Regulations. Updated Regulations were approved on October 5, 2023 and are available below.
The Commission is also considering bringing a revised Bylaw to the Town voters, but that is a separate process. See below for a Draft Bylaw that the Commission sent to the Select Board and other Town Boards for consideration in July 2023.
If landowners have questions about how the new Regulations affect proposed projects, the Commission encourages them to reach out to us and arrange a working session.
Why do we need updated Regulations?
The Shutesbury Wetlands Protection Bylaw tasks the Conservation Commission with promulgating Regulations. The Commission has a statutory responsibility to adopt Regulations that enable proper bylaw administration and update them as needed. Regulations outline a logical process for decision-making. Regulations are based upon environmental science and law as well as the unique needs of each community. Since the 2000 revision, many Commissions have updated their Regulations to keep up with evolving science and law. Because our current Regulations are over twenty years old, the fee schedule is outdated, and the application procedures are unclear. Recent court decisions underscore that Conservation Commissions must have well-defined Regulations to apply bylaws such as the Shutesbury Wetlands Protection Bylaw.
What are the benefits of these proposed revisions?
The Shutesbury Wetlands Protection Bylaw protects our community’s sensitive wetland resource areas, water quality and quantity, and wildlife habitat. Local wetlands protection offers our community vital resilience against climate change (e.g., shading, cooling, water filtration, and carbon sequestration). Regulations create a consistent, predictable approach to individual situations, allowing landowners and applicants to know in advance how their project will be reviewed. Updated Regulations, based on solid environmental science, will enable the Commission to make evidence-based and reasonable decisions.
The Commission has worked to incorporate features in the new Regulations that will allow flexibility (such as options for Hardship Waivers) and streamlined review for small projects. Hardship Waivers allow landowners to seek approval for a project if their property does not allow them to meet all of the standards in the Regulations. Examples include very small lots where there are no other options for siting a structure or a property where a wetland crossing on a driveway via a culvert is necessary for the use of the property's interior. The Commission reviews Hardship Waiver requests on a case-by-case basis. We hope these changes will improve and speed up our permitting review process and, in some cases, reduce costs for the landowner!
Shutesbury’s greatest assets are our forests and water resources. Many of us choose to live here because we feel passionate about the natural environment. The Shutesbury Wetlands Protection Bylaw is a valuable tool to help us all protect our quality of life and our fragile environment. The SCC welcomes community input about how to protect our natural resources in the years to come.
Thank you! The Shutesbury Conservation Commission