“The wetlands are our most important open space!” Brad Hathaway made this statement during the monthly meeting of Mattapoisett’s Open Space Committee. The focus of the meeting was ongoing refinements to a drafted master plan, work that is required every five years in order for cities and towns to petition the state for funding projects.
The section covering “Environmental Problems” was up for the night’s discussion and modifications. When the group came to the paragraphs outlining the impact of development on open space the following sentence generated several comments: “While many communities require construction setbacks to wetlands through a local Wetlands Protection bylaw, Mattapoisett does not.”
Hathaway opened with his well-honed statement, one that he has been stating and restating for the past 48 years. He went on to say, “I can’t do this anymore … someone else is going to have to do this.” He said that several years ago the Conservation Commission, chaired at that time by R. Tyler Macallister, drafted a set of wetland protection bylaws. Those were to have been brought to Town Meeting for public vote. For undetermined reasons, those bylaws have not been presented at Town Meeting to date. Hathaway conceded that that document was not perfect and left room for future modifications. However, he said that at least having a set of bylaws, ones that could have been used as a working document would have been better than nothing.
Barry Denham spoke up, saying that the Conservation Commission works hard to protect wetlands but that oftentimes the applicant goes to the DEP and receives the green light for their project. Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold noted that if there were wetland protection bylaws then the DEP would have not jurisdiction, in their absence a DEP ruling holds.
Earlier in the evening, Leidhold noted that the master plan brought together a number of agencies, committees, and commissions in town such as shell fish warden, herring superintendent, harbor master, Planning, Conservation, tree warden, Board of Health, Marine Advisory, and others. With that in mind, the assistance needed to craft and complete the master plan draws on a wide pool of expertise.
In attendance were Highway Supervisor Barry Denham, Harbormaster Jill Simmons, Water and Sewer Supervisor Nick Nicholson, Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold, Community Preservation Committee Chairman John DeCosta, as well as Bonnie Desousa and Brad Hathaway.
Over the course of the coming months, the committee will continue their work on perfecting the language in the master plan, hoping to be finished by spring.
In the meantime, Hathaway is hoping that someone will pick up the ball and run with it so that in the coming years Mattapoisett will have wetland protection bylaws that will provide clear guidelines for safety for these sensitive areas.
By Marilou Newell