Once upon a time, the conservation agent in Mattapoisett was part of the Building Department, assisting property owners with site visits for wetlands flagging, finding the best locations for septic systems, interfacing with state agencies, and encouraging best practices for remediation. That bit of history came to light as the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission on March 11 discussed methods and means for financially supporting the work they do on behalf of the Town and the Wetlands Protection Act.
Chairman Mike King said that he had received an email from the Board of Selectmen requesting that the commission review its rate schedule, but King says fees imposed by the commission are restricted by state statutes.
“Absent a local bylaw, we are limited to current state fees,” King reported. He also said that any business needs to know what their income is – their revenue stream – before they could weight that against expenses. “We’d like to know what our income is,” he said.
According to King, the Lakeville office of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection told him that some regulations have been established for towns that want to purchase lands for open space purposes, primarily for agricultural use. He said that was not the case for Mattapoisett.
King said that he has been and would continue to study the matter of fees, income, and expenses with the town’s accountant.
“I want to get a report on revenue for 2017 and 2018, and what was expensed from those revenues,” King said.
Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold said that, presently, the Notice of Intent filing fee is $25, which goes into the commission’s General Fund, and that the commission had $775 in that fund at the end of fiscal year 2018. Another Conservation Department account had $5,600 in fees at the end of FY18, and today holds $62,000.
“I was considered part of the inspectional services,” Leidhold said of her many duties. She thought that, perhaps, under that heading, additional fees might be charged that otherwise could not be collected by the Conservation Department.
King thought that might be worth pursuing, but added, “We are just starting this conversation.”
He again stated that, because the Town does not have its own wetlands bylaws beyond the state’s Wetlands Protection Act, the commission could not establish its own fee schedule.
Adding to that thought, he said, “I’m opposed to a (local) wetlands protection bylaw…. It forces appeals through the court … but we need to figure out a way to stay sustainable.” Apparently, he said, the current fees are not enough to cover the costs associated with running the department – salaries, especially.
“I don’t see a way that we can charge enough to make our department cost-effective,” he told the commission.
Leidhold said she would continue discussions with the Building Department and town counsel.
In other matters, Leidhold reported that the DEP has upheld the commission’s original enforcement order issued to Daniel and Lisa Craig, 4 Seabreeze Lane, to restore a significant area within the wetlands buffer zone and no-touch zone that was converted into a conventional lawn.
Also upheld was the commission’s decision and order of conditions for the construction of a paved roadway at Foster Street.
Earlier in the evening, the commission delivered a Negative Determination of Applicability to James and Diane Fortin-Curtin, 5 Riverside Drive, for the removal and replacement of a 30-foot aboveground pool.
Also receiving a Negative Determination was an RDA filing by Vincent and Shelly Mondo, 11 Waterman Street, for the installation of a prefabricated 12-foot by 20-foot shed.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for March 25 at 6:30 pm in the Town Hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell