Rochester’s Conservation Commission Tuesday overrode recommendations from Town Counsel as it approved a mandate that anyone applying for one of its permits must allow site visits from the Conservation Commission or its Conservation agent to be considered for that permit.
The commission endorsed its original addendum to the Rochester Conservation Commission application over revisions submitted by Town Counsel that edit out reference to the fact the lack of a site visit will cause the application to be denied.
Town Counsel’s revision strikes out those words and adds the lack of a site visit “may result in a conclusion by the Conservation Commission (that it) does not have sufficient information to fully evaluate the proposal …”
None of the commissioners were happy with these changes. “The teeth have been taken out of this,” said ConCom Chairman Christopher Gerrior.
“We have to hold our attorney’s feet to the fire here,” Commissioner Ben Bailey said. “Lawyers will water down anything they see.”
Gerrior proposed approving the commission’s own original language. Member Mike Gifford suggested adding “at the sole discretion of the Conservation Commission” to the permit-denial mandate, and the board unanimously approved the original addendum.
Later Gerrior announced some bad news regarding the much-debated regional Conservation Restriction that includes 13 acres at Red Brick Farm East. The town may not get the water it wants as a result of the project after all.
When they first heard of the CR plan months ago, commission members complained that Rochester has lost the right to use its own water resources too many times over the decades. The regional CR agreement was proposed to give Mattapoisett the water rights to the Rochester parcel, including possibly digging up to four new wells, under a co-ownership agreement with the Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Authority.
The commission was united in its members’ refusal to sign the Red Brick Farms CR without more information, especially as to whether the CR can be rewritten to give Rochester rights to some of that water, but they finally agreed to the plan only if it was emphasized that the $1 purchase offer needed to be part of the letter’s language.
Gerrior reported on September 19 that the plan favoring Rochester’s water rights may not become reality after all. He said Town Counsel told him, “We did everything we can. But our proposal is never going to happen.”
Bailey responded it was not yet time to give up on Rochester’s water rights proposal. “We should have Town Counsel reexamine this,” he said. “Direct Town Counsel to seek every possible avenue to get this proposal to work. Then come in and talk to us about it. We shouldn’t give up.”
Gerrior turned that suggestion into a motion, and the action was unanimously approved.
In other business, Sarah Wasserman of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife gave the Conservation Commission a presentation on a new Bio-Map, which delineates land and animal habitats around the state that need protecting. She said that 60.4% of Rochester is covered by these habitats and lands. The map’s goal, the accompanying brochure elaborates, is the strategic protection and stewardship of these lands. For more information, she said, people can visit Mass.Gov/BioMap.
The Rochester Conservation Commission will meet next on Tuesday, October 3, at 7:00 pm at Town Hall, 1 Constitution Way.
Rochester’s Conservation Commission
By Michael J. DeCicco