The Rochester Conservation Commission began the process of reviewing current fee structures and the implementation of new or additional fees during the October 3 meeting.
Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon provided fee structure data from surrounding cities and towns as a starting point for the commissioners, saying “Fees are all over the place.”
Farinon said that currently there is only a $25 fee to cover the cost of publishing public hearing notices in The Wanderer for Requests of Determination of Applicability.
Regarding Notices of Intent filings, depending on the type of construction being proposed and whether the project fell into the commercial or residential category, fees are anywhere from $100 to $500 with the state taking a portion of those fees collected.
Farinon suggested that the commission consider instituting a new “after-the -act” filing fee, possibly double the regular filing fee. She said that any suggested fee changes would have to go before the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee, but not Town Meeting.
Commissioner Laurene Gerrior asked, “What are we trying to do with fees?”
Farinon said the commission could be proactive with fees to cover operating costs incurred by the commission.
Gerrior thought that funds collected might be used to help manage and maintain Town-owned open spaces, while commissioner Daniel Gagne thoughts funds should be used in the management of wetlands, such as invasive species eradication.
The commission asked Farinon to prepare a spreadsheet of possible fee changes for their review and further consideration.
The commission also discussed the new part-time position of recording secretary that they had previous voted to move forward with and request funding for.
Farinon had been asked to provide supporting documentation regarding overtime and what work wasn’t getting done.
Farinon responded, “The position is treading water,” and, although work was getting done such as meeting minutes and agendas, the crush was very real and of a long-standing nature. Currently the same secretary is responsible for attending Conservation Commission and Planning Board meetings as the recording secretary.
A sum of $2,500 had been suggested by Farinon for the position, and this would come in front of voters at Town Meeting, she said. Rochester’s Fall Special Town Meeting is scheduled for October 23.
Earlier in the evening, Daniel and Deborah Clark of 240 Mary’s Pond Road came before the commission to defend their request for a Certificate of Compliance that had been originally requested during the September 19 meeting, but declined pending their appearance.
Chairman Michael Conway had asked the homeowners to come before the commission to explain why the plan of record had not been followed and why modification had not first been vetted with Farinon.
Mr. Clarke said, “We thought we were following the rules, but mistakes were made.” He continued, “The first mistake was not checking the plan of record.” He said, if he had he done that, the issue of a lack in sufficient coverage for a portion of the foundation would have been noted.
The second mistake, he said, was “I didn’t fully appreciate the Order of Conditions regarding the one hundred-foot buffer zone.” Clarke listed four changes to the plan: steps to a shop; placement of a generator; openings in a stone wall; and slight relocation of parking area. “I should have come to Laurell … I’m sorry.”
Conway asked if he had read the Order of Conditions. Clarke replied, “Not fully.”
Conway commented, “People take these permits too lightly.”
Mrs. Clarke asked, “We had no intention to do anything wrong … What can we do now?”
Conway turned to Farinon who said, “We’re here for a Certificate of Compliance. Changes were made, but the project turned out well… There’s no other way to travel on this … I recommend a Certificate of Compliance be issued.”
The commission approved the request.
The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for October 17 at 7:00 pm in the town hall meeting room.
Rochester Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell