Escalating Fines for Unauthorized Clearing

The Rochester Conservation Commission approved heavy fines for a noncompliant homeowner at 89 Box Turtle Drive.

            During its public meeting on Tuesday night, the board agreed to begin delivering “non-criminal enforcement tickets,” fining the property owner on a climbing scale of $50, then $100, then $300 per day for clearing too much of his land close to wetlands without a permit or even trying to communicate with commission members. The homeowner has yet to respond to any communications from the commission over the past few months.

            Conservation Agent Merilee Kelly said Town Counsel Blair Bailey advised this was the avenue to take to make the homeowner comply. Commissioner Ben Bailey said the increasing scale of fines will give the commission the opportunity to put a lien on the landowner’s property until he complies with the town’s wetlands-protection regulations.

            Commissioners said the tickets should start being delivered as soon as the next day (June 23), by Kelly herself or a constable, and these tickets should be delivered every day until there is compliance.

Commission Chairman Christopher Gerrior explained after the vote that he himself has reached out to the property owner to tell him what he could do to resolve the issue. “He did the exact opposite,” he said. “At least I tried.”

            Assessors Department records list the property’s owner only as “Connet Woods LLC.”

            In other action, the commission voted a “negative determination” that a plan to construct a new septic system for a proposed addition at 23 Hiller Road will not affect nearby wetlands. Minimal disturbance within the outer half of the buffer zone will be achieved with erosion controls, the members agreed.

            Also, the commission announced that member Maggie Payne has resigned. As a result, it approved recommending to the Select Board that William Clapp become a new full-time member to replace Payne.

            The commission also endorsed easement signs for 5 acres on Mary’s Pond Road that is being marked off as a conservation area, and it recommended the town not exercise its option to purchase 9 acres on Farmhouse Road that is being taken out of the MassWoods’ Chapter 61B property protection. Said land is being proposed for a solar-energy installation.

            The commission set its next meeting for Tuesday, July 19, at 7:00 pm.

Rochester Conservation Commission

By Michael J. DeCicco

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