Hudson Conservation Commission ready for second effort at conservation bylaw

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By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer

Hudson town iconHUDSON – The Hudson Conservation Commission plans to bring a new conservation bylaw to Town Meeting, probably in late 2022. 

The bylaw proposal would empower Hudson to levy fines for wetlands protections violations and create a legal framework to pursue such cases. Such a proposal failed to pass at the May 2018 Town Meeting. 

When it comes to enforcing its own orders and protecting, for example, local wetlands, the Commission’s toolbox is limited, officials have noted. 

“I can’t fine. We don’t have a bylaw,” said Conservation Officer Pam Helinek at a Sept. 23 meeting where local wetlands protections violations were a topic of discussion. “I have nothing I can do except keep calling them and issuing enforcement orders. I don’t know what else to do.

“We have no teeth,” said Commissioner James Martin. 

“They’re so used to having No-Disturb Zones in the many other towns where they have bylaws,” Helinek said of individuals and companies that violate Conservation Commission orders.

But when it comes to Hudson, “It’s not enforceable, and if someone didn’t want to respect it, it’s just a request,” Helinek added.

Hudson has passed the two-year “cooling-off” period since a conservation bylaw was last defeated, which opens the door for another attempt in the not-too-distant future. Hudson’s last such effort was defeated by very narrow margins, recalled Commission Chair Emilie Wilder. 

Wilder attributed the failure to a lack of outreach and its position in the May 2018 Town Meeting agenda. 

“It ended up being scheduled after an extremely lengthy cannabis discussion that went really late and many of the people who had come to speak in favor of this effort, including a lot of children, had to leave,” Wilder recalled. 

She suggested that the text of the bylaw could remain unchanged when it returns to town meeting. 

The most vocal opposition during the last town meeting where this proposed bylaw appeared came from homeowners along the Assabet River, according to Helinek. 

Now though, commission members are reiterating the value of a bylaw in the context of recent, local environmental and conservation fights.

The long effort by many in town to push back against a major Eversource power line project might have gone differently if Hudson had such a bylaw, Commissioner Member Brandon Parker said on Sept. 23. 

The Commission plans to conduct outreach next summer in preparation to have the bylaw article included on the November Town Meeting for 2022.