Wetland Protection Bylaw passes at Hudson Town Meeting


Wetland Protection Bylaw passes at Hudson Town Meeting
Chair of the Conservation Commission James Martin, Conservation Agent Pam Helinek and Conservation Commission Vice Chair Heidi Graf present the Wetlands Protection Bylaw at the November Town Meeting on Nov. 20. (Photo/Sarah Freedman)

HUDSON — As of the November Special Town Meeting on Nov. 20, there will be a new wetlands protection bylaw on the books for Hudson. 

The town voted 207-163 to pass Article 8, which outlined the details of how the bylaw would further protect wetlands.

Details of the bylaw

The article was sponsored by the Conservation Commission and strengthened wetlands protection in Hudson with a new bylaw. The objectives were to add a 25-foot no-disturb zone for wetlands within the 100-foot buffer zone and also to introduce small fines in the case of continued non-compliance to the wetlands protection bylaws.

Conservation Agent Pam Helinek said that wetlands are natural sponges that absorb flood water, and the roots of plants in the wetlands filter pollutants and sediments, which cleans stormwater runoff before it reaches rivers and streams.

“As development increases and as climate change results in more severe precipitation, stormwater runoff increases, flooding increases. More pollutants wash into our rivers and lakes, and wetlands become increasingly important,” said Helinek.

The state Wetlands Protection Act protects this resource, while the Conservation Commission ensures that the act is followed when permitting projects. There is a 100-foot buffer zone, and this helps make sure any vegetation change would not cause the wetlands to shrink, she said.

The Wetlands Protection Bylaw, Helinek said, would address the limited enforceability for towns and establish a 25-foot no-disturb zone. There will also be a fine of $100 for the first offense, which increases to $200 and $300 for the second and third, for the commission to address violations of the bylaw.

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“The bylaw will not impact anything that is already there. It will not allow the commission to make a larger no-disturb zone,” she said.

Helinek emphasized that the Conservation Commission cannot trespass on private property as the State Wetlands Protection Act grants the right to enter private property subject to constitutional law and in the case of a permit or enforcement orders.

She said the 25-foot no-disturb zone is “not very much at all” in comparison to the overall buffer zone, but it is critical to the protection of wetlands and water bodies.

“The Wetlands Protection Bylaw would help the Conservation Commission to better protect Hudson’s valuable natural resources at a very critical time,” said Helinek.

Town Meeting discussion

There was much discussion from the residents of Hudson on the article.

Alex Andrews said she has lived near Lake Boone for 25 years and has seen the effect of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, in the area. She said the runoff from developed land would impact people without the wetlands there.

Andrews said that, with new development near Lake Boone, the commission needs to have a bylaw for enforcement. She called the Wetlands Protection Act “great,” but the towns have no teeth in terms of enforcement.

“This bylaw would allow our Conservation Commission to protect us,” she added.

Brian O’Neill of Parmenter Road noted the bylaws protects “land subject to flooding” and asked if that does not apply to all of the land in town. He also was concerned about requiring approval to remove trees from his property.

Helinek clarified that the language refers to land on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood plain maps. As for removing trees, she noted that authorization from the commission is already required per the Wetlands Protection Act.

Other articles

Articles 9 through 12 all passed at the meeting and were designed to update the protective zoning bylaws. Article 9 focused on introducing a town zoning map and table of use regulations, Article 10 renamed the town districts, Article 11 updated the language of the bylaws and Article 12 reorganized the sections of the protective zoning bylaws.

Director of Planning and Development Kristina Johnson said they were modernization articles to make Hudson bylaws more readable and usable for town workers and residents. She said no changes were made to the zoning districts; they were just renamed.

In Article 10, zoning district names with letters and numbers were renamed the multifamily district and industrial district.

Johnson said, “It’s not very intuitive.”

Helen Probst of Barretts Road said, “I just wanted to in public say thank you very much to everybody involved in the zoning amendment efforts. It was a lot of work, it was overdue and it was well-done.”

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