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Some minor stream cleaning can be done without a formal filing as long as the work adheres to the Town's brook clearing guidelines. However, no stream cleaning can take place without first notifying the Conservation Agent. All stream cleaning that will not be done by hand will require a filing with the Commission.
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Most projects that involve the Conservation Commission's stamp of approval typically must be done in an environmentally protected fashion; this includes the use of sediment control products ranging from hay bales to products such as Siltsoxx. These products and methods of containment help minimize the disturbance to the surrounding wetlands or areas and help to ensure as little impact or damage to the resource areas.
You can find these types of materials and products at the following (all in Massachusetts except where noted).
The process for approval varies significantly depending on what the activity is and where it will be located in relation to the wetland. Some activities like maintaining an established landscape that has existed for years on a house lot are fully exempt and do not need our approval. Other activities like adding a porch within 100' of a marsh will need our approval. Your best approach is to contact the Conservation Agent to discuss what and where the activity will be. They will work to help you determine what the requirements are.
There is generally one of four paths that may be taken:
The information needed for our review is also dependent on the project and its location. The Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act (WPA) and the town Wetland Bylaw and Regulations (WBR) list the information needed for applying for a Request For Determination (RFD) or Notice of Intent (NOI). Larger projects and projects more likely to directly affect a resource area could require a professional's involvement. Small projects and ones not near the resource area may only require a sketch and a written work description. The information must accurately portray the current conditions and the work you propose sufficiently to serve as a record of what you are requesting. If you contact the Conservation Agent, she will work with you so that you understand the information your project will require.
All decisions by the Conservation Commission are only in relation to our Department's review of the proposed work and requirements of the WPA and WBR. It is the property owner's responsibility to get all other approvals and permissions as needed before commencing any work.
Wetlands in Rockport are regulated by three documents:
In general, if the proposed work will be within 100 feet of a wetland or 200 feet of a stream, it is regulated by both the state Wetland Protection Act and a locale-specific Rockport Wetland Bylaw. The resource need not be only on your land but could be on an adjacent private or public property. Only the distance from activity to resource is important and property lines are not considered by Conservation. The term wetland describes a variety of resource areas that may not always look wet. They are in both inland and coastal areas which may be described as, marshes, wet meadows, bogs, swamps, vernal pools, banks, reservoirs, lakes, ponds of any size, quarry pits and motions, rivers, streams, creeks, beaches, dunes, estuaries, the ocean, lands under water bodies, lands subject to any flooding or inundation by groundwater or surface water. In short, any area that is wet or an area that collects water at any time, or the protective buffer to these areas may be regulated.
This question is covered in full detail in the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (G.L. Chapter 131 Section 40), the Rockport Wetlands Protection By-law (Rockport Code of Bylaws, Chapter 14), and the Wetland Bylaw Rules and Regulations, revised February 29, 2012. Also, some of the information is displayed visually on specified layers in the town GIS mapping system. All of these things may be used for reference but ultimately the determination is made by the Rockport Conservation Commission if something is regulated.
Most landscaping within 100 feet of a wetland, other than maintaining existing vegetation (mowing, trimming, etc.), would require some sort of filing. The Commission recommends that you consider planting native vegetation within 100 feet of a wetland and that only organic pesticides and herbicides are used.
The permitting process, barring any obstacles, will take at least eight weeks before an applicant may start work. The applicant is required to present the proposed project at one of the Commission's public hearings.
Generally, your first public hearing is continued until the next scheduled meeting, pending a site visit (the Commission usually conducts a site visit on the Saturday following the first hearing). The second public hearing is used to discuss the findings of the site visit. If the Commission finds no issues from the first hearing or the site visit, the public hearing is then considered closed. No further information may be presented to the Commission after the public hearing has been closed.
The Commission has 21 days to make a decision and usually discusses a DRAFT Permit/Order of Conditions (OC) at its next meeting. Finding no major issues with the DRAFT OC, the Commission will sign it at the meeting and it will be sent to the applicant within the following days via certified mail. The date of issuance begins the state's 10-business day appeal period. Once the appeal period has ended and no appeal of the permit has been made, the applicant must record the OC with the Registry of Deeds in Salem (there is a recording fee of approximately $75 at the Registry). Then other "Pre-Construction" orders must be fulfilled before work may begin.
In order for the Commission to make an accurate and fair determination of the proposal, it is best to have a registered land surveyor, licensed engineer, or wetland scientist draw up the plans for the project. Most of them are very familiar with the guidelines given in the Act and regulations established under the Act. They can give you accurate advice on what can and cannot be done and produce a plan for the local and state review process. For your convenience, the Commission has a list of wetland scientists on its website under Reports.
Any site where work is being done which is subject to this section shall display a sign, of not less than two square feet or more than 3 square feet bearing the words "Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection File Number 62-...(and the associated number issued by the Department of Environmental Protection).
The abutters' notification is required under the state and local wetlands laws to allow neighbors to comment on projects that may impact them. Information about the project (including the application and plan(s) of proposed work) may be viewed during regular business hours at the Town Clerk's Office (main level of Rockport Town Hall - 34 Broadway) and at the Conservation Commission Office (Rockport Town Hall Annex - 26 Broadway). Attending the public hearing for the project and speaking during the public comment section is the best way to make your concerns known to the Conservation Commission.
If you are unable to attend the hearing, written comments may be sent to the Commission:
Your comments, if sent in time for the meeting, will likely be read at the hearing, but whenever sent, will be made part of the record.
Violators of any provision of the Act or the Rockport Wetlands Bylaw may be issued a fine of not more than $300 per day, per the Town of Rockport Wetlands By-law. In addition, restoration of damaged wetlands will be required, which can be quite costly.
That all depends on what you propose to do and how close you are to a wetland. A Request for Determination of Applicability (RFD or RDA) is used for small projects where the applicant requests that the Commission determine if the Wetlands Protection Act/Rockport Wetlands By-law is applicable to the area and/or the activity proposed.
Simple projects with proper protective measures (siltation barriers) will have little if any impact on a wetland resource area and are typically taken care of using a RDA.
A Notice of Intent (NOI) is used for larger projects (septic system repairs, house construction, activities within wetlands, etc.) where the likelihood of impacting the wetland is greater. An NOI is more detailed than an RDA and involves one or more public hearings.
An Abbreviated Notice of Resource Delineation (ANRAD) is used to confirm a wetland boundary which, in turn, establishes the Commission's jurisdiction.
Still not sure which application to use? Contact the Conservation Office:
The Commission generally meets on the first and third Wednesdays of the month and lists the meeting dates on the homepage. Complete applications must be submitted to the Conservation Commission Office by noon at least two weeks prior to the meeting to be placed on an agenda. New applications are placed on the agenda in the order in which they are received. Applications will not be placed on an agenda unless they contain sufficient information to evaluate the potential impacts on the associated resource areas. Guidelines for each application form are available on the website.
Wetlands are protected under state law (the MA Wetlands Protection Act and its regulations) and/or under the local by-law (the Town of Rockport Wetlands By-law and its regulations). Any work taking place within 100 feet of a wetland (e.g. beach, coastal bank, stream, marsh, vernal pool, etc.) requires prior review and approval to ensure that no adverse impact will occur in these areas. Rivers and perennial streams are protected by state law to 200 feet from the mean annual high water mark. This is called the Riverfront Area and there is a maximum of 10% disturbance in the outer 100 to 200 feet, and in most circumstances, no additional disturbance is allowed beyond this.
Please note: This disturbance is the maximum allowed in extreme cases and is not considered a right of the applicant.
All wetlands - including small seasonal wetlands - are very important filter areas that help clean and purify stormwater, surface water, and drainage areas prior to surface water re-entering critical resource areas such as rivers, streams, and drinking water sources. In addition, some small seasonal wetlands are Vernal Pools and are home to many salamanders, wood frogs, insects, fairy shrimp, and other species that cannot exist without these vernal pools.
Each project is reviewed on a case-by-case basis according to the specifics of the site and the proposed construction processes. Your neighbor may be farther from the wetlands than you are; a person may be within 100 feet of a bordering vegetated wetland while a neighbor on the same street is within 200 feet of a river, which has different requirements. One person's addition or deck may only require a sono tube or pile foundation while another may require a full foundation, involving more soil disturbance. Cumulative impacts are also taken into account when permitting a project. The Commission needs to review each project separately in order to condition it properly so that no adverse impact on resource areas will occur.
Wetland protection laws don't just protect wetlands…They also protect people and human interests! This is a fact that often gets lost in the wetlands permitting process… wetlands' function is to protect and preserve many things that people care about. Wetland resources work for all of us by functioning to protect the following "statutory interests":
The Conservation Agent is available to assist you in determining the presence and type of wetlands on a lot. The Agent can determine the appropriate application to be filed with the Commission and provide general guidance in developing a proposal to be submitted. In addition, there is a "Citizen's Inquiry" session at the beginning of each meeting where residents may bring minor questions or concerns to the Commission. If you have a more complex issue, please contact the Conservation Office and arrange to be placed on the agenda of a Conservation Commission meeting. The Commission and its agent are not equipped to provide formal planning, design, engineering, surveying, or wetland delineation services.