Plymouth: Conservation Commission vote to throw out wetlands protection rules & regulations appears to violate Constitutional rights
On August 16, 2022, the Plymouth Conservation Commission held a public “discussion” via Zoom and voted 5-2 to throw out the “Rules and Regulations for Plymouth Wetlands Protection Bylaw” that the prior Commission adopted in April 2022 after a lengthy and comprehensive regulatory review. The Commission claimed it was reverting to the 2010 regulations.
It appears the vote is null and void because:
- The “discussion” was not a public hearing which is legally required in order to revoke a law and adopt a new one
- The meeting notice called it a “discussion” not a public hearing – the agenda must say “public hearing” when a public hearing is going to be held so people know to show up and exercises their Constitutional rights to due process of law
- The Chair confirmed that it was a “discussion” because he never “opened a public hearing” as is required by law for a public hearing
- As of August 16 the 2010 regulations were not posted on the Commission website — where is this old law the Commission voted on? It violates the Constitution if a regulatory body like the Commission doesn’t give the public a copy of the law they are voting
More research will be done on what appears to be a sham vote.
About 40 people attended the Zoom hearing, most speaking in favor of the well-established, scientifically supported public benefits of wetlands which include protecting our drinking water aquifer, water quality, wildlife and homes from flooding and sea level rise. Some echoed concerns of the citizen Coalition set forth in a sign-on letter delivered last week to the Commission. The Town’s Wetlands Bylaw contains a comprehensive list of values the regulations are intended to protect. Is a Commission that wants to weaken regulations to protect “private property rights” going to do everything it can to protect our drinking water, water quality and wetlands?
Since the 1600s, the lower 48 states have lost half our wetlands. Massachusetts has lost about one third of its wetlands since colonial times. Find out more about these critical natural resources and why we have laws to protect them.
Why would a “Conservation Commission” throw out regulations?
Speakers during the August 16 “discussion” asked pointed questions about the lack of enforcement of the state Wetlands Protection Act and the Town’s General Wetlands Bylaw themselves – the very foundation of our wetlands laws. The Town has a reputation state-wide of having lax wetlands enforcement and that is obvious. As one speaker mentioned, the Town’s Rules and Regulations are similar to what many Massachusetts municipalities have. Plymouth has 365 ponds, miles of shoreline and the Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Drinking Water Aquifer that serves over 150,000 people in seven towns. We need protective wetlands laws and a Conservation Commission that will take the laws seriously.
Plymouth resident Sharon Racette who lives on Big West Pond asked the Commission why it is not enforcing the Wetland Bylaw or state Wetlands Protection Act.
“For three years I have tried to get the Conservation Agent and the Commission to stop the destruction of a Priority Habitat for rare and endangered species, to protect a vernal pool, and to stop illegal alteration of our precious wetlands. Why is our Conservation Commission so willing to ignore our laws and throw out carefully crafted regulations that protect our drinking water, wetlands, wildlife and home values?” Racette said after the Zoom meeting.
While she was speaking during the Zoom meeting, Chair Randy Parker cut her off and muted after about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, speakers in favor of revoking the regulations were allowed more time to repeat their reasons why private property rights and “freedom from government regulation” should trump the public’s interest in clean water, wetlands, and wildlife.