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Frequently Asked Questions: Zoning & Land Use

What if my property contains wetlands?

You may not fill wetlands or alter them without going before your local conservation commission. That conservation commission has the authority to review your project and to determine if the wetlands will be affected. The commission’s authority extends for up to 100 feet or upland immediately adjacent to the wetlands, which is known as the buffer. If you meet the appropriate state standards and agree to minimize the effect on the wetlands, and in some cases create new wetlands in another area, so that the total amount of wetlands remains approximately the same, the conservation commission my issue, pursuant to state law, an order of conditions allowing this work to occur. The conservation commission, of course, may put special conditions on the work regulating your particular project. In addition, many communities have a local wetlands protection by-law or ordinance and also a Storm Water Management Permit by-law or ordinance. As an example, in many communities there is a 25 foot buffer zone that is immediately adjacent to any protected wetland area which is not allowed to be altered at all. Therefore, in addition to the state permit issued by the conservation commission, you would need a local permit as well. These would be accomplished at the same hearing. Finally, many communities require that if you alter more than a certain amount of property, whether it be wetlands or upland, typically 2500 square feet or more, then you must present your Storm Water Management plans to the conservation commission and have them issue a local permit on that issue.

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