Shutesbury voters OK new wetlands bylaw at special TM

Shutesbury Town Hall

Shutesbury Town Hall file photo

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-03-2024 11:00 AM

SHUTESBURY — After a series of amendments and nearly three hours of discussion and debate, a new wetlands protection bylaw is in place in Shutesbury, adopted without a sentence that some interpreted as giving developers veto power over certain conditions set by the Conservation Commission.

The bylaw was adopted by majority vote at a special Town Meeting on Jan. 23, replacing one approved at a similar session 37 years ago.

“Overall, the passing of the bylaw, with the fatal flaw removed, is very good for the town,” Sharon Weizenbaum, a member of Smart Solar Shutesbury, wrote in an email. “We are relieved our lawyer found it, and appalled that it was there at all.”

Adoption of the bylaw comes after the Conservation Commission in October approved new wetlands bylaw regulations to protect the “community’s sensitive wetland resource areas, water quality and quantity, and wildlife habitat.”

The amendments adjusted other parts of the bylaw, as well. Once a final vote was ready, a motion to have a secret ballot vote failed, meaning that the vote was tallied by raising hands for and against.

The remaining six articles that were part of a seven-article warrant, all spending and transfers, were passed as written, though there was some discussion about why $50,000 was needed from the free cash account to cover legal fees, expenses that some residents blamed on town officials hiring special attorneys focused on the wetlands bylaw and associated regulations.

Also passed was $40,000 from the capital stabilization fund to address cost overruns related to the Locks Pond culvert project and $9,000 in free cash for monitoring of gas leaks at the fire station, being done by Tighe & Bond in response to a letter from state’s Department of Environmental Protection about contamination at the Leverett Road site.

Town Meeting also adopted state law Chapter 40, Section 22F, which accepts that elected and appointed committees can charge fees; transferred $136,943 from the Municipal Light Plant retained earnings to an emergency reserve fund; and used $2,500 in free cash to pay a previous year’s bill for the Mosquito Control Board.

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