What happens at a public hearing?
A public hearing will be held, during a regularly scheduled Commission meeting (you will be notified in advance of the meeting). You (or someone representing you) must be in attendance. At that time, you will present your project to the Commission. They will ask you questions, and may even require that you submit additional information, in which case the hearing will be continued until the next available date, to give you time to gather the supplemental information and submit it to the Commission. Dependent upon the complexity of your project, you may opt to bring your engineer or other person knowledgeable about your project with you, although it is not required. Since it is a public hearing, members of the public, such as your neighbors and the abutters you notified, will have the opportunity to ask questions and comment on your project.
You can expect that it may take more than one meeting to complete the hearing process. When you have provided the Commission with what you believe is sufficient information for them to make the determination as to the impact of your project, you can request the hearing be closed. Once closed, the Commission has 21 days to issue a decision. They may decide on the matter at the first meeting, but most of the time they will render a decision at the next meeting. You do not need to be present in order for the Commission to issue their decision.
At the hearing, I was told I need to have the wetlands “flagged.” What does this mean? Can I do it myself?
Flagging is the process by which a certified wetlands scientist or other qualified person delineates the wetland edge by placing surveyor’s flags or other marks at regular intervals along the boundary. You have probably seen these brightly colored flags hanging about eye-level in trees. The boundary is determined by many physical characteristics, including soil types or wetland indicator plants. The coordinates of each of the flags will then need to be surveyed and placed on a map and submitted to the Commission.
Without knowing where your wetland boundary lies, the Commission can not make a determination as to whether or not your work will affect the resource area. Unless you are qualified to map wetlands, you will need to hire someone to do this work. You can find names listed in the Yellow Pages under “engineers”, “surveyors”, or “scientists”.
How do I know when the Commission has reached a decision?
You will be notified by the Commission within 21 days of the close of your hearing. The decision can take one of several forms. In each case, the Commission can make one of two rulings.
If you have filed a Request for Determination of Applicability...
- Negative: Indicating the Wetlands Protection Act and/or Town bylaw does not apply, and you can proceed with the activity, with or without special conditions as determined by the Commission; or
- Positive: Meaning the Wetlands Protection Act and/or Town Bylaw does apply, and additional filings (such as a Notice of Intent) may be required before the Commission can rule on your project. If a Notice of Intent is required, a new hearing will need to be scheduled.
If you have filed a Notice of Intent and/or Application for Permit for Work...
- Approval of the Notice of Intent. The Commission issues an Order of Conditions and Permit for Work. These documents spell out the conditions under which you can complete your project, and any special conditions the Commission deems necessary for the protection of the resource area.
- Denial. If the Commission deems that your project does not meet the standards of the Wetlands Protection Act or Town Bylaw, they will issue a denial indicating why they are denying the permit. You have the right to request a new hearing and submit any additional information that the denial states was lacking, or, you can appeal the Commission’s decision to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.