NLC News: Conservation Commission Denied Legal Support to Enforce our Regulations

The Conservation Commission has a narrow jurisdiction and a clear mission. One of their primary roles, as appointed by the Select Board, is to implement and enforce the state and local Wetland Protection Regulations. The Con Com issued the Order of Conditions (OOC), or permit, to the Siasconset Beach Preservation Fund (SBPF) for the existing geotube installation with specific mitigation requirements that must be met in order for the project to function as intended and to be a success. In signing the permit and implementing the project, SBPF agreed to those specific requirements. However, they have not been complying with this legally required mitigation since 2015. They have made it clear at the Commission’s hearings as well as in writing that they cannot and do not intend to comply with the mitigation requirements unless they receive a permit to extend the existing project close to four times in length. It wasn’t until the Commission ordered the geotubes’ removal that SBPF provided a plan for mitigating their more than 47,000 cubic yard (more than two year’s worth of mitigation) sand deficit. Further, the plan they have proposed would address less than half of their mitigation deficit- meaning the project would remain out of compliance. The conditions of the permit would still not be met, and so the Commission has had no grounds to reconsider their enforcement.

The Conservation Commission has carried out their responsibilities and after 5 clear violations of the permit has ordered removal of the structure. Nothing less would be expected of them in handling repeated violations and refusal to fully comply with the conditions of any OOC. The Select Board has asked the Commission to “reconsider” their vote, but the Commission cannot simply “reconsider” their responsibility to implement and enforce the wetland regulations. The Select Board has now denied their request for independent counsel to advise them on how to proceed. They are a regulatory body and have to treat all of their permits consistently as they were charged to do. They have been placed in an incredibly difficult position, and have handled it with decorum and professionalism.  Despite enormous public pressure and comparisons to a “lynch mob” with a mind of its own, the Commission has faithfully upheld our Wetlands Protection Bylaw. They are volunteers and our fellow community members who deserve to be supported by the Town with the counsel they seek and appreciated for their steadfast efforts as one of the few entities responsible for protecting our coastal resources.