Letter: ZBA should consult on wetlands before granting Essex Road 40B waivers

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To the editor:

Our zoning bylaws and our local boards’ and commissions’ protocols can be daunting to get your head around for the average citizen. Add in the additional layer of 40B rules and regulations, and it gets even more complex.   

As many of us have followed with great interest the Essex Road 40B application, or the Bruni Project, we have all been learning as fast as possible how to make our concerns about this town character-changing project known to the various boards. 

The zoning board of appeals (ZBA) is currently weighing the 40B application, including requests for approximately 50 waivers from zoning bylaws.

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Included among those are requests to override local wetlands, water, and sewer regulations. 

Concerned citizens have asked that the ZBA consult with the appropriate commissions, boards, and town managers before considering any waiver request. 

It is particularly critical that our conservation commission be consulted on the waiver requests for relief from local wetlands and water-related bylaws. 

It appears that the ZBA has not requested such consultation up to this point.

No blanket waiver should be issued by the ZBA that would ignore an entire bylaw. All concerned citizens should request that the ZBA seek input before considering a blanket override of local wetlands bylaws. 

The letter that follows was sent to the chairperson of our conservation commission asking that they also encourage the ZBA to consult with them ahead of considering these waiver requests.

To the attention of Jennifer Hughes, Chairperson, Conservation Commission:

Jennifer,

Thank you for allowing me to ask my question during the citizen queries portion of your 2/17 meeting. My question was regarding your commission’s current involvement with the waiver requests in front of the ZBA related to the Essex Pasture application. 

My understanding, based upon your answer, is that the ZBA has not asked the conservation commission to provide an opinion on relevant wetlands or other waiver requests for that application that would normally fall under the purview of your commission.

If that understanding is correct, I urge you and the commission to immediately provide the ZBA with a request, in writing, that they not blanket-approve any relevant waiver request that would normally fall under your purview without prior consultation with your commission. 

Doing so will ensure that your commission, as the town body best suited to evaluate adverse impacts upon the public water supply, groundwater supply, and local wetlands protection, will, in fact, have the opportunity to do so. 

Thank you for considering this request, and I look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely,

James McCarthy
Fellows Road
Ipswich