Conservation Commission offers an “Abutter’s Guide”

For the past few years, residents have been calling for increased openness and transparency in Town Government. And town controversies often seem to stem from communication issues.

Town officials have been making efforts to improve communication. Once in a while, some of the improvements are worth special attention. The one I came across recently is from the Conservation Commission.

ConCom recently posted a new document to it’s page: An Abutter’s Guide to the Conservation Commission Permitting Process.* 

I asked Conservation Commissioner Beth Rosenblum to confirm that the form is new. She did:

I attended a workshop at the MACC Environmental Conference in March where other Conservation offices shared some of their processes and forms. There were a few that I found particularly useful and asked the Commission to adopt for Southborough.

The guide walks abutters through what they need to know:

The Southborough Conservation Commission (SCC) has prepared this guide to explain what you, as an abutter to a proposal which seeks to conduct work in or near wetlands, or seeks to perform work under the local Stormwater Bylaw, can expect during the SCC process for review of this proposal. It is not intended as a legal guide, but to help you understand how to participate in hearings, get information, and best communicate any concerns you may have.

The guide itself indicates that abutters will receive it along with the initial notice of a public hearing on a project.

The document explains: 

  • How Can I Find Out More About What is Proposed?
  • What Should I Expect at the Public Hearing?
  • How Can I Make My Concerns Known if I Cannot Attend?
  • What Happens After the Hearing?
  • What Issues Does the Commission Consider?
  • Will I Be Notified of the Decision?
  • How Can I Appeal?
  • Suggestions for Presenting Testimony at Public Hearings

Earlier this year, the Board of Selectmen adopted a new policy for public comments. The purpose was to improve civil discourse at meetings.

I can’t help but think that if more boards create and share documents like this one from ConCom, it would go a long way to helping on that issue.

I know it doesn’t solve everything – especially for the biggest controversies. But the more the public understands process, what to expect, and what steps they can take – the less confusion, stress, and resulting vitriol. 

So, kudos to Rosenblum and ConCom for the guide. And here’s hoping that other boards will consider how they can achieve something along the same lines.

Rosenblum pointed out that the commission also recently posted another form: a Request for Waiver from the Southborough Wetlands Protection Bylaw and Regulations.

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