An Abutter's Guide to the Conservation Commission Permitting Process

Understanding How it All Works

The Holliston Conservation Commission (HCC) has prepared this guide to explain what you, as an abutter to a proposal to conduct work in or near wetlands, can expect during the project permitting process. It is not intended as a legal guide, but rather to help you understand how to participate in hearings, get information, and best communicate any concerns. To reach the Commission, please call 508-429=0607 or email [email protected]. The HCC is located in Town Hall at 703 Washington Street, Holliston, MA 01746.

Who is notified of a wetlands project? The Holliston Wetlands Protection Bylaw and the state Wetlands Protection act require that all property owners within 100 feet of a proposal to conduct work in or near wetlands are notified by the applicant by mail. All wetland hearings are also legally advertised in MetroWest Daily News at least 5 days prior to the hearing.

How can I find out more about what is proposed? Residents are encouraged to call the HCC office or the Applicant to ask questions. The application and proposed plan are on file at the HCC office. You are welcome to review this information or receive copies of any information that you would like to keep. Since staff is limited to one person who is often conducting site visits, it is recommended that you make an appointment.

What should I expect at the public hearing? At the hearing, the applicant or property owner will present plans and explain what is proposed. The HCC will ask questions of the Applicant and/or their representative. Then, the HCC Chair will ask if anyone in the audience has questions or wishes to offer an opinion as it relates to wetland protection. Since the HCC often hears several projects in an evening, hearings and comments must be done in a timely manner to ensure each project hearing may have appropriate time allocated to review and discussion. At the end of the session of the public hearing, the hearing may either be closed (if there is no more information to be received) or continued to a date and time certain (if the HCC needs additional information). You WILL NOT receive written notice of the continued hearing date. To verify that a hearing is being held on a scheduled date, please contact the HCC office.

What issues does the Commission Consider? The scope of issues that the HCC can consider in reviewing proposed projects is defined by the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and Regulations and the Holliston Wetlands Protection Bylaw. In presenting testimony (oral or written), please be aware that the Commission’s jurisdiction only relates to wetland issues.

Suggestions for presenting testimony at public hearings:

  • State your name and address for the record before you speak and each time you speak
  • Feel free to use the proposed plan to point out concerns you may have
  • Try to state all of your questions or concerns at once and then allow the next person to speak
  • Be polite and respectful of differing opinions - avoid personal attacks
  • While you may have questions of the applicant, you should address them to the HCC
  • Stick to issues relating to the project and within the scope of the HCC review. For example, issues like traffic and noise are outside of the HCC purview
  • It is fine to just say “I agree with Mr. Smith about …..” rather than restating the same concerns

How can I make my concerns known if I cannot attend? Comments may be submitted in writing prior to the close of the public hearing. As with all testimony (oral and written), it is most helpful to raise concerns early in the process.

What happens after the hearing? After the hearing is closed, the HCC deliberates and issues a decision (Order of Conditions), within 21 days of closing the hearing. The HCC generally approves the project subject to conditions. In rare circunstances, the HCC can deny a project if it cannot be adequately contiioned to protect wetlands.

Will I be notified of the decision? Copies of decisions are not sent out to abutters. You may request a copy from the HCC office. The owner is also required to record it at the Registry of Deeds. Permits are generally valid for three years, except when extended.

How can I appeal? Appeals of decisions under the Wetlands Protection Act (called a Request for a Superseding Order of Conditions) must be made to the Department of Environmental Protection within 10 days using forms supplied by DEP. Appeals may be made by the Applicant, an abutter, 10 residents of the community, or the Department of Environmental Protection. For more information please see:

www.tinyurl.com/DEPappealprocess

 

 

Adapted for the Holliston Conservation Commission from the Stow Conservation Commission's "The Conservation Commission Permitting Process: An Abutter's Guide."