Opinion

Editorial: A ‘Yes’ Vote for Nahant’s Wetlands Bylaw

The proposed Wetlands Bylaw will be up for a town vote on Aug. 27. As a former town administrator with more than 25 years of experience in administration, planning and project management, I join with the Conservation Commission, Safer Waters in Massachusetts (SWIM), the Planning Board, the Board of Appeals and the Finance Committee in support of the proposed Wetlands Protection Bylaw.

These are the reasons why I support the bylaw:

It protects and preserves Nahant’s unique wetland areas.

It protects property owners in or near Nahant’s wetland resource areas.

The bylaw makes the protections consistent for all sensitive wetland areas.

It brings Nahant in line with the other 85 percent of Massachusetts coastal communities which have adopted wetlands protections, including Swampscott and Marblehead.

The bylaw protects against the rising seas and worsening storms.

It gives our local Conservation Commission the tools to enforce local regulations against future large developments in our sensitive areas.

It fills a significant gap in the state regulations where there is no guidance on regulation of land subject to coastal storm flowage (floodplains), and it allows Nahant to take control of its own destiny, tailoring its own regulations to its unique needs.

A Wetlands By-Law has been a goal of Nahant for nearly 20 years to help protect what is left of Nahant’s wetlands and open spaces. This bylaw has absolutely no effect whatsoever on the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood map, now or in the future. The bylaw follows the FEMA flood map.

The bylaw will not have an effect on insurance rates, which also follow the FEMA flood map. Fewer than 75 properties out of Nahant’s some 1,500 properties are newly affected. The process is also not the nightmare that some suggest. All of a homeowner’s routine, typical maintenance and improvements are not subject to the bylaw.

The bylaw does contain one significant change: The Conservation Commission will now have oversight and input on large construction projects (not homeowner maintenance) bordering Nahant’s wetlands.

The bylaw may well have a significant impact on the proposed development of the East Point site.  In February, some 1,700 townspeople signed a letter urging Northeastern to reconsider its proposed development at East Point.

As town residents, we each need to step back and look at the larger picture. This bylaw is not about taking rights from the single-family homeowner. It is about the town, as a collective, taking action to save what is left of our precious resources. It is about recognizing the current science and being forward-thinking. We’ve directly experienced the effects of severe coastal storm flooding over the past six months. Those storms and the effects of those storms are not going to be lessened in future. There is no overdramatizing the impact that climate disruption has on our

uniquely situated town.

Nor is the impact overstated that this bylaw could have on large scale development projects like the one at East Point. We need to come together as a town, now, to protect our open spaces and our remaining natural resources.

I urge everyone to come to the Special Town Meeting on Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m., at Town Hall to vote in favor of the Wetlands Protection By-Law and to visit www.NahantWetlands.com for more information.

 

Mark Cullinan is a life-long Nahanter who served as town administrator for 17 years.

 

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