April 21, 2010

Acton Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee

APRIL 21, 2010


A. ROLL CALL – 7:00

Members present: Thomas Cashin – Chairman

John Moore – Vice-Chairman

Rob Meyer

Gregory Martin

Members absent: Roy Trafton

Virginia DeBoer

Also present were Jamie Oman-Saltmarsh from SMRPC; Dennis Long, Selectmen; Chip Venell, Planning Board Chairman; Richard Neal and William Gannon.


Mr. Cashin explained this public hearing has been scheduled to describe the further revisions to the Acton Zoning Ordinance. He began with the definition of “stream” and “depth” contained on page 40. He advised that the Committee referred to the green covered book developed by the DEP which contains the State’s new regulations concerning designated Shoreland Zones and Resource Protection Districts. He stated the State requires that municipalities protect all second order streams which is defined as two streams merging into one. He advised that since Acton has a good many first order streams, the Committee felt they too should be protected since they generally flow into the lakes. He mentioned the Committee recommends a 75’ buffer in those areas. He said any stream shown on the topographical maps designated a first order stream has a 75’ setback from the wetland and no structure can be erected in that area. He mentioned while the State has designated a 100’ setback, the Committee felt that would place a hardship on the property owners. He referred to page 46 of the April 5, 2010 draft of Article 5 of the Acton Zoning Ordinance, which is the basis of the public hearing this evening, and read the language in that section which indicates what is protected in the Shoreland Zone areas with two or more contiguous acres of wetland. He said the Committee thought it was a large enough area for filtration containment, run off and habitat so they suggested expanding that area from two acres to ten acres. He mentioned as per the State, ten acres or greater in a Shoreland Zone is considered to be wetlands. He mentioned that the setbacks are determined by the number of acres in an area up to the State’s recommendation. He indicated on the zoning map where the water egresses into a lake. He explained that SMRPC has divided the Town into two separate sections, each on a separate map.

Ms Saltmarsh explained that the GIS mapping can be found on the National Wetlands website. She mentioned Maps 1 and 2 indicate the Shoreland Zone and Resource Protection District. She stated two maps were required because of the amount of information that is necessary. She went to the maps and indicated the location of the Shoreland District in which a 250’ buffer is required and is classified as Resource Protection, which is the most restrictive zone, for many reasons having to do with water. She stated Acton doesn’t have many areas which are densely populated in the Resource

Protection District and explained what the State defines as a densely populated area in the Resource Protection District. She explained those areas will only be indicated on one of the maps and most of them are located within a sloped area or a flood plain. She proceeded to explain what the different colors on the map represent. She mentioned that the Committee reviewed aerial photographs wherein they were able to see the roofs of structures as well as the various setbacks. She stated if anyone has questions about certain areas, the Committee will be glad answer them.

To a question about the Saco River Corridor and why are the maps dated June, 2010, Ms Saltmarsh explained that the Saco River Corridor, which is more restrictive, is a separate district and the maps are dated June, 2010 because the Committee thought that was when the voters would adopt them, but at this time, they know that will not be the case.

Mr. Cashin mentioned that between now and the November, 2010 referendum vote, the Committee will be pointing out and discussing some of the aspects of the Shoreland Zone and Resource Protection provisions contained in Article 5 as contained in the blue, red and black document available for people to review, at the Selectmen’s Meetings. He mentioned there has also been a slight change to the inland water habitats.

To Ms Saltmarsh’s comment that the maps can be viewed at the Code Enforcement Officer, Mr. Long suggested that a set be displayed in the hall in the upstairs portion of the Town Offices since people often come into the Selectmen’s Office and ask questions.

To Mr. Long’s question of how were the areas where expansion can occur established and why would the Committee make properties more restrictive [than they are now], Mr. Cashin advised the Committee established areas where there are two acres or greater outside the Shoreland Zone because that would be a significant body of water which does certain things such as filter the water or has a habitat located in it. He explained they have prorated the buffers based on the 250’ for ten acres, therefore, a two acre wetland would require a 50’ buffer.

To Mr. Long’s reference to his property which has been designated a wetland area, Mr. Cashin explained that his property borders the Salmon Falls River which the State has designated a flood plain or Resource Protection District with Ms Saltmarsh advising that is in a Inland Fowl and Wading Bird Habitat.

At this time, Mr. Long explained that area was designated Resource Protection when the Ordinance was revised in the past and was subsequently removed from that designation, but now it is being placed into Resource Protection again.

Mr. Cashin stated he will have to check to see why it was given that occurred. He mentioned that the Committee wasn’t the entity that decided what zone that area would fall under.

To a question about how a property owner would be able to determine what zone his land is in from the maps, Mr. Cashin explained there are legends on the map for that purpose. He mentioned that page 47 of the April 5, 2010 version of the proposed revisions contains a chart that indicates what the level of protection is based on such as density and acreage. He explained that the Committee didn’t get the State’s information until February, 2010 and the revisions were primarily located in Article 5 of the Acton Zoning Ordinance with some revisions to the non-conforming section as well. He stated he basically talked about the substantive revisions this evening, but there have been some changes to dimensional requirements that go along with the State’s requirements. He said the Committee didn’t feel the State was protecting Acton’s water bodies enough and hoped the Town has learned from its past experience.

Mr. Moore reminded the audience about the work and expense involved in reclaiming Moussam Pond and if these revisions are adopted, that won’t happen again. He said the motive behind the Committee’s work was protecting Acton’s water bodies while not decreasing property values for parcels on the water.

Mr. Cashin stated when the Committee proposed something which exceeded the State’s requirements, the intent was to protect Acton’s resources which then protects the tax base because that is where Acton gets most of its tax money. He said they tried to take a middle of the road approach in an attempt to protect property rights and the water bodies. He gave a brief explanation of the Acton-Wakefield Watershed Alliance’s desire to work with Acton to be sure the proper steps are taken to the benefit of both towns.

After ascertaining that there were no further questions or comments, Mr. Cashin closed the public hearing at 7:45 PM.

C. ADJOURNMENT – The public hearing was adjourned at 7:50 PM.

Respectfully submitted,


Recording Secretary