Legal Minute with Cooley Shrair: Massachusetts Wetlands

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (Mass Appeal) –  Attorney David Shrair from the Law Offices of Cooley Shrair in Springfield shared more about the laws of the wetlands in Massachusetts.

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Massachusetts Wetlands

I have heard of homes in Massachusetts being in a buffer zone. What does that mean?
The Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act provides that if a residence is within 100′ of a stream, river, swamp or dune that it is considered within the Buffer Zone. The Act further provides that other than minor activities a homeowner must seek permission from the local Conservation Commission and notify the Mass Dept of Environmental Protection before doing work in the Buffer Zone

What would be considered minor activities?
Minor activities as promulgated by the Act consist of landscaping tasks, converting patios and decks to lawn space, fencing which does not create a barrier to wildlife movement, stonewalls and similar activities. You can also construct sheds, decks, patios and pools provided the house was built prior to Aug 7, 1996 and the construction is more than 50′ from the wetlands area

Assuming I wanted to do work in the Buffer Area how would I proceed?
It would be wise to contact a lawyer knowledge in land use matters who would first review the proximity of your home to the water area to determine if you were actually within a Buffer area and then look at the local regulations involving Buffer Zones. The safest way would be to then have a Request for Determination filed with the local Conservation Commission and request a Negative Determination of Applicability. If however the Commission found that the Act was applicable they could still allow certain work, other than minor work, to proceed by issuing an Order of Conditions, which would allow the work to proceed with certain conditions and Conservation Commission oversight

About Cooley Shrair:
Cooley, Shrair P.C., founded in 1946 by Judge Sidney M. Cooley and Attorney Edward B. Cooley, is a progressive law firm located in Springfield, MA. Cooley Shrair provides unequaled service to its clients. Our unparalleled response time to our clients’ needs is the foundation of our mission statement.

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