On Tuesday, the Manchester Conservation Commission went about its typical business of considering plans for projects that encroach on wetlands areas in town. But there were two issues that were off “regular” business. One, is related to the AG’s office. The other, eelgrass.
First up, the committee voted to approve minutes from back in 2019 and 2020. The move stems from a letter received early last month from the Massachusetts Attorney General to the town in early August reprimanding two boards—the ConCom and the Zoning Board of Appeals—for laxness regarding the state’s Open Meeting Law that ensures public access to the business of all town boards. Specifically, the AG found that some town board members had communicated about business outside of public meetings (via emails) and had left out important details in meetings from summary minutes. The complaint came from the owner of 10 Old Wenham Way, a.k.a. “The Sober House,” when the facility’s application was moving through the ZBA and ConCom in 2019 and 2020. So, on Tuesday, the ConCom voted to approve revised minutes. All voted to approve except Chairman Steve Gang, who abstained because he didn’t have access to the the new minutes and John Judge, who wasn’t a member of the ConCom when the original meeting occurred.
The issue of OML compliance was addressed at the Board of Selectmen’s annual priorities workshop on August 14, specifically the challenges of balancing efficiency in the face of a big issues this year, like zoning bylaw rectification, a complex proposed 40B affordable housing development, and the proposal to redevelop the town’s existing senior and affordable housing properties. Boards have a lot on their plates, and it’s a challenge to keep up. Beefed up OML board training is a priority.
The second order of ConCom business was a unanimous vote to amend the local wetlands bylaws to include, “lands under water, specifically the ocean,” reviving the eelgrass in MBTS Harbor issue. Details next week.