Separate the commissions
The Manchester Conservation Commission recently voted unanimously to recommend separation of the Inland Wetland Commission from the Planning and Zoning Commission. This effort was not taken lightly. Months of research and discussion were conducted to ensure we were protecting residents.
Manchester is one of five communities with a combined commission system. Benefits of separate commissions greatly outweigh any perceived cons. Separate commissions will ensure that impacts to wetlands are given the level of review they deserve. Separate commissions will enable the PZC to spend more time reviewing other responsibilities it is charged with. A separate IWC will also allow for more residents to serve the community by opening up more commission seats to the public.
The Department of Environmental Protection commissioner wrote that the objectives of planning and zoning agencies and inland wetland agencies differ and are not compatible. Gina McCarthy stated that DEP believes an inland wetland agency needs to be separate from a planning and zoning board.
Wetlands purify and recharge aquifers so residents have abundant and safe drinking water. Wetlands alter flood flows protecting your property and safety. Wetlands also provide recreational activities, and are the most productive habitat for wildlife.
You might hear that an inland wetlands commission will cause additional approval delays. That is not the case. Planning and zoning and wetlands reviews can be done concurrently. The separation will enable an appropriately thorough review of proposed impacts. You may be told that an independent agency will harm development. Not necessarily. A wetland agency will reduce impacts to wetlands and ensure adequate review. You may hear that separate commissions will be less efficient. That's also not true. We have heard the opposite from other municipalities. The two commissions generally work well together and many find separate commission as efficient. If towns had problems with a separate Inland Wetlands Commission, many would have banished them long ago. The fact that Manchester is one of five communities leads us to believe we are going about it the wrong way.
I ask the Board of Directors to do what is best for town residents. Please do not vote against this proposal simply because it will add one more step to the process for the Planning and Economic Development Department. They will tell you the current process is "streamlined;" in reality it is inadequate and outdated.
The writer is a Conservation Commission member.