Government Spotlight

LMPC considers groundwater protection, fire suppression

| Julie Fralich |

Discussion of groundwater protection dominated most of the discussion at the Land Management Planning (LMPC) meeting on September 22, 2021.

Early in the meeting, the committee agreed to send the revised Use Determination policy to the joint meeting of the Planning Board, Select Board, and LMPC on October 4. The committee also continued some of its prior conversations regarding the adequacy and mix of fire suppression options (e.g., cisterns, ponds, hydrants, fire tower) in the town.

First up, however, was a continued discussion and brainstorming session regarding the Groundwater Protection Overlay provisions of the town’s zoning ordinance (section 4.4.8 of the ordinance). Chair Brian Shedlarski provided the committee with draft edits to the ordinance based on model language from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These edits included an updated list of uses that would be presumed to be prohibited, unless a special exception was granted.

The current ordinance provides a long list of uses that are absolutely prohibited – for example, salt and sand/road salt storage, dry cleaning establishments, junkyards – with no option for review by the Planning Board.

The committee had an extended discussion of the pros and cons of including an explicit list of prohibited uses versus a list of uses that would be presumed prohibited unless granted a special exception. The committee also discussed the inclusion of a catch-all category of prohibited facilities to include: all facilities involving the collection, handling, manufacture, use, storage, transfer or disposal of any solid or liquid material or waste having potentially harmful impact on groundwater quality.

Member Nick Planson argued that the elimination of the specific list of explicitly prohibited facilities would make the ordinance much weaker since businesses that are currently prohibited would potentially be allowed. Others were concerned about “playing God” and were uncomfortable developing a comprehensive list of prohibited facilities that would stand the test of time – particularly as new, improved, and safer products and processes are developed.

One option advanced was to use language similar to the EPA, and include a list of facilities that would be presumed prohibited with the burden of proof on the facility to show that it did not impact groundwater quality.

As the discussion progressed, many expressed concerns about having any list at all. Ultimately the committee voted to eliminate any explicit list of prohibited uses and instead allow the Planning Board to evaluate the impact on groundwater during their review process. This led to consensus on the need to strengthen the Planning Board’s standards for review, conditions for approval, and ongoing oversight and monitoring.

The town planner, Natalie Thomsen, was instructed to come back with another draft for further review and discussion.

The committee proceeded to have further discussion of the issues of fire suppression in town. Fire Rescue Chief Jon Kiernan, who was not able to be at the meeting, had sent a map of all hydrants in town and a list of suggestions and concerns about the adequacy of the hydrants, ponds, and cisterns in the town. Chief Kiernan prefers cisterns to ponds, is concerned about areas of the town where there is not an adequate water source, wants to take another look at the possibility of a fire tower in town, and will be looking a possible grant opportunity.

LMPC will be working with planner Thomsen to upgrade the map of hydrants and other water sources to provide a more comprehensive analysis of areas where water is lacking or unreliable for fire suppression. The committee will also be working with the fire chief to assess the options, cost and implications of a more comprehensive approach to fire suppression throughout the town. Stay tuned.

To view the video of the September 22 LMPC meeting, click here. To learn more about the LMPC, its members and work, click here.