Wetlands Protection or No Growth Agenda?

Once again, we are approaching Town Meeting time with a frenzy of activity to change ordinances. Here in Peterborough there always seems to be a growth inhibiting ordinance of some sort. A few years back it was an attempt to require sprinkler systems in all new construction, including housing. This year it is a new wetlands ordinance to double the required setback area for any construction near declared wetlands. This has the chilling effect of confiscating property rights from private ownership, involving hundreds if not thousands of acres of privately owned land. Ironically, if this new ordinance had been in effect for the past century the very essence of Peterborough would not exist, fully 1/3 of all the buildings in Historic Downtown Peterborough at the confluence of the Nubanusit and Contoocook Rivers could not have been built! It also goes against the recently accepted Master Plan that called for In-Town infilling of lots to relieve growth pressure from the outlying forested areas.

I will leave the private property rights issue to those more versed in the effects this ordinance will have on private property. My main point to disagree is the arbitrariness of the ordinance. It is 100 ft but they will consider on a case by case basis allowing encroachment up to the 50' buffer. The current 50’ buffer regulations would be drastically altered to make the 50’ buffer an absolute, no encroachment zone with a very few exceptions. This puts the town government in control of who wins and who loses! Never a good thing leaving ordinances so open ended they allow corruption and graft to creep in!

I further question the motivations of the conservation committee. Is it really about the best things for wildlife or is it no-growth agenda driven. I come to this state of doubt after seeing the conservation committee work on two issues.

The first situation was the lot at the corner of Rte 101 and Elm St. also bordered at the time by a car dealership (now a CVS Pharmacy with Drive-Thru), the National Guard Armory and the Town Garage. It amounted to a manmade puddle, but the Conservation Committee put on a full court press to get this lot declared a precious wetland wildlife area. They succeeded, especially in their hidden agenda to Stop McDonalds from coming into town and building on that lot.

The second situation was the Hunt Rd Well project and its connection to the water mains on Summer St. The engineering company decided against coming down Hunt Road for about a quarter mile to connect up with the water mains coming from the North and Tarbell wells. Instead, they decided to dig straight across the wetlands (where Fly pond overflow joins the Contoocook River) from the well site on Hunt Rd to Summer St across the old railroad beds. This was an area that has been filtering out the contaminants from the old railroad beds for over 100 years! I have personally seen, Bear, Coyote, Foxes, Deer, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Otters, Beavers, Turtles, Fisher Cats, along with numerous Birds using this area. They dug a swath ~50' wide by ~150' long and ~20' deep across this area. It turned the whole area into a turbid mess of contaminated sludge, which eventually worked its way into the Hunt Rd Well rendering a $1.5 Million project useless (though we still pay to maintain it). Fortunately, the local beavers are better engineers than the human ones the town hired and they immediately built a ~150' long retention dam that kept the mess isolated to that one area stopping it from polluting the entire river! The Conservation Committee said not a word about any of this! Nor did the Planning, Zoning or Selectpersons boards, nor the Town Administrator.

My questions remain “What is the real motivation behind these wetland changes?” Should we give the power to pick winners and losers to these committees? Shouldn't the regulation be different in different sections of town i.e. follow the zoning? What about compensation for the loss of private property rights?

You can be sure that I will fight against this change!

Work Hard Have Fun!

Bob DeMaura

25 Tarbell Rd

Peterborough NH