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Letter: Wetland Measures in Grantham

To the Editor:

On March 12, Grantham will have the opportunity to decide on two controversial matters: (1) the adoption of an official wetlands map; (2) prime wetlands designation. The Planning Board supports the wetlands map but voted unanimously not to support the prime wetlands designation, which would affect 54 wetland areas, 270 parcels, more than 168 landowners, 1,857 wetland acres and 130,981 watershed acres.

Grantham residents seem to favor adopting the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ official wetlands map. This would protect future drinking water supplies and the rural character of Grantham. State regulations will help achieve these goals.

The Conservation Commission based its prime wetlands designation on the Grantham Master Plan, which was written in 2005 and based on 1990-to-2000 U.S. Census statistics. The Conservation Commission estimated Grantham’s population would reach 70,000 by 2020, requiring municipal water service. No one took the time to study these anomalies and work out a reasonable plan balancing environmental needs and individual property rights.

Numerous questions went unanswered at public meetings relating to mistakes in the Conservation Commission’s surveys and reports — for example, that 49 percent of the properties hadn’t been inspected. No one spoke in favor of the prime wetlands designation proposal.

A prime wetlands designation amounts to a regulatory taking of land without due process or compensation, resulting in diminished property values. The grand list would reflect this loss. To make up the difference, taxes would increase.

Jurisdictional control would shift from Grantham to the state Department of Environmental Services in Concord. If Grantham approves the designation of prime wetlands, permits for buildings, renovations, additions and site alterations in designated areas may require an attorney, a new survey, reports from certified soil and wetland scientists — a very costly process in terms of time and money.

Adopting an ordinance that designates prime wetlands is a local option. There are no compensating benefits that would come from approving the measure. New Hampshire state wetlands regulations do a good job of providing protection, and 85 percent of New Hampshire towns have chosen not to adopt prime wetlands designations.

Mauri Schwartz

Grantham Wetland Political Action Committee