The Conservation Commission administers the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection (the "Act") and the Town of Bedford Wetlands Protection Bylaw (the "Bylaw"). These laws require the Commission to conduct pre-construction review of certain projects planned in or within 100 feet of wetland resource areas, or within 200 feet of perennial streams. Wetland resource areas include bank, land under waterbody or waterway, bordering vegetated wetland and land subject to flooding. The 100-foot area bordering a resource area is known as the "100-foot buffer zone". The area within 200 feet of a perennial stream is defined as the "riverfront area". The reviews under the Act and the Bylaw are held concurrently, using the same application forms. Application materials and guidance are available from the Conservation Office at Town Hall, and from links within this section.
Jurisdiction under the Act and the Bylaw applies to the alteration of wetland resource areas, buffer zones and riverfront areas; these statutes and their regulations are intended to protect the wetlands and their specific interests, functions and values. Outside these resource areas, buffer zones and riverfront areas, the Commission has no jurisdiction under either the Act or the Bylaw unless and until a wetland resource area has been altered.
The Bylaw also regulates isolated vegetated wetland, land subject to inundation, and includes Commission jurisdiction over the 100-foot buffer to the 100-year floodplain. The Act and the Bylaw protect the following inland wetland values or interests: public water supply, private water supply, groundwater supply, land containing shellfish, fisheries, storm damage prevention, prevention of pollution, protection of wildlife habitat, and flood control. Additional Bylaw interests include erosion and sedimentation control, aesthetics, rare species, and agriculture. The Act and the Bylaw regulate filling, dredging, excavation or other alterations to the land surface, changes to water levels, or the cutting of vegetation in wetland, floodplain, buffer zone and riverfront areas.
Proposed activities considered minor in scope and that would predictably have no effect upon the resource areas protected by the Bylaw may be reviewed and approved by the Conservation Administrator, without a public hearing. Requests for Administrative Approval must be completed on the form found at the link at the end of this page. A site plan showing the location of proposed work with resource areas and buffer zones, property lines, structures, etc., must be included with the request. The Conservation Administrator may deny a request for any reason and formal wetlands permit application as described below will be required for the proposed work.
Request for Determination of Applicability / Determination of Applicability
Most projects that come before the Commission are residential projects within the 100-foot buffer zone, to include decks, sheds, pools, patios, fences and small additions. Some of these project types may be exempt from review under the Act; however, the Bylaw does not include most of these exemptions. Minor buffer zone projects can usually be adequately reviewed via a permit application process called a Request for a Determination of Applicability (RDA). In reviewing the RDA, the Commission will determine whether the project is accurately located on a plan with respect to resource areas, whether the project will result in adverse impacts to these areas or whether the project will meet the performance standards of the Act and Bylaw. There is no filing fee associated with the RDA. Within 21 days of receiving the RDA application, a public hearing is scheduled, advertised in the local newspaper at the expense of the applicant, and held at a Commission meeting. After the close of the hearing, the Commission issues a decision, known as a Determination of Applicability, which is valid for three years. If the Commission determines that the project as proposed could adversely affect the wetland, the project may still be approved with appropriate conditions. If a project cannot be adequately conditioned, the Determination will require the applicant to complete the more detailed Notice of Intent review process.
Notice of Intent / Order of Conditions
The less detailed Determination of Applicability process is appropriate as a permitting option only for minor projects located within the 100-foot buffer zone. Larger buffer zone projects (for example, new house construction or extensive ground alteration) or any project involving work within wetland resource areas requires the filing of a Notice of Intent (NOI). The NOI process involves advertisement in the local newspaper at the expense of the applicant, filing fees, abutter notification, a public hearing, and issuance of a permit called an Order of Conditions. When the proposal is complex, a continuation of the public hearing may be necessary so that additional information may be submitted and reviewed. Work may not begin until the appeal period under the WPA (10 business days) has passed, the Order of Conditions has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds, and any other pre-construction requirements of the specific Order have been completed.
All permit applications, other than Administrative Approvals, require that the Conservation Commission review the proposal at a public hearing. The project proponent must attend the hearing to present the proposal and answer any questions which may arise. The Commission will vote on the status of the proposal at the hearing and if approved, it may impose special conditions which must be met.
Deadlines for Applications
The deadline for receipt of filings to be reviewed at the meetings is approximately two weeks prior to the date of the meeting although the deadline may be earlier if there is a holiday. This deadline is necessary to allow scheduling, preparation of the public notice, and publication of the notice five business days prior to the meeting.
Please contact the Conservation office for the 2023 Conservation Commission Hearing Dates and Filing Deadlines
All applications require the completion of forms, narratives and plans. Requirements are listed with the application materials on the checklist.