2008-03-20 / Front Page

Commission votes in favor of SSA designation

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown Conservation Commission has voted to support the sole source aquifer label, a classification offered to communities by special request from the Environmental Protection Agency. The vote at the commission's March 11 meeting followed a discussion, at times heated, about the history of the petition to protect the island's water supply with a government title.

The commission discussed the board's position regarding the aquifer proposal. Powell reminded board members that a stated position one way or another was not required. He noted that many of the commissioners participated in the workshop, and asked each to shed ideas on the proposed designation.

Commissioner Kate Smith read a two-page prepared statement in support of the EPA designation. She stressed the focus on education that the designation would bring. "It appears to me to be a win-win situation," she said.

Commissioner Cathy Roheim said while she applauded the effort that went into the document, she was "definitely wary of bring- ing another level of bureaucracy" to the community. She warned that the label might cost the town in other ways down the road. "I don't feel its costs are outweighing the benefits," she said.

Commissioner Jennifer Talancy supported the classification. "It brings to light the issue of water. We are conservative, but I don't know that my neighbors are. I believe that level of protection is there for the good."

Commissioner Mark Baker said he was not afraid of an extra level of scrutiny. "Scientifically, I don't see any serious downside. There might be a possibility that this could be a benefit to us," he noted.

Commissioner Patrick Driscoll agreed that the oversight did not seem necessarily burdensome, and that the label might play a role in planning at some stage. "We have limited resources. If it gives planning teeth, that's okay too," he commented.

Commissioner Carol Trocki said that Jamestown had resources that needed protection, but warned that risks may be involved. She voiced concern that no tangible benefits beyond the designation might exist.

Trocki also expressed hopes the group that brought the attention to the EPA continued to be involved once the designation was given, adding, "We should start spending the time educating, rather than argue back and forth about governmental designation."

Some of the board members mentioned circumstances leading up to the petition for the sole source aquifer and expressed hope that hard feelings may be set aside for the greater good of the island. Powell noted if it hadn't been for the original petition being linked to the landfill, he would feel a lot better about supporting the petition. "It's very difficult to not support something that protects your water resources, and I have no reason not to support it," he said.

Town councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski stood up to defend the petition and how it started. "am the person who pushed it. It really happened from an environmental standpoint, not NIMBY," she said.

The commission voted 6-1 in favor of adopting the EPA designation.

In other business, Town Planner Lisa Bryer presented the downtown charrette report to the conservation commission. Board members voiced concern that conservation actions continue to be upheld in the ordinance as the focus from land-use to formbased zoning is adopted. Bryer assured the commission that protection policies already in place would not change.

Baker asked that the advisory position of the commission be maintained. Powell added that, historically, the town planner would go to the commission for advice. "What I'm hearing from this group is that it actually gets written into the ordinance that the conservation commission be included in reviews," he said.

The board asked to meet with the Planning Commission toward the end of April for a work session about conservation's role in the planning effort.

As part of the restoration effort of the dunes at Mackerel Cove, Talancy reported an order for 11,000 plants was being delivered from New Jersey at the end of the month. The Girl Scouts, teens and conservation helpers have volunteered to help with the planting event.

Driscoll reported that the Earth Day shoreline cleanup will take place sometime in April. "All we need from everybody is their participation. We need all the help we can get," he added.

In a report on the Fort Getty master plan, Driscoll said that Fast Sailing Foundation wanted to do a school for kids and would be willing to build two buildings, and donate them to the town.

Driscoll went on to say that the recreation department planned to erect a facility where equipment is currently parked near the gate house. "The commission should be involved in the process. We should be in the loop," Driscoll added.

In correspondence, the commission received a notice that a state of the state's water report was available, including Jamestown waters, at the state Department of Environmental Management's Web site.

Also, the commission received a notice from Coastal Resources Management Council for a residential dock. Powell noted that it was "an eelgrass-friendly dock."

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