ADAMS -- Town government wants some teeth in its wetland protection laws, and the Conservation Commission is going through the prescribed avenues to get the item on this year's town meeting agenda.
Commission Chairman Jason Krzanowski proposes a new $200-per-week fine for wetlands violations that go unaddressed.
The proposal was approved by a five-to-one vote at a recent meeting.
"Over my six-year tenure, there have been a few problematic cases," Krzanowski said Friday. "You can call people, you can write nice letters, you can issue enforcement orders -- but it just hasn't worked. Unfortunately, putting money on the table gets people's attention."
He added, "Our goal is compliance, not to make any money off this."
According to Krzanowski, Town Counsel Edmund St. John III said having a new bylaw, which is what the proposal will amount to, enables him to better represent the commission in legal matters. Town Administrator Jonathan Butler is also behind the proposal, and it's next expected to be voted on by Selectmen.
The proposal was not without detractors, though.
"I don't feel comfortable fining anyone," commission member Thomas Robinson said. "Everybody and their brother is out there putting fees and fines on people. I don't want to be one of them."
Krzanowski explained the new ability would be a "last straw" measure and subject to "grace periods and opportunities to avoid fines if [offenders] just listen to us and protect the wetlands."
Currently operating without the ability to fine, the commission has had to rely on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) once it exhausts its avenues in trying to get a violator of the Wetlands Protection Act to comply.
DEP, though, has a limited budget and staff and often gets to matters late, if at all, according to board members. Additionally, if DEP were to respond to one case and not another, it could be seen as prejudice.
Funds collected from fines "will be placed in a special account to use at the commission's discretion for wetlands," the proposal says.
Multiple layers, redundancies and strong veto power for commission members are also present in the proposal to prevent abuse of the bylaw by future commissions.
"There's been multiple times where we were unanimously fed up with something," member Corey Bishop said. "We're protecting some very important resources here."
On a related note, the commission has resolved upon a spring site visit and further action if a Water Street wetlands violation, which has persisted despite repeated notice, continues.
To reach Phil Demers, email