GROTON — The Inland Wetlands Agency has informally turned down a suggestion that it allow the Office of Planning and Development Services (OPDS) to approve “minor activities” in upland review areas around wetlands.

IWA Chairman David Scott said at the Sept. 9, 2009, meeting that the OPDS, as employees of the town, can be subject to pressures from above — pressures that the citizen members of IWA do not experience. The regulations should not place OPDS staff in that position, he said, adding that the IWA is quite capable of dealing quickly with minor activities.

The recommendation for “administrative review and approval of minor activities within upland review areas” was one of a package of recommendations made in September 2008 by Kendig Keast Collaborative, a Midwest consulting firm hired to help rewrite the town’s land use rules.

Deb Jones, environmental planner for the OPDS, noted that another of the KKC suggestions could expand some upland review areas and thus bring more matters before the IWA. Mr. Scott said, “That doesn’t bother me.” Board member Eunice Sutphen agreed that minor activities should remain in the province of the IWA. No formal vote was taken on the matter, but draft meeting minutes record that “The agency decided not to pursue this recommendation at this time.”

With regard to possible expansion of upland review areas around some critical wetlands and/or watercourses, Ms. Jones said she would present the IWA with examples of what some other towns have done in this regard. No decision was taken on the matter.

IWA members seemed lukewarm to another KKC suggestion–for “very limited relocation of wetlands when it is determined that avoiding degradation or removal is infeasible.” Mr. Scott said most research he has read suggests that relocated wetlands require decades to become fully functioning. Ms. Sutphen said that if any such relocation were allowed, it would require a “really big payback” in remediated area. Mr. Scott spoke of a possible ratio of 10 remediated acres to 1 relocated acre. Ms. Jones said she would do further research on the topic.