GROTON — The Office of Planning and Development Services has produced a preliminary draft of recommended rule changes that would expand the envelope of regulatory oversight around key waterways in the town.

The draft, presented to the Inland Wetlands Agency at its meeting Oct. 27, 2010, would require permits for certain activities within:

–200 feet of Great Brook, Beaver Dam Brook, Hatching House Brook, Hempstead Brook and Haley Brook

–150 feet of Eccleston Brook, Bindloss Brook, Fort Hill Brook and Birch Plain Creek

–100 feet of the boundary of any other wetland or watercourse.

The 100-foot stipulation is basically unchanged from current practice, but the others represent an expansion of formal regulatory oversight. Regulated activities include: “any clearing, grubbing, filling, grading, paving, excavating, constructing, depositing or removing of material and discharging of stormwater on the land…”

The draft also specifies, significantly, “The Agency may rule that any other activity located within such upland review area [the area subject to regulation] or in any other non-wetland or non-watercourse area is likely to impact or affect wetlands or watercourses and is a regulated activity.”

The recommended new regulations, if adopted, would increase the number of cases requiring permits, it is expected. Therefore, the IWA would be authorized to delegate some of its permitting authority to an agent [probably in practice the Office of Planning and Development Services] when any activity requiring a permit would have no more than a “minimal” impact on wetlands or watercourses. The draft names some such activities. They would need to be located more than 50 feet from a wetland or watercourse:

–Construction of swimming pools, decks, gazebos, garages, barns, and repair of septic systems or other utilities

–Minor grading requiring depositing or removal of 10 cubic yards or less of material.

The ability to delegate would apply only to such activities where they are “accessory”–that is, where they take place on already developed lots. The Office of Planning and Development Services said that delegation would prevent the IWA from being swamped by applications from homeowners who find themselves newly subject to regulation.

The IWA is to study the draft and discuss it further at its next meeting Nov. 10. When reviews by the Agency and the town attorney are complete, the proposed regulations will be presented at a public hearing.