Duties & Responsibilities:
The municipal Conservation Commission is responsible for protecting Williamsburg's natural resources including wetlands and selected open space lands.
In cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Williamsburg Conservation Commission administers and enforces the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act. These laws protect ponds, rivers, riverbanks, streams, wetlands, floodplains, vernal pools, and other sensitive environmental resources that are part of our ecosystem. This protection provides for clean water, healthy natural habitats, wildlife feeding and nesting areas, and floodwater abatement.
Residential and commercial building or land alteration projects near these resources require review and approval by the Conservation Commission.
With few exceptions, the Conservation Commission meets on the second Thursday of each month beginning at 7:00 pm to consider permit applications and selected natural resource protection activities. Currently meetings are held using remote meeting tools including telephones and the Zoom video teleconferencing software. The Commission is also available at other times to address questions by email or phone. See the contact information provided on this webpage.
When proposed building or land alteration projects are close to wetlands, streams, ponds, or rivers, a permit may be needed before proceeding. There are several possible permits depending on the extent and complexity of the proposed project or the determination needed from the Commission. In some complex cases, a private environmental consultant may be needed to develop the proper plans and information for a permit application.
The Massachusetts wetland regulations can be found online at:
Applications must be submitted both to the Williamsburg Conservation Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. See below for further instructions. The Commission is available to help with questions about the appropriate permit for a project, and can provide a list of known environmental consultants with the skills and experience to develop complete and accurate permit applications.
Building permit applicants are advised that, the granting of a building permit does not confer or imply any approval with respect to wetland regulations. In addition to permits from the building inspector, any projects within wetland buffer zones or within 200 feet of a perennial stream or river must also be approved by the Williamsburg Conservation Commission.
While there are a number of activities regulated by the Wetlands and Rivers Protection Acts, the two most commonly used permits are listed below.
(1) Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA)
This most simple permit application is suitable for many situations, including requesting a determination if a planned project is near or has potential to impact wetland resources. Formally it is known as a WPA (Wetlands Protection Act) Form 1-Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA).
The internet link below provides instructions to assemble the needed information and materials for the RDA application.
There is no application fee for an RDA. However, once your application has formally been submitted and a meeting date provided by the Commission, a notice of the application hearing must be placed at the applicant's expense in a local newspaper at least a week before the meeting. Guidance for this notice is available via the link; "Legal Notice of Public Meeting Template for Applicants."
(2) Notice of Intent (NOI)
One other commonly used wetlands permit is the WPA (Wetlands Protection Act) Form 3 – Notice of Intent (NOI), which addresses any work proposed within, or adjacent to, wetland or river resource areas.
The internet link below provides instructions to assemble the needed information and materials for the NOI application. Providing the necessary information for this application may require the assistance of a private environmental consultant. A list of some such consultants is available from the Conservation Commission.
There are application fees for an NOI. Once your application has formally been submitted and a meeting date provided by the Commission, a notice of the application hearing must be placed at the applicant's expense in a local newspaper at least a week before the meeting. Guidance is available via the link; "Legal Notice of Public Meeting Template for Applicants."
In addition, the applicant shall provide notification to all abutters of the proposed project and permit hearing. The notification shall state where within the municipality copies of the Notice of Intent may be examined or obtained, and where information on the date, time, and location of the public hearing may be obtained. More detailed guidance for notifying abutters is available via the link: https://www.mass.gov/lists/wetlands-permitting-forms. The Williamsburg Assessors’ office can provide a list of abutters.
People wishing to draw maps of a project property or research the presence of wetland or river resources may find useful either of the two online mapping tools below. In both cases the views provided by these map tools are approximate, both for the presence and extent of the natural resources. Field inspection is most often necessary to verify these features.