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Commission to decide fate of family's addition

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HAMPDEN Before Jeff O'Connor can build an addition on his home in Hampden, he has to gain approval from not only the building inspector but the Conservation Commission as well.

O'Connor and his wife are expecting twins soon and they need to add a bedroom and an office to their home on Bennett Road. The proposed addition, however, would come within 162 feet of the creek behind their home. The town's wetland protection bylaws state that buildings cannot be any closer to a creek than 200 feet.

Massachusetts' Wetlands Protection Act states that "No person shall remove, fill, dredge or alter any ... riverfront area, freshwater wetland ... meadow or swamp bordering on ... any estuary, creek, river, stream, pond or lake ... without filing written notice of his intention to so remove, fill, dredge or alter, including such plans as may be necessary to describe such proposed activity and its effect on the environment."

The 200-foot rule corresponds to the area's 100 year floodplain. A 100 year flood is calculated to be the maximum level of flood water expected to occur in a 100-year period.

"Because that kind of flooding is so rare, the criteria for building can be less strict," said Phil Grant, commissioner of the Conservation Commission.

"I've tried to see if I could put the addition somewhere else, but this is my last option," O'Connor said at the Conservation Commission's Aug. 15 meeting.

O'Connor was gathering information from the Conservation Commission before he presented a request of determination as to whether or not he could proceed with his plans.

In addition to filing a request for determination, anyone planning a project that would disturb or disrupt the landscape including tearing up the turf must have their land inspected by the commission first. Once a determination has been made, the landowner may then present a notice of intent for his or her project.

The Conservation Commission usually surveys sites the Saturday before their next meeting. Their upcoming inspections will be on Sept. 15. The commission will be visiting O'Connor's home as well as a few other locations throughout the town before announcing their findings at their next meeting, to be held on Sept. 19.