The Commission may require the services of outside consultants for the review of work in or near wetland resource areas due to the size, scale, or complexity of a proposed project, because of a project's potential impacts, or because the Town lacks the necessary expertise to perform the review work. As provided by MGL C. 44, § 53G, the Town of Groton Conservation Commission may impose reasonable fees for the employment of outside consultants, engaged by the Conservation Commission, for specific expert services deemed necessary by the Commission to (adequately review) come to a final decision on an application submitted to the Conservation Commission pursuant to the requirements of the Wetlands Protection Act (MGL C. 131, § 40), the Town of Groton non-zoning wetlands bylaw (Chapter 215 of the Code of the Town of Groton), the Conservation Commission Act (MGL C. 40, § 8C), or any other state or municipal statute, bylaw, ordinance, or regulation, as they may be amended or enacted from time to time.
Funds received by the Conservation Commission pursuant to these rules shall be deposited with the Groton Town Treasurer, who shall establish a special account for this purpose. Expenditures from this special account may be made at the direction of the Conservation Commission without further appropriation as provided in MGL Ch. 44, § 53G. Expenditures from this account shall be made only in connection with the review of a specific project or projects for which a consultant fee has been collected from the applicant. The Commission shall return any unused portion of the consultant fee to the applicant, including any accrued interest, at the conclusion of the project.
Specific consultant services may include, but are not limited to, resource area survey and delineation, analysis of resource area values (including wildlife habitat), hydrogeologic and drainage analysis, drafting a permit, impacts on municipal conservation lands, and review of environmental or land use law. The consultant shall be chosen by, and report only to, the Commission and/or its Administrator.
The Conservation Commission shall decide at a public hearing and shall give written notice to the applicant of the selection of an outside consultant, which notice shall state the identity of the consultant, the amount of the fee to be charged to the applicant, and a request for payment of said fee in its entirety. Such notice shall be deemed to have been given on the date it is mailed or delivered. No such costs or expenses shall be incurred by the applicant if the application or request is withdrawn within five days of the date notice is given. The fee must be received in its entirety prior to the initiation of consulting services. The Commission may request additional consultant fees if necessary review requires a larger expenditure than originally anticipated or new information requires additional consultant services. Failure by the applicant to pay the consultant fee specified by the Commission within 10 business days of the request for payment shall be cause for the Commission to determine that the application is administratively incomplete (except in the case of an appeal). The Commission shall state such in a letter to the applicant, copied to the DEP. No additional review or action shall be taken on the permit request until the applicant has paid the requested fee.
The applicant may appeal the selection of the outside consultant to the Groton Board of Selectmen, who may disqualify the outside consultant selected only on the grounds that the consultant has a conflict of interest or does not possess the minimum required qualifications. The minimum qualifications shall consist of either an educational degree or three or more years of practice in the field at issue or a related field. Such an appeal must be in writing and received by the Selectmen and a copy received by the Conservation Commission, so as to be received within 10 days of the date consultant fees were requested by the Conservation Commission. The required time limits for action upon the application shall be extended by the duration of the administrative appeal.