Charge of the Conservation Commission

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40, Section 8C: Conservation commission; establishment; powers and duties

A city or town which accepts this section may establish a conservation commission, hereinafter called the commission, for the promotion and development of the natural resources and for the protection of watershed resources of said city or town. Such commission shall conduct researches into its local land areas and shall seek to co-ordinate the activities of unofficial bodies organized for similar purposes, and may advertise, prepare, print and distribute books, maps, charts, plans and pamphlets which in its judgment it deems necessary for its work. Among such plans may be a conservation and passive outdoor recreation plan which shall be, as far as possible, consistent with the town master plan and with any regional plans relating to the area. The commission may, from time to time, amend such plan. Such plan shall show open areas including marsh land, swamps and other wetlands, and shall show which areas are subject to restrictions or wetland zoning provisions and any other matters which may be shown on a plat index under section thirty-three of chapter one hundred and eighty-four. Acquisitions of interests in land under this section and other municipal open lands shall be shown thereon as well as lands owned by other entities kept open through any legal requirement. Such plan shall show other areas which public necessity requires to be retained for conservation and passive recreation use. It shall keep accurate records of its meetings and actions and shall file an annual report which shall be printed in the case of towns in the annual town report. The commission may appoint a director, clerks, consultants and other employees, and may contract for materials and services within available funds insofar as the same are not supplied by other departments. The commission shall consist of not less than three nor more than seven members. In cities the members shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to the provisions of the city charter, except that in cities having or operating under a Plan D or Plan E form of city charter, said appointments shall be by the city manager, subject to the provisions of the charter; and in towns they shall be appointed by the selectmen, excepting towns having a manager form of government, in which towns appointments shall be made by the town manager, subject to the approval of the selectmen. When a commission is first established, the terms of the members shall be for one, two or three years, and so arranged that the terms of approximately one third of the members will expire each year, and their successors shall be appointed for terms of three years each. Any member of a commission so appointed may, after a public hearing, if requested, be removed for cause by the appointing authority. A vacancy occurring otherwise than by expiration of a term shall in a city or town be filled for the unexpired term in the same manner as an original appointment. Said commission may receive gifts, bequests or devises of personal property or interests in real property of the kinds mentioned below in the name of the city or town, subject to the approval of the city council in a city or of the selectmen in a town. It may purchase interests in such land with sums available to it. If insufficient funds are available or other reasons so require, a city council or a town meeting may raise or transfer funds so that the commission may acquire in the name of the city or town by option, purchase, lease or otherwise the fee in such land or water rights, conservation restrictions, easements or other contractual rights including conveyances on conditions or with limitations or reversions, as may be necessary to acquire, maintain, improve, protect, limit the future use of or otherwise conserve and properly utilize open spaces in land and water areas within its city or town, and it shall manage and control the same. For the purposes of this section a city or town may, upon the written request of the commission, take by eminent domain under chapter seventy-nine, the fee or any lesser interest in any land or waters located in such city or town, provided such taking has first been approved by a two-thirds vote of the city council or a two-thirds vote of an annual or special town meeting, which land and waters shall thereupon be under the jurisdiction and control of the commission. Upon a like vote, a city or town may expend monies in the fund, if any, established under the provisions of this section for the purpose of paying, in whole or in part, any damages for which such city or town may be liable by reason of any such taking. The commission may adopt rules and regulations governing the use of land and waters under its control, and prescribe penalties, not exceeding a fine of one hundred dollars, for any violation thereof. No action taken under this section shall affect the powers and duties of the state reclamation board or any mosquito control or other project operating under or authorized by chapter two hundred and fifty-two, or restrict any established public access. Lands used for farming or agriculture, as defined in section one A of chapter one hundred and twenty-eight, shall not be taken by eminent domain under the authority of this section.

A city or town may appropriate money in any year to a conservation fund of which the treasurer shall be the custodian. Prior to the adoption of any rule or regulation which seeks to further regulate matters established by section forty of chapter one hundred and thirty-one or regulations authorized thereunder relative to agricultural or aquacultural practice, the commission shall, no later than seven days prior to the commission's public hearing on the adoption of said rules and regulations, give notice of the said proposed rules and regulations to the farmland advisory board established pursuant to section forty of chapter one hundred and thirty-one. He may deposit or invest the proceeds of said fund in savings banks, trust companies incorporated under the laws of the commonwealth, banking companies incorporated under the laws of the commonwealth which are members of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or national banks, or invest it in paid up shares and accounts of and in co-operative banks or in shares of savings and loan associations or in shares of federal savings and loan associations doing business in the commonwealth, and any income therefrom shall be credited to the fund. Money in said fund may be expended by said commission for any purpose authorized by this section; provided, however, that no expenditure for a taking by eminent domain shall be made unless such expenditure has been approved in accordance with this section.