Wetlands citation ordinance passes

Violations of town wetlands laws could result in citations with fines of up to $1,000 a day, under a new ordinance unanimously approved by a Town Meeting of about 20 people Wednesday night, Jan. 3.

Town Inland Wetlands Agent Beth Peyser, who would be charged with enforcing the ordinance, said the idea isn’t to collect fines but to strengthen the town’s position in discussions aimed at getting property owners to correct violations.

“The goal of the ordinance is not to collect money for the town, it is to have an additional tool to aid in remedying violations in an expeditious manner,” she said.

For fines, the ordinance refers to a state statute, which sets a maximum of $1,000, but Peyser said most will be less. “It is more likely that the monetary value attached will be much lower — $150,” she said. “This is similar in value to other citation ordinance fines in RIdgefield.”

Under the ordinance, a person who receives a wetlands citation may contest the charge by writing within 30 days to request a hearing.

The first selectman is charged with appointing “one or more citation hearing officers to conduct the hearings,” but the ordinance specifies that “the Inland Wetlands Agent, Zoning Enforcement Officer, Building Official or any employee or member of the Planning and Zoning Commission or Inland Wetlands Board may not be appointed as a hearing officer.”