Vol. IV No. 4 2/15/2023
I listened with interest and concern to the last Conservation Commission meeting (ConCom). According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "Conservation Commissions are the municipal environmental agencies in Massachusetts."
The Commonwealth mandates all communities have a ConCom because of the important work they do, "They are responsible for protecting the land, water, and biological resources of their communities. Conservation commissions are volunteers who work long hours to achieve community conservation goals. "
Con Com members are volunteers. They are willing to take on the special job of protecting us and our resources. We cannot stand by if any member of ConCom, or any board is paralyzed. For all our sakes, they ought to feel free to do their jobs and we ought to support them. Those are our resources and ConCom members are working on our behalf.
It's not all smiles and thankyous. All of us like to think freedom means we can do whatever we want — especially with land we bought and paid for. However, whether speeding or building too close to the water's edge, there are laws that say we can't. ConCom is often the place where we hear about laws and regulations that limit what we can do. That means the ConCom meetings can be contentious.
During the last ConCom meeting, members discussed their feelings having been sued over a decision. In addition to suing the Town, each individual member was named. It was chilling.
I am not a lawyer, but a lawyer told me "That should never have happened. The threat of being sued would paralyze officials acting on behalf of the town. That is why there are laws shielding them."
There are various immunities — judicial, legislative, and qualified. For example, "Chapter 46. Actions Under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 § 46:6. Qualified immunity...Public officials are eligible for qualified immunity in relation to their discretionary actions, so long as their conduct is objectively reasonable and does not violate clearly established constitutional or statutory rights."
I cannot interpret the foregoing, but as a citizen of Stockbridge, I can hope, in the lawsuit that named them individually, every effort was made to protect members of ConCom and to exclude them as individuals. I can hope that every effort will be made in the future. Otherwise, good people working on our behalf are punished. Otherwise, they are paralyzed and prevented from protecting Stockbridge — from keeping Stockbridge safe and beautiful for generations to come.
Coming. Photo: Lionel Delevingne