East Lyme proposes crackdown on invasive plants
East Lyme ― In the continuing effort to promote controlled growth in town, the Zoning Commission has proposed outlawing invasive plants in development site plans.
The change would affect new construction and substantial renovations with a requirement that native plants be used in all landscaping plans. No plants listed on the Connecticut Invasive Plant List would be allowed.
Marjorie Meekhoff, founder and president of Pollinator Pathway East Lyme, said she requested the change. Pollinators from bees to moths rely on native plants as a food source and a place to live.
The world in turn relies on pollinators for their role in a fertilization process responsible for almost 35% of food-producing crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency has said the loss of those crops would have massive social and economic implications as healthy food options decrease and the prices of those that remain go up.
The Zoning Commission in October voted to send the draft regulation changes to a public hearing. Zoning official Bill Mulholland on Wednesday said the hearing will be held Dec. 7.
The proposal to update the zoning regulations on behalf of the bees is the latest manifestation of a trend in local resistance to the size, scope and location of several proposed developments over the past few years. Most of the projects were approved because the Zoning Commission determined they met all the existing rules and regulations.
“We have to change the regulations on the books,” she said. “There has to be a legal stance for us opposing certain types of development.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified habitat loss as a primary threat in places where roads, lawns and non-native gardens are driving out the food and nesting sites pollinators need to survive.
The proposed regulation defines a native plant as one that grows naturally “without direct or indirect human intervention and is indigenous to the northeast.” Landscape plans must be designed to “support local fauna, including pollinators,” according to the draft language.
Mullholland said he came up with the document based on input from the Pollinator Pathways president at the suggestion of outgoing commission chairwoman Anne Thurlow.
Meekhoff said she based some of her ideas on provisions in zoning regulations enacted in Newtown.
The Newtown regulations specify all trees, grasses and groundcover must be native. But it has less stringent requirements for shrubs and perennial plants. At least 15% of shrubs and 25% of perennials can be non-native to the northeast.
Meekhoff, who acknowledged using non-native zinnias at the Pollinator Pathway East Lyme “test site” in the traffic circle on Industrial Park Road, said planting certain non-native, annual plants and vegetables can be beneficial because they help lure pollinators.
She suggested that’s an area where the draft language can be clarified.
“We are totally not opposed to annuals and vegetables,” she said.
Proposed changes to another section of the site plan regulations address outdoor lighting with requirements that developments conform with the latest guidance from The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America to reduce light pollution.
Mullholland described the amendments as a way of spelling out in the regulations the kind of modern approaches the commission already expects from applicants.
“We’re seeing more out-of-town developers as opposed to the local mom and pops, so clarifying our regulations to make sure everybody understands what the community is looking for, we think would be advantageous,” he said.
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