In the selectmen’s review of two Town Meeting articles proposing a new section of the zoning bylaw governing piers, discussion centered on creating 150-foot side buffer zones at town landings to prohibit new pier construction.
Town meeting Articles 16 and 17 are proposed by the planning board for the Pier Access and Shoreline Study Committee (PASS). Article 16 seeks to create a Waterfront Scenic Area Overlay District that consists of six areas in town where there are an open, unobstructed views of the ocean, harbor, bay or estuary as seen from public roads. The land in the overlay district is the land abutting these views.
Article 17 proposes to create a new section of the zoning bylaw governing the construction of piers in waterfront scenic areas as well as the construction of new piers in other areas and the rebuilding of existing piers.
The proposed 150-foot buffer zone on the sidelines of each of the town’s 24 public landings and nine “ways to the water” aims to protect these public access areas from piers. According to a PASS report, piers have negative effects on town landings by reducing the access the landings were intended to create, by introducing navigational hazards, by reducing recreational value, and by diminishing the scenic view in the area.
If town meeting approves the 150-ft buffer, 20 properties would be impacted and subject to the new regulations and 16 properties would be forbidden from ever building a pier. In the past few years, new piers have been denied or their applications withdrawn at Shipyard Lane beach, Harden Hill, Josselyn Ave. and Water and Winsor streets, stated the report.
The committee considered other buffer zone sizes, such as 50 ft to 250 ft. At 50 ft, 25 properties would be impacted and one would never be allowed to build a pier. A 250 ft. buffer zone would impact 18 properties and would prevent 29 from ever building piers.
Bill TenHoor, committee chairman, said the committee reached a 98 percent consensus on Article 17, especially the buffer zone section. Committee member Sean Dahlen told selectmen he would offer an amendment to the article at town meeting that addressed the buffer zone.
Article 17 outlines construction specifics for building new piers and reconstructing old or damaged structures. New piers in the proposed Waterfront Scenic Area Overlay District would have a different set of regulations to make them smaller and less obtrusive. The most affected areas in a Waterfront Scenic Area Overlay District would be the along the Bluefish River and King Caesar Rd.
This article also puts forth the idea of shared piers and gives them incentives, such as three floats, in order to make them more attractive and thus decrease the number of pier proposals. According to the PASS report, 23 new piers have been built from 1992 to 2001 and 17 have been rebuilt to more “robust” standards as required by the Army Corp of Engineers. There are still 128 piers that could be developed, stated the report.
Selectman Andre Martecchini said he thought that by writing a new bylaw governing piers the committee was doing a service to the town.
“I’m sure that these will help the zoning board of appeals in its decision-making process,” he said. “Trying to codify this to some degree helps very much.”
Selectmen Chairman Betsy Sullivan asked the committee if Harbormaster Don Beers made a recommendation on the buffer zones. TenHoor said Beers never voiced a specific recommendation about the buffer distance, but he weighed in on the specifics of how far a pier should stick out after the end of the salt marsh.
Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman James Lampert said he thought the buffer zone should vary depending upon each individual situation. TenHoor said the committee looked at that option, but chose to create one standard for town landing protection.
Sullivan praised the committee, which was commissioned by town meeting two years ago: “You have done some tremendous work,” she said.
Selectmen did not take a vote on these two articles.