This week, selectmen urged the Pier Access Shoreline Study (PASS) Committee not to indefinitely postpone their Town Meeting articles that include a new zoning bylaw regulating piers. This week, selectmen urged the Pier Access Shoreline Study (PASS) Committee not to indefinitely postpone their Town Meeting articles that include a new zoning bylaw regulating piers. Selectmen showed their support by voting in favor of both articles.

The PASS Committee has discussed indefinitely postponing (IP) Article 16 and Article 17 at Town Meeting because there was internal dissention on the committee regarding the buffer zone part of Article 17. Indefinitely postponement means the article can be reconsidered at future Town Meeting.

Article 17 would create a new section of the zoning bylaw governing pier construction and reconstruction and would also create a 150-foot buffer zone on the sidelines of each of the town’s 24 public landings and nine “ways to the water” to protect these public access areas from piers.

It is the buffer zone near town landings on which the committee members cannot agree. Some favor the 150-foot buffer zone because it would protect the scenic views surrounding a town landing. Others feel that 150 feet is too restrictive because it would prevent some neighboring property owners from ever building piers on their own land. The committee calculates that with the 150-foot buffer zone, 20 properties would be impacted and subject to the new regulations and 16 properties would be forbidden from ever building a pier. A smaller buffer zone of 75 or 100 feet would impact fewer properties but may not protect town landings as well. According to a committee report, piers have negative effects on town landings by reducing the access landings were intended to create, by introducing navigational hazards, by reducing recreational value, and by diminishing the scenic views in the area.

PASS committee chairman Bill TenHoor said the committee was concerned that they could not unite over the buffer zone and felt because they could not come together on this issue that they should pass their work on to another committee, such as the Bay Management Study Committee for further research. They didn’t want the zoning bylaw gutted by Town Meeting voters.

Selectmen disagreed with the committee saying Town Meeting should get a chance to see the committee’s work and take a vote on it.

“It would be my heartfelt hope that you do not IP,” said Selectmen Chairman Betsy Sullivan. “You’ve done such tremendous work and taken such a contentious issue and brought it to common ground. I have so much faith that Town Meeting can take this issue, give it a good discussion and bring it to a conclusion. That conclusion could be to IP, but please do not pass on it now. It’s not worthy of the work you have done.”

Sullivan added that people, such as waterfront property owners, have been waiting two years for the committee’s report and they needed “to move on.”

Both Sullivan and Selectman Andre Martecchini likened the pier committee’s work to the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Bylaw Implementation Committee’s (CPZBIC) work on the zoning bylaw, which was presented to last year’s Town Meeting. Sullivan said she never thought that CPZBIC would be ready for Town Meeting but they were. She also didn’t think Town Meeting could work its way through CPZBIC’s complicated bylaw changes, but found she was wrong about that, too.

Martecchini agreed: “The issue you’re talking about is not going to go away,” he told committee members. “Let Town Meeting vote. You may feel that they’re gutting it, but that could be the compromise solution. When you’ve come this close, it’s important to take it to Town Meeting and see what happens.”

At Town Meeting the motion to indefinitely postpone these articles could fail, noted Town Manager Rocco Longo.

TenHoor said the PASS committee had one more meeting and that they would consider what the selectmen had said.