The waters surrounding two proposed articles at Town Meeting on governing piers have become a little murkier:  the committee that created the articles wants to indefinitely postpone them, the planning board has voted to support them and former critics of the both measures are planning to step up and support them before town voters. The waters surrounding two proposed articles at Town Meeting on governing piers have become a little murkier:  the committee that created the articles wants to indefinitely postpone them, the planning board has voted to support them and former critics of the both measures are planning to step up and support them before town voters.

Article 16 seeks to create a Waterfront Scenic Area (WSA) district consisting of six areas in town where there are open and unobstructed views of the ocean, harbor, bay or estuary as seen from public roads.  Article 17 would then create a new section of the zoning bylaws governing piers in this new district as well as the construction and rebuilding of existing piers in other areas.

At the continuation of the public hearing on the two articles before the Planning Board on Monday, Pier Access Shoreline Study (PASS) Committee Chairman Bill TenHoor dropped the first bombshell.  After spending half an hour reviewing concerns the board had previously expressed to his committee regarding the articles, TenHoor said that last Thursday committee members had a “dramatic meeting.”

At that meeting, said TenHoor, there were four yea votes and one abstention to indefinitely postpone Articles 16 and 17 with the recommendation that the Board of Selectmen “request consideration and future action on the issue” by the Bay Management Study Committee using the information the PASS committee had gathered.

TenHoor said that “our charge was to present recommendations to town ñ we were not told to present bylaws.” He added that at some point in the process since being established at the 2002 Town Meeting, the group decided to focus on regulations and came up with a four-part solution: creating buffer zones, establishing design criteria, establishing the WSA district and criteria for shared piers.

While together, these four conditions are strong, “as they get picked apart, they fall apart,” he said.

“The committee felt thatÖ[the articles] were unraveling in front of us and people were misunderstanding what we were trying to do and they would be picked apart,” said TenHoor.  “We felt it was more important to present the information and pass it along [to the Bay Management Study Committee].”

Board member Amy MacNab filled in for Peter Donahue as chair for the hearing and said that the CPZBIC group had similar feelings before its presentation at Town Meeting and asked if since their Thursday meeting, it was still the desire of the committee to indefinitely postpone the articles.

Committee member Shawn Dahlen, the self-described “minority opinion of the group,” said he was the lone abstention at the meeting and planned to speak in opposition of the move to indefinitely postpone at Town Meeting.

“This committee did a huge amount of work and we did more on this committee than on any other committee I’ve been on,” he said.

Indicating that a large rift between members of the board was on the length of a buffer zone for piers ñwhich he planned on introducing an amendment on at Town Meeting ñ Dahlen said that for two years, there has been an unofficial moratorium on piers as citizens were “waiting for what we’d come up with and for Town Meeting voters to voice their opinions.”

Later in the meeting, Bayside Marine owner J.R. Kent, who said he was an opponent of the group when it was first formed, vowed to work with Dahlen to get the articles before town voters, crediting the excellent job the group has done.

“They’ve presented a document I can live with and if I can be swayed, I think others can be too,” said Kent.

Planning board members weighed in with overwhelming support for the PASS committee to finish what they started and go before voters at Town Meeting as well.

George Wadsworth said he was “disappointed” by the vote to indefinitely postpone and voiced his concern about the group’s work getting lost in the other work of the Bay Management Study Committee.

PASS committee member Peter Roveto reiterated that from presenting the articles to selectmen, the planning board and others, there was “such potential for confusionÖI don’t want to leave it to the whim of those out there” who didn’t have the right information.

Other board members voiced their support, such as Robert Wilson who told the group to “have courage,” Aboud Al-Zaim who said the committee should not back down because there are no assurances that the articles would pass, and Angela Scieszka who said “it’s easy to get wedding night cold feet, but I hope you reconsider.”

After voting to close the public hearing, the group then decided to vote on whether or not to recommend the articles, as they are serving as sponsors for both measures.

“The recommendation of the planning board is important because this is a zoning article and if it is not recommended and defeated at Town Meeting floor, you can’t bring it back for a couple years,” said MacNab.  “If it is approved, you can bring it back [at a Special Town Meeting].”

After a brief discussion on their next move, planning board members voted unanimously to recommend Article 16 as well as Article 17, with some amendments outlined in a memo by Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman James Lampert which the PASS committee did implement.

TenHoor said that the committee was meeting with the Finance Committee on Thursday to discuss the articles but gave no indication that the group’s stance would change given the planning board’s Monday vote.