I am the sworn enemy of all docks and piers built by private waterfront landowners over public waters. The law is clear. Waterfront property rights end at the low water mark and a pier over anything beyond that is a private taking of public property. Piers obscure access, impede navigation, permanently shade the bottom, and involve the pounding of pressure-treated (chemically treated) pilings into the bottom of the harbor.
Piers suck, and a recent effort to zone the coastal waters as shellfish habitat just failed to pass thanks to five boneheaded town councilors, some of whom represent districts in the town of Barnstable that don’t have any waterfront property.
The real villian is the “Ostervillian” – Osterville’s town councilor James Crocker, who’s district shares the three-bays system with Cotuit. Cotuit’s town councilor, Richard Barry, wrote in the Barnstable Patriot:
“On January 17, the Town Council conducted a public hearing on whether or not to adopt a zoning ordinance that would preserve 114 acres of our coast for the benefit of the recreational and commercial shellfisherpersons.These defined areas represents 2.61 percent of our total shoreline and have been designated by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries as significant shellfish habitat. This allows the town to propagate shellfish for the 2,206 families that hold a family shellfish permit and the 48 people that make a living from their commercial license.
The number of properties affected by this ordinance is 53. The Townâ€™s proposed comprehensive plan on natural resources calls for protection of significant shellfish habitat and zoning of our waters. That is exactly what this ordinance does. The planning board voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance. The public weighed in and approximately 20 people spoke in favor of the ordinance and only one in opposition citing diminution in value of the effected properties from not being allowed to construct a dock or pier.
The town assessor had previously refuted this argument. The law is clear. Property owners own to the mean low water mark and the waters of the Commonwealth are held for the benefit of the general public. After the initial vote five councilors voted against the adoption of this ordinance. Because a zoning ordinance needs a 2/3 majority the ordinance did not pass.”
Councilors Tobey, Munafo, Chirigiotis, Tinsely and Crocker: you all blew it. Councilor Barry: keep up the good work.