2013-10-31 / Front Page

Workshop planned for raised trail to Hull Cove

Boardwalk expected to be handicap accessible
By Margo Sullivan

Residents interested in the trail restoration project at Hull Cove will have an opportunity to weigh in at a workshop on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, the Conservation Commission said at its Oct. 24 meeting.

The town was awarded an $80,000 grant to build a handicapaccessible boardwalk over the right-of-way at Hull Cove, but the Town Council wants to give residents an opportunity to discuss the plan before any work begins. Chairwoman Maureen Coleman said the council asked the Conservation Commission to facilitate the meeting.

Commissioner Michael Brown wrote the grant that was based on a plan originated by Chris Powell, former chairman of the conservation board. However, Brown has updated the project.

The town was being held liable for $17,000 in damages to the Hull Cove trail after an unknown person illegally clear-cut trees and shrubs in the summer of 2012. Because the town was the property owner, the state Department of Environmental Management ordered town officials to restore the trail to its previous condition.

Powell and Town Engineer Michael Gray have been invited to attend the workshop.

In other news, Coleman reported a development in the longrunning dispute over wetlands violations with Jamestown Vineyards and the adjacent Hamilton and Young property. Earlier, Laura Dwyer, spokeswoman for the state coastal council, said Jamestown Vineyards has never corrected any of six wetlands violations that it promised per an agreement reached in December 2011.

The infractions date back to 2009 at the Beavertail property. However, the Coastal Resources Management Council was powerless to enforce the agreement. Both property owners had recently applied for farm status, which seemingly would have eliminated the need to correct wetlands violations due to a new state law. It took jurisdiction of coastal farms away from the coastal council and gave it to the Department of Environmental Management, she said. DEM wetlands regulations for farm properties are less stringent.

However, Coleman said, based on her recent conversation with Ken Ayers of the DEM, because these violations had occurred prior to the passage of the new state law, the two properties may still have to work with the CRMC on the wetlands issues.

“This violation occurred way before DEM’s jurisdiction,” she said, “and the legislation asks CRMC to work together.”

Commissioner Patrick Driscoll said it was his understanding the wetlands violations were “going to be overlooked due to a legislative change.”

“That’s no longer the case,” Coleman said, and explained both properties may be back under CRMC jurisdiction.

The Department of Environmental Management is contacting the coastal council about the two properties, she said, and the move gives the council the option of going back and enforcing.

Coleman asked the commissioners if they wanted to “weigh in on this again,” since some time has passed since their last communication about the wetlands violations.

Driscoll suggested the commissioners should contact the coastal council to indicate that it maintains its position against the violations. Brown made a motion that passed unanimously to send a letter “reiterating our position.”

In a related matter, the commissioners voted to send the coastal council a letter “expressing concerns” about the post-storm emergency permitting procedures. The agency adopted the measures in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to help waterfront property owners repair storm damage.

Driscoll described one property owner’s work as a “facelift over there on Mackerel Cove” and noted the changes along the waterfront seemed extensive.

“Even all the rocks are gone,” he said.

Coleman said it would be too late to address the work done after Sandy, but the “long-term concern would be the next storm.”

Driscoll said the state did not seem to be supervising or inspecting the permitted work.

“Shouldn’t someone be watching?” he asked.

“We could express concerns about the process,” Coleman replied.

“The question is, how is that monitored?” Brown asked. “What type of oversight?”

As it stands, Driscoll said, the post-storm emergency permits appeared to give people an “opportunity” to make unsupervised changes to the waterfront.

“And they do this because they’re overwhelmed?” Brown said, asking why the coastal council has been allowing the emergency permits.

“For expediency,” Coleman replied.

“Shouldn’t there be a limit to restoration and improvement?” Brown asked.

Driscoll said the property owner at Mackerel Cove “pretty much rearranged the entire coastal buffer zone.” He conceded the owner “didn’t exactly create a beach,” and agreed the work had been permitted.

“We’re just concerned there’s not enough oversight,” he said.

Coleman summed up the issues and said the commission’s letter would “question how” the poststorm projects are being permitted and to express concerns about “improvements that go beyond restoration.”

“So that it doesn’t become an opportunity to alter the coastal buffer zone,” Driscoll said. “This is an incredible loophole for people doing as they please.”

In other business, experts continue to discuss the restoration of the Mackerel Cove beach dunes that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy, according to Commissioner Anne Kuhn-Hines. She said a representative from Save The Bay visited the beach recently and supported the opinion the dune grasses should not be replanted until spring.

According to Gray, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has allowed about $8,500 for the town to buy dune grasses. Kuhn- Hines suggested the commissioners could organize volunteers to plant the dune grasses in early April.

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