Cape Cod Times
Barnstable Board of Health to consider lifting nutrient restrictions
HYANNIS — The Barnstable Board of Health has a full — and controversial — post-holiday agenda when it meets on Tuesday.
The board will hold a public hearing on lifting interim regulations implemented 10 years ago to protect the town’s waterways. The regulations were put into place to restrict nitrogen flow into estuaries by limiting development in certain areas.
The regulations were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to meet requirements to reduce nitrogen.
The proposed amendment to eliminate the regulations would affect most of the town south of Route 6, excluding the Craigville Beach Zoning District, which falls within an area regulated under a district of critical planning concern set up through the Cape Cod Commission.
The rationale behind the proposed amendment, according to a legal notice issued by the town, is that the regulations were only intended to be temporary and the town has engaged in initiatives to address nitrogen reduction in estuary systems, adhering to state Department of Environmental Protection total maximum daily load requirements.
The amendment, along with a public hearing, had initially been on the board’s Oct. 23 meeting agenda, but was withdrawn when a discrepancy emerged over whether the board had even requested — or voted — to have it placed on the agenda.
Environmental groups, including the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, oppose the proposed amendment and have submitted letters to the board and town leaders.
“The net effect of the proposed action will be to worsen existing degraded estuaries throughout the town of Barnstable as well as those shared with Mashpee, Sandwich and Yarmouth,” association Executive Director Andrew Gottlieb wrote.
Gottlieb also disagrees with the reason for the amendment, contending Barnstable lacks a comprehensive plan — along with financing or public and political support — to restore the estuaries.
Barnstable Town Council Vice President James Crocker says the amendment proposal emerged from a housing study that concluded the interim saltwater estuary protection zones are hindering residential development along Route 28, where infrastructure exists for it.
“A lot of improvements have been made (since 2008),” he said. “The town has spent money for runoff solutions, purchasing property to take out of development, and capital improvements in the sewer plan to take nutrients out of the estuaries. The town is fully committed to enhancing and improving the estuaries and maintaining high quality drinking water.”
Not so fast, argues Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition.
“BCWC understands the need for economic growth, and for more housing in the town,” he wrote. “We agree that a ‘temporary’ regulation lasting almost 10 years deserves clarification and updating. Shouldn’t there be an opportunity for open discussion and the airing of all views, new information, prospective alternatives and so forth? Perhaps that is the goal, but if it is, that too is opaque.”
A public hearing on further limitations on smoking in town is also scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting.
A proposed amendment to the town’s smoking regulations would expand the definition of products containing tobacco or nicotine to include e-cigarettes, expand the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21, and ban smoking at municipal-owned parks, playgrounds, beaches and athletic fields, and at transportation waiting areas.