Cape Cod Times
Posted Nov 27, 2018 at 8:52 PM
Updated Nov 27, 2018 at 8:55 PM
Barnstable Health Board delays action to modify water-quality regs
HYANNIS — The Barnstable Board of Health will not rescind the decade-old interim development regulations established to restrict nitrogen flow into the town’s estuaries — at least not this year.
The board voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to continue its public hearing on the matter — which has generated major community interest in recent weeks — until Jan. 22.
A standing room-only crowd of nearly 150 people attended the late-afternoon meeting at Barnstable Town Hall, during which the board heard public comments for more than two hours.
“This is more (people) than we’ve had in the last five years combined,” said Barnstable Board of Health Chairman Dr. Paul Canniff, who added he had received more than 40 letters and emails in advance of the meeting.
When it reconvenes after the New Year, the board could narrow its discussion to possibly modifying regulations for small areas of the Interim Saltwater Estuary Protection Zone, which encompasses most of the town south of Route 6, as opposed to a wholesale retraction. The regulations, adopted in 2009, were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to address nitrogen reduction required in its estuary systems.
The Craigville Beach Zoning District, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cape Cod Commission, would not be included in any amendment to modify the zone.
Town Manager Mark Ells opened the meeting with a 45-minute presentation, explaining that it was never his intent to call for a full recision of the regulations.
Ells stressed that the town has implemented many water resources management initiatives during the past 10 years — including sewer expansion, acquisition of open space, dredging and establishment of water management improvement funds — but the town needs to balance those efforts with housing development and economic growth.
“I hear over and over again that we are not doing anything and that’s not accurate,” he said. “The challenge is balance. We are trying to protect the (town’s) quality of life and unique character, but need to have economic growth and housing for all.”
He specifically advocated for easing the interim estuary protection regulations for a 500-foot buffer along Route 28 through town to allow for housing development opportunities, including the site of the former Marstons Mills Elementary School.
“This wasn’t brought forth correctly,” said Ells about the proposed amendment to lift the regulations.
Board member Dr. Donald Guadagnoli suggested getting rid of the interim regulations “would not be a good idea at this point” but carefully modifying them on a case-by-case basis could be appropriate.
Environmental groups, including the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, oppose the proposed amendment.
Zenas Crocker, executive director of the coalition, and Don Keeran, assistant director of the association, both told the board they were adamant about having no net increases of nitrogen in the town’s waterways.
“What’s the rush?” said Crocker about the proposed amendment, suggesting any modifications should move forward in a thoughtful and transparent manner. “It’s a blunt instrument, but it does protect us.”
Town Councilors Jessica Rapp Grassetti and Britt Beedenbender both addressed the board, expressing concern that the town was considering lifting the regulations without having a long-term integrated plan that takes into consideration growth in the next 10 years.
“I don’t want to lift it at all,” said Rapp Grassetti. “I’d rather saddle my children and grandchildren with debt to fix the problem, rather than dirty water.”
She also offered to work with the Board of Health to contribute to finalizing a comprehensive water quality management plan, complete with implementation and financial strategies.
Perhaps the most memorable testimony at the meeting came from Marcel Poyant, owner of the Centerville Shopping Center. Poyant was recently unable to replace a 35-year barbershop tenant with another barber because the shop is located within the estuary protection overlay district.
“Give us some type of relief,” he said. “We’re dead in the water when it has anything to do with septic systems.”