Cliff-Top Homeowners In Bourne Can Make Their Case

Bourne Conservation Commission has given the owners of homes high atop a crumbling, sandy cliff on Sagamore Beach permission to proceed with their plan to build a 22-foot tall, 550-foot long stone wall on town property.

The purpose of the wall would be to stabilize the base of the storm-battered cliff, which rises up sharply 70 to 90 feet from the beach.

At its meeting August 21, the commission voted to allow the homeowners to submit a Notice of Intent, which would spell out the work plans and explain why the commission should grant the six homeowners a permanent easement for the gigantic stone revetment wall on town-owned conservation land.

“The commission’s vote basically gives them permission to proceed with the paperwork,” Bourne conservation agent Brendan C. Mullaney said. “This is not an approval of the project.”

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The six homeowners, whose properties are accessed from Indian Trail, are trying to win the town’s approval for a project they say will save their homes from toppling down the eroding cliff.  The severe storms over the last two winter seasons have resulted in significant loss of sand and vegetation. At this point, the homes are only six to 16 feet from the cliff’s edge.

Since the wall being proposed would be entirely on town conservation land, which is under the care and custody of the conservation commission, the homeowners need to first win commission approval for the work and then approval at Bourne Town Meeting.

“If you’re looking for a permanent easement on town land, Town Meeting gets a say,” Mr. Mullaney said. He said a two-thirds majority vote is required at Town Meeting.

If and when it passes muster with the town, the state legislature must also grant its approval for the work, under Article 97 of the Declaration of Rights, which protects conservation land. Bourne town counsel Robert S. Troy has said that, generally, if the town approves a project, the state will too.

The stone revetment wall would be the first step in an effort to save the Indian Trail homes. Next would come work to stabilize the upper portions of the cliff, which could include netting and revegetation. Mr. Mullaney was not sure if this secondary work would be part of the initial Notice of Intent the homeowners will be filing with the commission or if that would be considered later. But in any event, he expects to see the Notice of Intent come across his desk soon.

“I’m sure they’ve been working on this. I should be seeing something shortly,” he said. “They want to get this done.”

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