The fate of five homes on Indian Trail is on hold.
The homes overlook Sagamore Beach, and the cliff they rest upon is eroding away. The bank has lost a significant amount of vegetation, and, at this point, the properties are only six to 16 feet from the edge.
However, the Bourne Conservation Commission has denied the homeowners’ petition for an easement that would give them access to the beach for construction of a stone wall that would prevent further erosion.
Attorney J. Ford O’Connor went before the Bourne Board of Selectmen on April 8 and requested the easement so that construction could begin as soon as possible. Selectmen approved Mr. O’Connor’s request, but made it dependent upon approval by the conservation commission. At the commission’s meeting on April 15, members did not give their approval.
Mr. O’Connor said the homeowners are disappointed over the commission’s ruling, and concerned about what will happen to their property.
“Every time there’s a rainstorm it gets worse,” Mr. O’Connor said.
Mr. O’Connor said that he has asked town administrator Thomas M. Guerino to check with selectmen as to whether a request can be made for an emergency order allowing the work to be done. He said the rationale for granting the easement would be to protect the beach from the houses falling onto it.
“They just want the problem resolved as soon as possible,” he said.
The project involves using boulders to construct a 550-foot-long wall that would stretch 22 feet up the hillside. The entire wall would be on land placed in the care, custody and control of the conservation commission back in 2005.
Town conservation agent Brendan C. Mullaney said that there are questions as to whether the project will be effective. Mr. Mullaney said that the conservation commission also questions whether it will have a negative impact on other homes, and what possible effects it could have on the beach.
Town counsel Robert S. Troy said the principal problem is that an actual plan for the work to be done has not been filed with the town yet.
“As of this time, we do not know whether a document has been filed describing the work to be done,” Mr. Troy said.
He added that reading the minutes from the April 8 selectmen’s meeting, he noted a request was made for a permit allowing the contractor, Pinnacle Site Contractors, temporary access to the beach. However, the work would involve building on town property, he said, which means they need more than a permit, or license, for temporary access.
“If they are building a revetment on town property, that can’t be achieved through a license. That requires an easement,” he said.
In March of last year, the town granted Pinnacle a temporary access easement that allowed the company to construct a stone revetment and take measures to control erosion at the rear of nine homes on Sagamore and Clark roads in Sagamore. Last year’s winter storms and spring rains resulted in eroded hillside conditions that threatened the homes. Selectmen approved the temporary access to Pinnacle under an emergency certification granted by the conservation commission.
Last summer, the commission gave approval for five homes along Phillips Road in Sagamore Beach to repair storm damage done to their beachfront properties. Approval was given in July and the work completed last fall.
Mr. Troy said that there will not be a quick solution to the issue regarding the Indian Trail homes. He mentioned three steps that would have to be followed for the work to move forward. First, a request for the easement would have to appear in an article placed on the warrant and voted on by residents at Town Meeting. If the article is approved, then a notice of intent would have to be filed with the conservation commission to have the work done. The notice of intent would have to be filed by both the homeowners and the owners of the property where the stone wall is to be built—in this case, the conservation commission.
“So, they would be co-applicants and the ones voting to approve the application,” Mr. Troy said.
Finally, because the project would involve building on conservation land, they might have to file a petition for approval of the project with the general court under Article 99 of the state constitution. Article 99 is a provision designed to protect conservation land and requires a vote from the state Legislature for approval.
“Those are the obstacles,” he said.
He pointed out that conservation land is considered sacrosanct by the state. However, in most cases, if the town approves an article involving conservation land, the state typically complies with the town’s wishes and votes approval.
For now, the town is waiting for the homeowners to put something in writing regarding what they would like to do.
“Apparently they have a plan, but they need to file it with the town, and they need to file a request to put it on the Town Meeting warrant,” he said.