Since 2011, when a group of homeowners on Popponesset and Daniels islands began a lengthy legal battle to stop Richard J. Cook’s proposed oyster farm, the Town of Mashpee has spent nearly $50,000 defending itself in litigation.
According to town manager Joyce M. Mason, as of July 1, $47,685 has been spent defending the town’s board of selectmen, conservation commission, and zoning board of appeals and the decisions each made to support and approve the application for the 1.9-acre oyster farm in Popponesset Bay.
The town has won all six court cases to date.
However, the amount of legal costs is expected to rise well over the $50,000 mark in the coming months as the town must still defend the Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals in a Massachusetts Land Court hearing scheduled for late September in Boston. In that case, the plaintiffs are arguing that the Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals’ jurisdiction extends into the bay and that all applicable zoning bylaws should apply to the underwater grant.
“We have been forced to defend the decisions of the town’s leadership and regulatory boards that have been named as defendants in these lawsuits. There is a misconception among the opponents that the town has been defending Mr. Cook himself,” Ms. Mason said.
Ms. Mason also said that the cost of the litigation has been covered by funds allocated to the town’s legal budget, but the town has been lucky there have been no unexpected legal issues during the past three years. “In that case, we probably would have needed to seek a transfer of funds from another town department,” she said.
Mashpee town counsel Patrick J. Costello said that the town recently attempted to recoup some of its legal fees due to what he considers the frivolous nature of some of the lawsuits.
“In our opposition to the further appellate review of the case that was denied last week, we said ‘enough is enough,’ so we requested a return of legal fees for the frivolous nature of the litigation, but it was denied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court,” Mr. Costello said, adding that the request made a statement but that it is very rare for the SJC to reimburse legal fees.