The end of the road is near for opponents of a proposed 1.9-acre oyster farm in Mashpee’s Popponesset Bay.
Once again, a group of more than 20 waterfront homeowners on Popponesset and Daniels islands have come out on the losing side of a court decision. Last Thursday, August 7, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a brief decision that it had denied the request for further appellate review of the case.
For more than three years, the homeowners have been waging unsuccessful court battles to stop Mashpee resident and shellfisherman Richard J. Cook from operating an aquaculture grant in the bay.
Last week’s court decision was the sixth at three different levels—Barnstable Superior Court, Appeals Court, and Massachusetts SJC—that have ruled in favor of the Town of Mashpee, its board of selectmen, conservation commission, and Mr. Cook.
Brian J. Wall, the attorney representing the homeowners, filed the request for appeal in June. He filed the appeal specifically to seek SJC review on whether the aquaculture grant, which the plaintiffs consider a commercial enterprise, would trigger a mandatory review by the Cape Cod Commission as a development of regional impact.
Mashpee Town Counsel Patrick J. Costello said that the SJC did not see any validity to the argument that the aquaculture grant required CCC review, and that the appeal request was considered by the full court.
With last week’s decision, there is now only one piece of pending litigation that remains to be decided. It is an appeal being brought before the Massachusetts Land Court against the Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals. In that case the homeowners claim that the town’s zoning rules and regulations should extend into Popponesset Bay, and thereby be applicable to the proposed oyster farm. Mr. Costello said that a hearing in the matter has been scheduled in Boston for next month, and that a decision should be rendered by year’s end.
The battle over the oyster farm made regional news in early May when Massachusetts State Representative Michael A. Costello (D-Newburyport), and no relation to Mashpee Town Counsel, filed an amendment to the state budget that would designate the aquaculture grant a “special coastal resource sanctuary.” The amendment only referred to longitude and latitude coordinates, and never mentioned “Mashpee” or “Popponesset Bay.”
The amendment was presented to Rep. Costello by the Boston-based lobbying firm ML Strategies, which confirmed it did so on behalf of Charles Clough, chairman and chief executive officer of Boston-based Clough Capital Partners, a plaintiff in the anti-oyster farm lawsuits, who owns a home on Daniels Island Road.
At the urging and advocacy of the local legislative delegation of State Representative David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth) and State Senator Daniel A. Wolf (D-Harwich), the amendment was eventually stripped from the final budget before it was signed into law by Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick early last month.
“I was very pleased by last week’s news, but I hate to get too excited until I have the permits in my hand. I’m cautiously optimistic that I will be working the grant and growing oysters in Popponesset Bay by next summer,” Mr. Cook said.
Mr. Wall could not be immediately reached for comment.