This is written to address the false claims presented in the recent letter about my aquaculture plan that was submitted by Charles and Gloria Clough. Warren and Kimberly Fields, and Michael and Sonia Hayward.
First, it cannot be disputed that I am “local” and the opponents are “wealthy.” Second, as accurately reported by several news outlets, this is a small operation. While the maximum capacity of the proposal is 4,500 aquaculture bags, I expect the site will generally contain 3,000 bags or most likely less.
The opponents’ suggestions that the operation will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and that I “stand to earn millions during the 10-year term of the license,” are both false and misleading. Perhaps they were extrapolating their figures over a longer period of 20 to 30 years. But I am seeking only a fair and modest income from this small plan. Third, the opponents describe this aquaculture plan inaccurately as a “substantial commercial project” and claim they are only “trying to enforce the zoning bylaw that is supposed to protect us.”
However, they have not identified anything about the aquaculture farm from which they need to be “protected.” There is nothing about the aquaculture farm that could be a “danger” to the opponents or their property in any storm, including hurricanes. Unlike their docks and boats, soft-sided oyster bags do not present any risk of damage. There is no basis for their absurd claim that the oyster bags “will dislodge during a storm and become storm-borne debris that will damage our homes.” To my knowledge, the opponents have never claimed that other aquaculture sites in Popponesset Bay create or cause any “danger” to them.
Fourth, every agency that has reviewed and approved my proposal has fully reviewed the plan for compliance with the applicable standards. Every time the opponents have filed an appeal, each approval has been upheld at every level of review. On the issue of anchors for the support lines. I did agree to increase the size of the anchors to satisfy the claim by the opponents that a larger anchor would provide a larger margin of stability than the fully adequate anchor I proposed. This was done only to streamline the hearing on the opponents’ appeal of DEP’s order approving my plan, not because of any shortcoming with my plan.
Fifth, the Town of Mashpee’s willingness to defend their decisions against the opponents’ appeals is not “backing” the plan. I appreciate that effort by the town to see their own local decisions upheld against these tactical appeals. I also have been forced to spend my own money defending the opponents’ appeals of state permits. without any cost to the town.
The opponents’ suggestion that “All one has to do is connect the dots to figure out that Mr. Cook is using political connections and public resources to advance his business interests” is laughable. It is true that my sister-in-law was a former chair of the board of selectmen, but she was not on the board for this grant proposal and had no role in any decision on the plan. Her current and former roles on other local boards and committees have nothing to do with the plan. While I was formerly a member of the shellfish commission, the fact that I know current commissioners had no impact on their recommendation for the board of selectmen to approve my application.
These comments show just how far these desperate opponents will go to cover up their own ploy to have a legislator from a remote part of the state slip in a hidden budget amendment that they admit had no other purpose but to block my plan (“we sought the assistance of a state legislator to help us in our effort to protect our homes”). They obviously chose to try a secret political tactic because their appeals were all being denied on the merits.
The opponents reach their lowest point with the comments at the end of their letter that something “is going on at the Mashpee Town Hall” and that I have used “political connections at the Mashpee Town Hall to advance [my] business interests.” These comments border on libel, and it is no surprise that these shameless opponents—after lobbying out-of-town legislators in secret to “game” the system—are now resorting to a false smear campaign.
Finally, the extent of the opponents’ resistance to my proposal actually is very “unusual.” While it may be true that arguments like theirs may be “heard in every town on the Cape, week in and week out at public hearings held by municipal regulatory agencies,” very few opponents continue to pursue fruitless appeals of every permit at every level, unless they are attempting to wear down and exhaust the resources of proponents and permitting agencies.
To the remaining residents of Mashpee, Poppy Island and New Seabury, thank you for your support and kind words of encouragement for my aquaculture proposal.
Richard J. Cook Jr.