CHATHAM — In 2014, voters purchased land near the Mitchell River drawbridge for a wide range of potential uses, from a commercial fishing vessel offloading pier to a handicap-accessible platform for recreational anglers, a new home for the town's shellfish upweller, or a new dock for Coast Guard boats. Now, with the property already in regular use by the public, town officials are asking stakeholders to help them form a more concrete plan for the property.
The land at 90 Bridge St. was purchased for “municipal and public, water dependent uses and other purposes” that could include a boat ramp, public parking or other uses. The following year, town meeting appropriated $175,000 to rebuild a small pier on the property and develop a comprehensive plan for the use of the property, but an overage with the pier project meant that no funds were left to hire a consultant to produce the plan.
Those additional funds were approved by town meeting this year, and municipal design consultant Stantec is expected to begin setting up meetings shortly with various user groups, Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson told selectmen last week. Town officials considered the possibility of having a single plan drafted up for the use of both the Bridge Street property and the Eldredge Pier, another waterfront parcel purchased by the town, but ultimately decided that separate feasibility assessments were the best approach.
Selectman Seth Taylor urged Duncanson to make sure the waterways advisory committee, the south coastal harbor management planning committee and the shellfish advisory committee are included in the discussion.
Duncanson said those groups will be asked for input, as will the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee, which represent the interests of the town's commercial fishing fleet. Taylor said there is no need for this group to be included, since the water off 90 Bridge St. cannot accommodate the large fishing boats present in Aunt Lydia's Cove.
“We're going to be looking for input from everybody,” Duncanson replied.
The town is particularly interested in finding combinations of public uses that can take place on the property, like a new upweller facility that is surrounded by a handicap-accessible fishing deck. Multiple uses will be important “because the property is so small,” Duncanson said.
Board member Dean Nicastro agreed that a multi-use plan for the property is important, since it was sold to town meeting voters on the basis of broad public uses.
Selectmen Chairman Jeffrey Dykens concurred, saying the key is to ensure that the property provides good public access to the shoreline.
The public isn't waiting for an approved plan for the property, however. The site is already popular with sightseers and anglers.
The consultant's meetings with user groups are expected to begin shortly, with the feasibility assessment expected to be complete by April.