CHATHAM – A Sears Road couple has sued the conservation commission over its denial of a request to build a 192-foot revetment to protect their $3 million home on the Oyster River.
The commission denied the revetment in June, stating that owners Richard and Sandra MacDonald of Dover failed to show that there is no other way to protect the 4,800-square-foot home on the property from storm damage. The house, built in 1957, is 24 feet from the top of the coastal bank, which has been stable since 1993, according to the commission's denial.
“The proposed revetment is not necessary to prevent storm damage to the house at this time and nourishment and/or other shorefront protection methods can be implemented by the applicant to protect the building,” the commission's decision read.
A previous owner received permission to build a revetment in 1993, but only when the top of the bank was 20 feet from the house.
The coastal bank is an important sediment source for the surrounding area, the commission wrote. That section of the Oyster River is a “low energy environment” where northeast storms are not typically a threat. Snow fencing has been erected and sand brought in to nourish the beach several times since 2007, but there has been no sand added since 2011.
“The commission finds that the existing project has performed well even though it requires periodic nourishment and maintenance at the toe,” the decision stated.
In an appeal filed in Barnstable Superior Oct. 24, attorney Glenn A. Wood of Rubin and Rudman of Boston stated that the MacDonald property is unique in that it is adjacent to a town landing at the end of Sears Road. Dinghy storage along the beach, including at the toe of the bank, increases erosion. The beach has lowered so much that at regular high tides waves break directly on the face of the bank, he wrote in the suit.
The MacDonalds have spent “a considerable amount of money” on sand tubes, beach nourishment and other forms of protection, but none of these “soft solutions” have worked. Because the beach is now so much lower, repairing the toe of the bank is no longer feasible, the suit states.
“The bank is presently slumping across its entire face with significant threat of failure, continued loss of upland, and reduced distance of the dwelling from the top of the bank,” according to the suit. The suit says the home is “within 22.5 feet” of the bank.
According to town assessors records, the 78,806-square-foot lot and 4,821-square-foot Colonial home is valued at $3,356,800.
After initial hearings, the MacDonalds reduced the length of the revetment from 342 to feet, with the rock revetment covering just 110 feet, with fiber rolls and an invasive species removal and management in other areas.
In June the MacDonalds appealed the denied under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act to the state department of environmental protection, which has yet to issue a superceding order. The suit filed last month is an appeal under the town's wetlands bylaw.
Meanwhile, DEP has yet to issue a decision in an adjudictory appeal regarding a proposed Shore Road revetment. The conservation commission approved a revetment for James and Lisa McGonigles' 498 Shore Rd. property in 2014, but the DEP and a group of 10 local residents appealed the approval and the state agency overturned the decision. The McGonigles sought an appeal of that decision, which was heard earlier this year.