Laying the Groundwork for a New Dock?

Proposed modifications to 910 Main Street and 33 Oyster Place (Note: Image was updated to make clear that the proposed pier is part of a previous permit request)

Note: You are encouraged to look at the variance request description and plans (link).

Earlier this year, residents learned of a special permit request to build a private 155 foot pier just a few feet from Cotuit’s Town Dock, as well as to substantially alter the adjacent shoreline.

Cotuit residents have a long history of opposing the construction of private piers out of concerns for protecting public access to the shoreline and preserving the marine habitat. Consistent with this tradition, a large number of residents voiced their opposition to the proposed plan, flooding town officials with letters and speaking up during public hearings.

The proposal required the approval of the Town of Barnstable’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the Conservation Commission (ConComm). Two concerns raised by both groups involved the property with which the pier would be associated. The proposal called for the dock to be part of the applicant’s property at 910 Main Street, in which case the pier would be in violation of zoning regulations (Section 703-4(J)) that limit the pier’s length to 1/2 of the lot’s water frontage. Instead, the proposal based the length of the dock on the water frontage of the adjacent property at 33 Oyster Place, which is owned by a family member of the applicant, under the argument that the lot lines would be changed at a later date.

Town officials expressed their reluctance to grant the special permit request before the lot lines had been revised. Presumably to avoid a negative ruling, which would limit their ability to reapply, the applicant withdrew the request without prejudice, reserving the right to submit a new application at any time in the future.

Last month, the applicant submitted a request for a variance (link to the plans and description of the request) to make substantial changes to the properties at 910 Main Street and 33 Oyster Place. The request includes:

  1. Taking the entire water frontage and much of the surrounding property away from 33 Oyster Place and instead associating it with 910 Main Street;
  2. Upgrading the existing septic systems to new, nitrogen-removing waste water treatment systems;1
  3. Making substantial additions to the house at 910 Main Street, which lies in a historic district;
  4. Extending a fence to prevent access to the rocks adjacent to the town dock.

A variance is required since the proposed changes violate zoning regulations regarding minimum lot areas, minimum lot frontage, and minimum front and side setbacks (Section 240-14(E)); as well as the more restrictive lot area requirements for properties in the Resource Protection Overlay District (Section 240-36(D)).

While this application does not make a request for a dock, if granted, the proposed transfer of the waterfront area to the 910 Main Street property would address concerns voiced by the ZBA and ConComm during their deliberations regarding the applicant’s previous private pier application. Will the applicant resubmit an application to build a private pier at the property if this zoning variance request is granted? We urge Cotuit residents to read the application, look at the plans and make their voices heard regarding the various items in this variance request by sending letters and participating in public hearings. The next Zoning Board of Appeals meeting open for public comment/ questions is scheduled for Wednesday June 9th at 7:00pm ET via Zoom (

*this post was edited on June 12

  1. The proposed NitROE systems effectively remove nitrogen allowing wastewater to safely return to the environment. Nitrogen loading is a daunting environmental issue to our Cape Cod watershed. NitROE treatment systems may be an integral part to the nitrogen loading solution. They are a relatively new technology and vastly more effective than traditional Title 5 systems. For more information on these innovative, eco-friendly systems, please see the reports by the Martha’s Vineyard Coalition and the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition.