Plans For Private Pier Steps From Town Dock

On February 25, 2021, the applicant withdrew the special permit request without prejudice. This means that they can submit an application for a similar project at any time. Please consider subscribing below to receive updates on any future applications as well as other issues of interest to the Cotuit community
Credit: John Phelan

The Town of Barnstable is currently reviewing an application to substantially alter the shoreline adjacent to the Cotuit’s Town Dock, and the plan would involve the excavation of 3,000 square feet of land and the construction of a private 155-foot pier (95’ permanent dock followed by 60’ of floats.) The proposal also calls for mooring four power boats, with motors totaling more than 1000 horsepower.1 If approved, the pier will run approximately parallel with the Town Dock, past the second float of dinghies, leaving only a 13’ channel for small vessels to navigate.

Cotuit residents are just learning of the application, which has been in the works since 2019, when the applicant bought up two adjoining properties: 910 Main Street and 33 Oyster Place. In the last few weeks, town officials have received a flood of letters from Cotuit residents opposing the new dock—it is important we keep our momentum.

The special permit request is still awaiting approval from Barnstable’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Commission, and we believe we have a strong chance of defeating the project on multiple grounds. Most importantly, there is a prohibition against new docks in Cotuit Bay, in order to protect public access to the shoreline and preserve the local shellfish habitat. This ban was approved with overwhelming support from Cotuit residents. The proposed dock would also be detrimental to traffic at and around the Town Dock, Cotuit’s only public pier, and would contribute to erosion. These are just a few of the reasons we oppose the application to build a dock at 33 Oyster Place.

Please explore this site to learn more about this and other important local issues. If you would like to receive periodic updates on issues relevant to the site, please subscribe below.

  • Update-June 26

    Appeal No. 2021-021 (relating to the properties at 33 Oyster Place and 910 Main Street) was granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals on June 23rd. The suggested conditions of the variance were adjusted slightly and approved as well. Condition #3 initially stated, “there shall be no further expansion of the structures, construction of accessory structures, or impervious surface coverage on the lot.” The applicant requested that the language of this condition be adjusted to include the wording “without approval of the Board.”

    During the hearing, the applicant noted that the plans included with this request offered the Board a “big picture” overview of the proposed project. There was no mention of waterfront alterations included in these plans or in the applicant’s presentation.

    Major waterfront alterations, which included the construction of a private pier, were part of plans provided with a previous ZBA request pertaining to these properties (Appeal No. 2020-042). Because Appeal No. 2020-042 was withdrawn without prejudice, it is not clear whether additional requests will be forthcoming or whether a future request might include alterations to the waterfront. However, it is our hope that the “big picture” plans provided with Appeal No. 2021-021 reflect the complete scope of the intentions for these properties.

    Lastly, it is important to note that part of this variance request involved the installation of I/A NitROE wastewater treatment systems on both properties. These systems are a promising step toward reducing nitrogen loading to the Three Bays and surrounding watershed. We are hopeful that awareness of this eco-friendly technology continues to increase and that more systems will be installed throughout Cape Cod in the near future.

  • In-person Hearing on Wednesday June 23

    Following the continuance on June 9th, the ZBA will consider the 910 Main St/33 Oyster Pl variance request (official documents available here) at the hearing this Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021.

    This will be an in-person meeting, with no option to participate remotely.

    Time: 7pm
    Location: 2nd Floor Hearing Room, 367 Main St. Hyannis

    If at all possible, we encourage you to attend Wednesday’s meeting to share your opinions on the variance request. The ZBA takes public comment into account and, unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to comment during the last meeting due to the continuance.

    We also encourage you to share your comments in a letter to the ZBA, particularly if you are unable to attend in-person. Letters can be sent to Anna Brigham (

  • Continued to June 23

    At the start of Wednesday’s ZBA meeting, the board granted the applicant’s request for a continuance until the next hearing on Wednesday, June 23. There was no presentation by the applicant and no public comments were accepted. Both will take place on the 23rd.

    The 7:00pm June 23rd ZBA meeting is currently scheduled to be in-person only. Currently, there is no option for remote participation. Many residents have requested that the Town continue to provide this option. As noted below, there is a state-wide effort to extend, if not make permanent, the remote participation option.

    In March 2020, Governor Baker issued an executive order that relaxed the requirements of the Open Meeting Law, requiring public bodies to provide “adequate, alternative means” for people to remotely participate in public meetings. In many cases, this meant the option to participate in meetings via Zoom.

    The executive order is scheduled to expire on June 15th, after which the Open Meeting Law will be in full effect. The Open Meeting Law does not mandate that public bodies allow for remote participation. However, it does allow public bodies to adopt this option as described in 940 CMR 29.10 (see page 11).

    The ability to participate in public meetings remotely has significantly increased transparency and the engagement of residents in local government. As such, there is a push to extend the requirement that public bodies allow for remote participation and, ideally, to make it a permanent option. Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate approved a bill that would, among other things, extend the option for remote participation until December 15, 2021. The hope is to get the bill on Governor Baker’s desk very soon.

  • 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;2
    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

  • Permit Request Withdrawn

    In response to a request on February 25, 2021 from the Town of Barnstable for updated plans in anticipation of next week’s Conservation Commission meeting, representatives for the applicant announced their request that the special permit application and notice of intent application be “withdrawn without prejudice”.

    We want to thank the large number of you who worked hard to make the Town aware of the importance of preserving public access to the waterfront, whether it was by sending letters, participating in various hearings, or helping to improve awareness.

    By withdrawing without prejudice, the applicant reserves the right to submit a new application at any time in the future. Therefore, it’s important that we keep an eye on upcoming requests.

  1. Representatives for applicant recently indicated that they are considering a revision to the design, but to the best of our knowledge, these remain the official plans.
  2. 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.