Commission Debates Parking Lot On Dune
By: Elise R. Hugus
Next summer, former selectman Kevin E. Murphy and a group of partners may have their own four-car parking lot off Moses Road, a private way in New Silver Beach.
In a proposal to the conservation commission last week, Mr. Murphy said that he is a shareholder in Lot 93, a 1,200-square-foot area owned by Mary B. Good of Blue Water Lane, North Falmouth. He said that he and his wife, Karen L. Murphy of Dale Drive, North Falmouth, do not own beachfront property, so buying a parking space on the corner of Moses Road and Ocean View Avenue is their way to have access to the beach.
However, the commission debated whether Mr. Murphy’s proposal would enhance or hinder the natural course of the low-lying dune system that the parking lot would be built on.
Michael J. Borselli of Falmouth Engineering described his proposal for creating a parking area by removing six inches of sand and replacing it with two to four inches of crushed shell, a permeable pavement. Snow fencing would be installed around the perimeter of the parking area to keep the sand from blowing onto it. A post and rail fence would also be installed, Mr. Murphy said, allowing the Goods to have a view of the beach, but also blocking public access, which he said is eroding the dune.
Conservation Administrator Jennifer L. McKay said that, in general, fences prohibit dunes from migrating laterally, a natural condition that causes sand to build up where the wind is most fierce.
Commissioner Edward H. Schmitt said that in the pictures taken of the area over the summer, the lot appears to be a beach rather than a dune.
“I really have to challenge the engineer here, that this section is not a dune,” he said, asking his fellow commissioners to invoke the consultants’ fee to get a geologist’s opinion. While that motion was voted down, an engineer hired by two Moses Road property owners addressed the same concerns before the commission.
David Crispin, a civil engineer with BSC Group of Norwell, said during his peer review of the plans, he noticed that the proposal only included two-foot contours, compiled from an instrument survey. He said that at a scale of one-foot contours, the survey would “depict a mound, not a beach.” He also questioned whether the board was ready to grant Mr. Murphy a variance, due to a prohibition of parking lots in a velocity zone, as per the Town of Falmouth wetlands bylaw.
“The bylaw includes driveways, which is essentially what you’re doing,” Mr. Crispin said.
He also cited the zoning laws that would come up, if the Good family sells a parking space to Mr. Murphy. “This is commercial use. I believe it will be a question for the building inspector,” he said.
In May 2008, the conservation commission denied a request from the Goods, a client of Mr. Borselli, to build a house on the property, not long after the sewer line was connected in New Silver Beach.
Citing the history of the property and its characteristics, the commission found that the house would be built on a coastal dune and a coastal beach.
Development on Moses Road and the surrounding area of New Silver Beach was created by filling coastal wetlands in the 1890s. A 10,000-square-foot lot on Moses Road, which was once two adjacent lots, was purchased by Walter J. Good in 1950, and the property is in the trust of Ms. Good, who lives nearby.
Since the lot is next to the New Silver Beach Association parking lot, the owners allowed it to be used for parking in the 1960s, Mr. Murphy reminded the commission. However, that idea was abandoned after cars kept getting stuck in the sand.
Commissioner Maureen Harlow-Hawkes had visited the site last Wednesday, “a perfect day to visit,” she said, due to windy conditions.
“I have to say that where you have [the lot] was a contiguous dune complex at one point,” she said, questioning the reasoning behind removing a quantity of sand and replacing it with a lesser quantity of shell.
“You stated this is a dune re-nourishment project, and I don’t find that,”she told Mr. Borselli. “I’m more inclined to planting and building the dune.”
Mr. Schmitt read a letter of opposition from Mary M. Bowker, a resident of Old County Road, in Sandwich, who is the trustee of a property on 2 Moses Road.
The letter raised the specter of disaster in case of a strong storm, in which case, dunes would have degraded to the point that they would not protect the property on New Silver Beach.
Mr. Borselli objected to the letter and challenged Ms. Bowker’s credibility.
“We’re engineers, licensed in the state of Massachusetts. I’m frankly baffled by her letter,” he said. “The commission should be looking at this as a dune enhancement project. This is exactly what Mary Bowker should like.”
Mr. Borselli said that by placing the sand removed from the parking area on other dunes, those dunes would be bolstered.
“What’s your pleasure?” asked Thomas P. Corriveau of his fellow commissioners. “Letting sand go to the pavement or to create what could potentially be a contiguous, healthy dune?”
Mr. Corriveau tempered his approval by questioning the use of a split rail fence in a velocity zone, which he said could pose a danger to residents in the event of a strong storm.
Arthur G. Aldrich III, an alternate member of the commission, said that he approved of a snow fence, because without it, “the sand is on a never-ending conveyer belt.”
Commissioner Ted A. Dierker said that the parking lot would be “a blowout on an existing gem.That’s 800 square feet that’ll never be a dune again.”
Mr. Borselli said that public foot traffic over the dune poses more of a threat than a parking lot, and that “trespassing on private property is an enforcement issue, not an environmental concern.”
Mr. Murphy added that the entrance to the parking lot would be placed between two dunes, and people would not be able to walk over them due to the fence.
“We’d be happy to put a chain or gate there but we knew that would also be an enforcement issue,” he said.
Vice Chairman Courtney F. Bird Jr. summarized the dilemma before the board voted to give Mr. Murphy a continued hearing on November 18.
“Your primary goal is to create parking; ours is to improve the situation of what’s there,” he said. “Maybe what’s missing is taking into account the suggestions of the board so it sounds more like a dune enhancement project than a parking lot.”
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