Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules In Favor of Mashpee Oyster Farm

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court today upheld two cases from Barnstable Superior Court that ruled the Town of Mashpee had jurisdiction to award an aquaculture grant to shellfisherman Richard J. Cook.

The two cases pitted more than 20 waterfront homeowners on Popponesset and Daniels Island against the Mashpee Board of Selectmen and the Mashpee Conservation Commission.


The opponents claimed that the board of selectmen did not properly consider safety concerns related to the anchoring of the shellfishing equipment, and that its decision was contrary to local zoning bylaws. 

The arguments against the conservation commission claimed that it reached its decision without adequate deliberation or consideration, and that Mr. Cook’s notice of intent was not detailed enough in regard to wildlife habitat evaluation.

The court also upheld a previous decision that the project was not subject to a threshold mandatory review by the Cape Cod Commission.

The Appeals Court ruled that arguments by the plaintiffs in both cases were “without merit” and “require little discussion.” affirming the previous Barnstable Superior Court judgments for the Town of Mashpee and Mr. Cook.

The grant, which has been vehemently opposed by the homeowner group for nearly four years, has been proposed for a 1.99-acre parcel in Popponesset Bay.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts State Representative Michael A. Costello (D-Newburyport) filed an amendment to the state budget that would designate the aquaculture grant a “special coastal resource sanctuary.” The amendment only referred to longitude and latitude coordinates, and never mentioned “Mashpee” or “Popponesset Bay.”

The amendment and budget were approved through the House of Representatives, but the amendment was not included in the budget presented from the Senate Ways and Means Committee this week. The debate regarding the amendment will now proceed to a joint senate and house conference in the next few weeks, although the local delegation of State Representative David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth), and State Senator Daniel A. Wolf (D-Harwich) have vowed that the amendment will be stripped from the final budget.


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