The Bourne Planning Board chose not to endorse a plan for division of property on Megansett Road being sold by the Animal Rescue League of Boston. The planned division will become certified in 21 days, but without the support of board members.

The property located at 55 Megansett Road in Cataumet is under a purchase and sales agreement between the Animal Rescue League and Cape Club Building Inc. of Sharon. The developer submitted a plan to divide the 18 acres into eight one-acre lots and one 10-acre lot.

The proposed division of the property initially went before the planning board on May 27. The applicant requested endorsement of their plan for dividing the land under Section 81P of Massachusetts state law.

Section 81P says if a development meets all zoning regulations, such as required frontage and access, and does not trigger subdivision control laws, then the board must give its endorsement, without a public hearing, as “approval under the subdivision control law not required,” or ANR. The planned property division, as filed with the town planning department, meets all zoning requirements.

Endorsement of a plan as ANR does not translate to approval of plans for construction on any one of the lots. Definitive building plans have to be presented to and approved by the planning board at a later date.

The May 27 meeting was long and contentious, with representatives of the applicant arguing the board was obligated to endorse under 81P and residents speaking out in firm opposition to the plan. The issue was continued to a special meeting of the board on Monday, June 7.

Late last week, the Bourne Conservation Trust announced it had reached a preliminary agreement to buy the 55 Megansett Road property from Cape Club Building. Monday night, Cape Club Building’s attorney, Robert M. Shelmerdine, declined to discuss details but confirmed that his client is in serious negotiations with the Trust.

“It’s not a 100 percent done deal,” Mr. Shelmerdine said, “but the conversations and discussions are absolutely serious.”

During Monday’s meeting, it was pointed out that, under Section 81P, if the planning board chooses to take no action on the application for ANR endorsement, after 21 days, the Town Clerk must certify the plan. Some residents suggested that the purchase and sales agreement between the Animal Rescue League and Cape Club Building contains a codicil that requires planning board endorsement.

Mr. Shelmerdine refuted that claim. “It is absolutely irrelevant,” he said.

Maureen York of Cataumet read from a section of the sales agreement that stated that Cape Club Building was responsible for “obtaining an endorsement and unconditional approval from the Bourne planning board to a reportable plan, pending closing.”

“Doesn’t that mean there would have to be unconditional approval, not just certification?” she asked.

Mr. Shelmerdine explained that the section addressed the buyer’s due diligence and listed items the buyer had the right to do. Obtaining ANR status endorsement from the planning board, he said, is “not a condition of the agreement to sell or a condition of the agreement to buy.”

Questions were also raised as to whether a majority of the board members in attendance was necessary for a valid vote, either positive or negative, or whether a majority of the board membership had to vote. Chairman Daniel L. Doucette said that historically the board has accepted a simple majority of the members present. Cataumet resident John E. York argued that a vote required a majority of the membership.

Members agreed that the rules governing votes taken by the planning board are ambiguous.

Member Elmer I. Clegg pointed out that Cape Club Building had property at both 55 and 96 Megansett Road targeted for development, a total of 21 acres. The homes that would be built on all that land, he said, would hold septic systems leaching into Squeteague Harbor that would damage wildlife habitat and be disastrous for the harbor.

Mr. Clegg said that, historically, ANR status was established for small development projects that might not require full evaluation by the planning board. Development of the size Cape Club Building has in mind, he said, should have to go through a full evaluation by the board and not be allowed to bypass scrutiny.

The board has a right to resist, Mr. Clegg said, and his way to resist will be to abstain from voting on the application for ANR status. The developer may get approval by the town clerk after the 21-day review period ends, he said, “but let him get it without expression of support from this board.”

No board member made a motion to approve or deny the ANR application. The meeting was adjourned with no action taken, so that approval will be granted in 21 days but without the board’s endorsement.

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