The conservation commission agreed to allow the razing of a small, storm-tattered beach cottage this week, but imposed a few conditions on its very tall replacement.
Arlene Wilson, the vice chairman of the commission, also took the opportunity to ask the owner whether he was sure he wanted to rebuild on White Cap Path, which is one of the town’s most vulnerable stretches of beach.
“The project marginally meets the requirements, but in terms of future longevity and investment, it is a terrible idea,” Ms. Wilson said. “Nothing lasts forever, but here [along eroded White Cap Path] forever will be shorter.”
The owner, Pasquale J. Teti, replied that he believes lifting the home on pilings and building a new, sturdier cottage would allow the family and rental tenants enough time to enjoy life at the beach.
“We think it’s worth it for us,” Mr. Teti said simply.
The conservation commission voted unanimously on Wednesday, June 18, to allow the Tetis to demolish the original 20-x-22-foot cottage at 5 White Cap Path and replace it with a slightly larger home.
The new building’s first floor would be 20 feet off the ground—a height mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state, and the town for all new, and replacement housing within a flood zone. The top of the new two-story home will be about 30 feet off the ground.
The conservation commission is concerned about all construction on the fragile barrier beach, especially along the coastal dune, which is within protected wetlands.
The commission is in the process of drafting new, stricter regulations on new and replacement beach buildings.
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Nevertheless, the Tetis will be allowed to rebuild, but with conditions.
The conditions include:
• Replacing the existing pump septic system with a gravity-fed septic system.
• Placing a 12-foot buffer of woody, native, salt-tolerant vegetation on two sides of the house.
• Replacing the existing bluegrass sod with less thirsty fescue grass, which must be watered by hand or with temporary watering devices.
• Moving the entrance to a storage area beneath the house from the ocean side to the street side to cause less disturbance to the surrounding vegetation.
The Tetis’ tiny original gray cottage was knocked off its foundation in March 2018 and condemned by the town. It has been rotting on the beach since then.
The commission’s vote to allow the razing and replacement of the cottage was the last regulatory hurdle Mr. Teti, his wife, Nancy, and their Mashpee-based home designer, Steve Cook, have had to clear in the past few months.
The project was discussed by the planning board, the zoning board of appeals, and the historic district committee. The building inspector, the fire, health, police and building departments, as well as the water district, have also weighed in on the matter.
The reason for all the scrutiny is the house’s location—right in the epicenter of Town Neck Beach’s most vulnerable stretch of sand, and nestled among other cottages.
“In flood zones and on barrier beaches, houses damaged beyond 50 percent of their market value must be replaced with houses that are on pilings—up and out of the flood zone,” Mr. Cook has said. “As more storms come and damage these houses, the more you’ll see the higher elevations.”
The Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee members in March questioned the height of the new home, but because the existing cottage has no historic value, the discussion was brief.
The only serious complaint about the Tetis’ plan came from a neighbor at 61 Freeman Avenue, whose view of the ocean will be obscured by the new home.
“This house will be almost 31 feet in the air,” neighbor Garrett Delaney told the members of the zoning board in March. “It will look like I’m standing on the ground looking at a skyscraper. That’s overbearing.”
But Mr. Delaney apparently changed his mind. At the ConCom meeting Wednesday night, Mr. Delaney said he had no objections.
“I don’t have a problem with anything they’re doing,” Mr. Delaney told the conservation commission.
Homeowners on either side of White Cap Path have been embroiled in a longstanding dispute with nearby neighbors about who can use a right-of-way leading to the beach.
The arguments have subsided since storms last year took away much of the beach and resulted in the placement of fiber embankments—also known as coir envelopes—along the shoreline to stave off further erosion.
The condo owners were following the lead of their immediate neighbors—homeowners who had previously placed such a reef along their adjoining stretch of beach. The fiber logs are secured by steel wire and buried in the sand.
Similar coir systems have been used in other states and are already in use in other Cape Cod towns, including Falmouth and Mashpee.
Mr. Teti is among the condo owners who annually buy and place hundreds of cubic yards of sand in front of their homes hoping to appease Mother Nature.