The tale of a 100-foot stormwater drain that caused an ocean of discontent is rolling toward a happy ending.
“I’m pleased with the way this is going and gratified that a resolution is on the way,” said John Nye Cullity, spokesman for the Nye family, whose ancient homestead surrounds the controversial swale on Old County Road.
The town engineering department, which installed the drainage system in 2016 during a repaving project, also seemed pleased this week—pleased that the roiled waters have calmed.
“We do want to be good neighbors,” said Assistant Town Engineer Samuel Jensen. “The new plan closely resembles the former road shoulder but still provides water quality improvement.”
Mr. Jensen was referring to a compromise plan drawn up by engineering firm Horsley Witten Group, which came up with a new design at the behest of the board of selectmen and Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham.
Town officials stepped in after Mr. Cullity and his neighbors voiced their objections to the swale to state environmental officials and local advisory boards.
Last summer, the Nye family complained that the public works department had installed the 100-foot swale without first seeking approval from the conservation commission. But there were other issues.
Besides being unsightly, the neighbors complained that the swale posed a danger to environmentally sensitive nearby waterways and to people trying to walk along the narrow road. Moreover, the ditch made parking impossible for visitors to the Nye homestead.
Town Engineer Paul Tilton said at the time that the swale was an efficient drainage system that protected the nearby waterways by catching and directing runoff before it reached the ponds.
The matter was heard after the fact by the conservation commission last summer. The commission voted to support the swale.
In the months following the vote, many other voices joined the chorus of objection, including those of the Sandwich Historical Commission and some of the selectmen.
Outgoing selectman R. Patrick Ellis went to bat for the Nye family at his final selectmen’s meeting last spring, telling his colleagues the town’s placement of a swale alongside a scenic road was unnecessary and, worse, disrespectful to the clan of early settlers.
Susan James, chairman of the board of selectmen, asked Mr. Tilton to study alternative solutions and bring the matter back to the selectmen at some point.
Mr. Tilton, in turn, asked Horsley Witten to look into the matter.
Horsley Witten, which works with government agencies and nonprofit organizations on environmentally sensitive projects, has served as a consultant to Sandwich on a number of other projects.
The consultant has suggested an alternative system for draining runoff that puddles alongside Old County Road after heavy rain. The new design allows runoff to drain through grass, crushed stone, and perforated pipe that blends with its surroundings and does not inhibit cars and pedestrians, Mr. Cullity said.
Mr. Jensen said the matter is tentatively scheduled to be heard by the conservation commission next week. He added, however, that the hearing could be postponed because the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife may also want to review the design.