TRURO — The Ebb Tide on the Bay Condominiums at Beach Point are closer to the water than any of the other Shore Road dwellings around them, and over the last several years the three buildings, comprising six condo units, have suffered damage to their foundations and decks whenever there is a big storm.
It had become a yearly ritual for the owners to seek emergency permits from the Truro Conservation Commission to repair the buildings and to add beach sand to mitigate the potential for future damage. There have even been times when the building commissioner deemed the buildings unsafe.
Then, in 2018, the conservation commission issued a temporary permit for repair work but included in its order of conditions a requirement that the owners come up with a long-term fix.
The Ebb Tide’s condo association spent three years and more than $100,000 working with engineers and wetlands experts to resolve the issue. Then came permitting.
The plan currently making its way through the permitting process calls for demolition of the existing buildings at 538 Shore Road and construction of replacements landward, closer to the road.
The new buildings would be on eight-foot pilings to meet FEMA standards and therefore taller than the originals but still just under the town’s height limit of 30 feet.
The proposal also calls for restoration of the coastal dune — an attempt make the property more resilient.
Both the conservation commission and the board of health support the plan, which includes the installation of an innovative alternative septic system outside the floodplain.
During the planning board’s opening hearings on site plan review in late winter, attorney Christopher Snow, who represents the condominium association, said that the proposal is “100 percent enforcement driven.” Health and Conservation Agent Emily Beebe, who attended most of the hearings, backed that up.
“We required them to get [the buildings] out of the flood zone and elevated, and then we can restore the coastal dune,” Beebe told the planning board. The dune would absorb the wave energy that the condominium buildings are now absorbing.
Beebe called the dune restoration “a bonus for the whole neighborhood,” since it would also provide protection to abutting properties.
Attorney Ben Zehnder attended the planning board hearings on the proposal, which ran from early February to late August, representing Marie Belding and Pat Callinan, who own the A’Lure’N apartments next to the Ebb Tide. Their chief concern is that the new construction will undermine their apartments.
Zehnder questioned a planned reduction of parking spaces for the six units at the Ebb Tide from 12 to 8. Zehnder also said the condo owners were looking to nearly double the square footage in two of the three buildings. One building would go from 883 square feet to 1,681 and the second from 628 square feet to 1,040. Adding space would increase the buildings’ capacity while reducing available parking, he said.
“Lifting the structures is necessary, but adding a story to two buildings is not necessary,” Zehnder said.
Attorney Snow said that the two buildings, each of which include a single condo unit, would increase by a half story, not a full story. The third building, which contains the remaining four units, still have two stories but would be slightly smaller than the original, he said.
Town Planner Barbara Carboni advised the planning board that the project will require a special permit to increase the nonconformity of the structures, which will be a matter for the zoning board of appeals to consider, along with a required variance to reduce parking.
Belding and Callinan are concerned about possible damage to the foundation and walls of their home at 542 Shore Road from vibration during pile-driving. A vibration analysis done by Coastal Engineers concluded that there is a low potential of damage, but the report noted that there is a potential risk of minor architectural and structural damage, such as loosened plaster on interior walls and hairline cracks in the foundation.
The attorneys for the association and the neighbors had been trying to agree on conditions that would satisfy both sides, but Carboni told the planning board at its Aug. 23 meeting that its deliberation was separate from any negotiations between the attorneys.
The board approved the site plan for the Ebb Tide that night on a split vote, 4-3.
“While I have concerns about this project, I think it’s been worked on a lot, and it needs to happen,” said chair Anne Greenbaum, who cast the tie-breaking vote.
The planning board has not finalized its list of conditions, but a draft version includes close monitoring of the vibrations during pile-driving, taking detailed photos of the house at 542 before and after the construction to determine any damage, and restricting pile-driving to between Nov. 1 and Apr. 1.
The project must still secure a special permit authorizing the relocation of buildings with sideline setbacks that don’t meet the town’s minimum. The zoning board of appeals is scheduled to open a hearing on the requests on Oct. 23.