TRURO — Before the last two winter storms on Jan. 17 and Jan. 29, the dune at 133 South Pamet Road had been eroding steadily, losing on average of 2.8 feet per year, according to Tom Dennis of Springfield, owner of the property. But this year brought what he called an “epic occurrence.” The two storms gnawed off 54 feet of the bluff overlooking Ballston Beach.
That spelled doom for the “Boathouse,” one of the nine houses in Truro that Dennis and his wife, Kathleen, own.
Dennis hustled to secure a permit to move the house. The rescue began on Wednesday, Feb. 2 after Carol Girard-Irwin, chair of the Truro Conservation Commission, issued an emergency certification allowing Dennis’s contractors to move the house off the pilings holding the house up and onto temporary cribbing on the abutting lot at 127 South Pamet Road. The Dennises bought that property from Cape Rental LLC on Dec. 17.
“It was a pretty frantic 10 days,” Dennis told the conservation commission on Feb. 7 before the group ratified the emergency permit. With the Boathouse now pulled back from the edge, he and his contractors have “hit a pause button” for now, he said.
The town’s emergency approval, however, comes with several conditions and deadlines. The Boathouse can stay on its cribbing for 12 weeks. During that time, Dennis must secure relief from the zoning board of appeals, which will determine conditions for the building’s permanent siting and use, said Barbara Carboni, the town planner and land use counsel.
Within 30 days of receiving the emergency certification, Dennis must submit revised plans and requests for relief, including “all information necessary for the ZBA to render a decision,” Carboni told the Independent in an email.
If the ZBA doesn’t grant relief, Dennis may be on the hook to relocate the Boathouse once more or to modify the structure. Meanwhile, the house can’t be used until the building commissioner issues a new occupancy permit.
Dennis said Monday he is aiming to have his plan ready within two weeks. Another detail to iron out: how to reconfigure the two houses already located at 127 South Pamet Road now that the Boathouse has become the third structure on that lot.
While the 133 and 127 South Pamet properties are abutting lots under common ownership, they “remain separate for purposes of zoning,” Carboni said.
Three pilings remain embedded in the sand; Dennis must have those removed by Feb. 28. “With the equipment that we had this past week,” Dennis told the commission, “it was going to be way too disruptive to the dune.
“And frankly,” he added, “they’re also serving as a little bit of guard. We ran some tape between those and the edge of the dune, just to make sure people were aware of the edge there, which has moved quite a bit.”
The commission commended Dennis for the swift action and for his follow-through on cleaning up. The Jan. 29 blizzard had strewn all sorts of debris along Ballston Beach, including electrical wires, PVC pipe, and the Boathouse’s septic tank (which Dennis had pumped out before the storm hit).
“I was very impressed with the cribbing, the support of the structure, and the cleanliness of the site once it was all done,” said Bob White, a commission member.