WELLFLEET — The owners of a mansion teetering on the edge of a dune near Great Island won approval from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to construct a 241-foot-long rock revetment to shore up the structure, despite opposition from the town and the Cape Cod National Seashore.
The DEP approval does not, however, mean the wall can be built. There is still a pending court case between the Wellfleet Conservation Commission and Mark and Barbara Blasch, the owners of 1440 Chequessett Neck Road. That case hinges on the town’s Wetlands Protection Bylaw, which holds each project to much stricter environmental standards than the state law, said Wellfleet Town Administrator Dan Hoort.
The foundation of the 5,817-square-foot Blasch house was less than 25 feet from the edge of a dune last year when the owners asked for permission to construct the rock revetment. The conservation commission denied their request, arguing that “armoring of the property is likely to lead to significant erosion. … The land to the south is a sand dune which protects Wellfleet Harbor. It is a thin strip of barrier beach composed of dunes which are constantly eroding and being replenished with new sand brought to the dune by both wind and wave action. Any interruption of the natural flow of sand (even with replenishment) and any increased rate of erosion and sand loss threatens the sand spit and ultimately Wellfleet Harbor’s protective barrier.”
The DEP’s Sept. 12 granting of a superseding order of conditions to allow the construction is contrary to the agency’s own stated philosophy.
“Normally, we prefer to keep it natural, with sand and plants,” said Edmund Coletta, DEP spokesman. “It’s not very often you want a permanent hard structure.”
In this case, however, the DEP found the applicant demonstrated that there was no other method of protecting the building and that the wall will be constructed to “minimize adverse effects on adjacent or nearby coastal beaches due to changes in wave action,” according to the decision.
John Cumbler, a member of the Wellfleet Conservation Commission, said he was “very surprised” the DEP issued the approval.
“I thought we made a very solid environmental argument,” Cumbler said.
Hoort said there was no point appealing the DEP’s decision, but the town holds out hope it will prevail in court.