EASTHAM — After two years of applications and revisions of plans, Willy’s Gym owner Barbara Niggel can expand her self-storage business. The planning board granted her a special permit during a remand hearing on Jan. 19.
Last August, board bember Joe Manas denied Niggel a permit by casting the only vote against her plan to add two storage buildings to the existing four at 4730 State Highway. The four buildings occupy 11,000 square feet. Two new buildings will add 9,600 square feet.
The permit required unanimous approval. Manas said he was opposed because of concern that potential spills of hazardous chemicals could contaminate the town’s water supply. The property is within the Eastham Corridor Special District and groundwater protection overlay district.
A month after that denial, attorney Ben Zehnder, representing Niggel and her companies Goeroe’s Goldens LLC, which owns the land, and Stow Away LLC, the storage business, filed a complaint in Land Court against the planning board, alleging that Manas’s vote was not supported by facts.
In the complaint, Zehnder argued that Niggel’s application had included “a comprehensively engineered system and protocols for addressing potential hazardous material spills.” He also argued that groundwater protection is not a criterion for special permit review in the Eastham Corridor Special District. That, he argued, was a matter for zoning, not planning. Finally, he argued, the possible release of hazardous materials could apply to any type of construction, and so could not be a reason to single out storage units.
The planning board met in executive session on Oct. 20 to negotiate with Zehnder and, according to court documents, agreed to reconsider the case.
“The advantage of the remand is that the case remains under local control, as opposed to the court making decisions without the town being privy to them,” Town Planner Paul Lagg said. “It’s pretty common that the court will refer it back, basically to give both parties another chance to work it out amicably.”
During the remand hearing, Zehnder presented the same proposal that the board rejected last summer. But this time Niggel agreed to 12 conditions stipulated by the planning board.
These include posting a $5,000 bond to ensure compliance with the monitoring and reporting requirements of the special permit. Niggel also agreed to contract for $15,000 worth of landscaping over three years to ensure that plantings around the storage facility take hold. She also agreed to repair and paint the existing storage units.
The two sides also agreed that, should Niggel skip one of several procedures in the building process, the special permit will be revoked. The planning board also reserved the right to “monitor the ongoing construction for compliance with the approved plan.”
Planning board members Craig Nightingale, Peter Weston, William Craig, Brian Early, and Dan Coppelman voted to grant the permit. Dave Hobbs recused himself. He had also recused himself during a May 2021 planning board meeting, attending as an abutter to express concern about water contamination. At a February 2020 ZBA meeting, Hobbs questioned Niggel’s application on the basis of her reputation as the owner of Willy’s World Wellness and Conference Center.
Manas was not present for the Jan. 19 hearing. Asked why he did not participate, he would say only that he could not make the meeting. Town Counsel Carolyn Murray said Manas’s absence was not part of any agreement between the town and Zehnder, nor had she advised him against attending.