Local options for pier opponents dried up, Town Counsel explains

Oct 4, 2021

MARION — Town Counsel Jon Witten sank boaters’ arguments that the town’s Planning Board should reopen talks on a pier in Wings Cove at an Oct. 4 meeting. But opponents of the pier can still reach out to the state with grievances.

A group of Wings Cove boaters once again appeared before the Planning Board to argue against a special permit granted to Michael Vareika in March for a pier and dock on his property at 122 Register Road.

Boaters contended that the pier, which is set to jut around 50 feet into the water, would cross over a part of the cove they say is vital to navigation.

But, Witten explained, there exists a strict, 20-day appeal period for issued special permits, which passed in late March.

“It forecloses on any ability to appeal the special permit,” Witten said.

As boaters began presenting possible scenarios for a rehash of the pier by the Planning Board, including claims that some abutters were never notified of the March public hearing, Witten explained that there is no recourse once the appeal period passes.

Even a planned 30-foot reduction of the pier, which would reduce its extension into the cove from the approved-in-March 80 feet to the currently-planned 50 feet, is not enough for the Planning Board to reopen talks on the plans on its own.

“If the applicant wants to reduce the length he can do that without coming to us,” Planning Board member Norm Hills said.

While Witten said a revised plan for the pier is preferable, it’s up to the applicant to resubmit those plans to the board.

“We’d want the as-built to match the Planning Board’s decision, but that is driven by the applicant.”

Despite opponents’ ongoing search for more alterations to the pier, including a further reduction in size and reorientation of the pier’s planned floating dock from perpendicular to parallel to the shore, boaters and the town have begun to work together to find solutions for users of the cove.

“The whole group felt a spirit of cooperation,” said Christopher Madden, acting as a representative for the pier’s opponents in reference to a Sept. 30 meeting between boaters and town officials.

Still, Madden noted that, as it is currently planned, the pier “transects public perception” of where is safe to navigate in the cove, crossing into heavily trafficked areas.

Madden said that the group began to work with Harbormaster Isaac Perry on solutions that would allow boaters to better navigate the cove. One such solution will be rock markers that should aid boaters in identifying dangerous areas of the cove.

Additionally, Perry noted at the Oct. 4 meeting that while there were rocks in the north side of the cove, its most easily navigated parts are in the middle.

“The deeper portion of the cove was pretty much directly in the center,” he said.

Madden explained that he and other boaters have been unsuccessful in reaching out to Vareika, founder and president of the construction company hired to renovate the Marion Town House.

Despite the Planning Board’s inability to relitigate the pier’s approval, Acting Chair Eileen Marum noted that community members can still reach out to the Department of Environmental Protection, as the project has not yet received state approval through Chapter 91.

“That would be my advice: Contact the DEP,” Marum said.