SBPF Strikes Deal With Select Board To Expand Geotubes In Sconset; Drops Appeal In Superior Court

The Sconset Beach Preservation Fund (SBPF) has reached an agreement with the Select Board to work toward an alternative expansion plan for the controversial erosion-control geotubes installed at the base of the Sconset Bluff. The agreement was announced in a joint statement released Wednesday that also disclosed the SBPF had ended its legal effort to reverse the Conservation Commission’s denial of an earlier plan to expand the geotubes.

“The Town of Nantucket and SBPF plan to work together to develop a shared proposal for moving forward with the geotube expansion based on the insights of the Arcadis report, and concerns and comments during ConCom hearings, as well as the recommendations of the Working Group assembled by the Select Board in the summer of 2020,” the town and SBPF said in the joint statement.

The SBPF filed a motion Wednesday in Nantucket Superior Court to dismiss its appeal of the Conservation Commission’s denial of its permit application to extend the geotubes north and south of the existing 900-foot installation. The SBPF had appealed that decision back in 2019, and the case had been scheduled for a hearing Thursday in Nantucket Superior Court.

The Select Board and the SBPF had been meeting during executive sessions – which are closed to the public – in recent weeks, with respect to ongoing and pending litigation.

“We are pleased to be working again with the Town to establish a sustainable, well-maintained protection system for the Sconset bluff community,” SBPF President Josh Posner said. “As a result there is no need to spend time and money litigating the 2018 application since we will soon be filing an updated application to further our joint efforts.”

The SBPF’s recent appeal of the Conservation Commission’s recent enforcement order to remove the existing geotubes remains pending in Nantucket Superior Court.

D. Anne Atherton, a member of the Nantucket Coastal Conservancy, said the organization had not yet had a chance to convene and review the joint statement from SBPF and the town. Atherton did offer her own personal comment on the news: “The $157,000 special Arcadis Baxter Road Report specifically did not recommend expansion of the geotubes,” she said. “The ConCom has denied expansion of the geotubes. And yet the SB makes deals with a few private property owners on Baxter Road – behind closed doors – to expand the geotubes. What makes Sconset Bluff different? What hold does SBPF have over this Board?  All the while, sadly, our public beach seaward of the geotubes continues to disappear.”

Read the full joint statement below: 

“After months of careful analysis, Arcadis recently released its draft report evaluating the ‘Sconset Beach erosion control project. The assessment of this global engineering firm — engaged at the direction of the Select Board and well regarded for its sustainable designs and focus on natural assets – was that the geotubes are effective and working.

While retreat and moving Baxter Road will be needed eventually per Arcadis findings, it is not possible to know when that will be and, in any event, should occur only after the project stops working as determined by specific triggers. Until then, there are clear and timely benefits in protecting Baxter Road, maintaining access to Sankaty Light and limiting impacts to local infrastructure. The Town of Nantucket and SBPF plan to work together to develop a shared proposal for moving forward with the geotube expansion based on the insights of the Arcadis report, and concerns and comments during ConCom hearings, as well as the recommendations of the Working Group assembled by the Select Board in the summer of 2020.

Therefore, SBPF has agreed to dismiss the current case in Superior Court that challenges the Conservation Commission’s denial of the 2018 expansion plan. This will allow us to focus on quickly developing a new joint application from the Town and SBPF for the project’s expansion. Together, we plan to bring a formal proposal to the Select Board in coming weeks for consideration and are confident that there is a timely, effective way to improve the existing Geotube project which not only protects private homes but the public infrastructure. In fact, this type of public-private partnership will serve as a model for addressing other challenging coastal erosion situations in other parts of the island.”

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