Barnstable Board of Health Holds Off on Lifting Water Regulations

Barnstable Town Hall.

HYANNIS – The Board of Health in Barnstable has delayed taking action on a proposal to lift interim regulations established to improve water quality until the summer.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to continue a public hearing on the issue until June 25.

The regulations, which limit development in a majority of the town south of Route 6, were put in place a decade ago to restrict nitrogen flow into water resources.

The proposed amendment would lift the restrictions in all areas except the Craigville Beach Zoning District, which is controlled by the Cape Cod Commission.

Chairman of the Board of Health Dr. Paul Canniff recommended the withdrawl of the amendment and the formation of a citizens advisory commission to look into the issue.

Town Manager Mark Ells said the town has made a lot of progress in wastewater management.

“We are trying to protect our natural resources, but we are also trying to balance those other things in our community that have priority such as housing, such as appropriate economic development,” Ells said.

Ells said there have been a lot of misinformed comments about how the town lacks a plan to address wastewater and that the town isn’t doing anything.

“This is constantly an issue in the forefront for our Board of Health and certainly our town management,” Ells said.

Ells and Zenas Crocker, the executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, agreed that everyone has the same goal of having better water quality.

“It’s just a matter of how we get there,” Crocker said.

Crocker said the coalition is supportive of housing and sympathetic to low income, workforce and all housing needs.

“But let’s not spoil things for the next generation,” Crocker said. “It took us over 30 years to get to conditions that we now have in the water shed and the estuaries that we are trying to work towards. So let’s solve those first.”

Crocker said the town is doing a great deal to address water quality issues, but the main focus has been on planning.

Barnstable Town Councilor Jessica Rapp-Grassetti said the proposed amendment is premature.

“This is a misguided attempt to circumvent the well thought out and premeditated estuary overlay protection regulation,” Rapp-Grassetti said.

She said the town lacks a comprehensive water management plan and that the town would jeopardize its ability to meet criteria to receive state revolving funds.

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