© 2023
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New hurdles confront plans to move home teetering over Ballston Beach dune

Not so fast.

That’s what the Truro Zoning Board of Appeals told homeowners who need to move their home away from a bluff that’s fast eroding on Ballston Beach.

On Monday, the board ruled that the owners of the teetering property will have to seek permission from the town’s building inspector, even as winter storms threaten to further erode the dune and send the house crashing to the beach below.

During a virtual public hearing, the zoning panel considered a plea to relocate the home of Kit and Tom Dennis at 133 South Pamet Road onto an adjacent property also owned by the Dennis family.

The town’s Conservation Commission approved the planned move in August, before a storm earlier this month left the house perched even more precariously.

But ZBA members said they hadn’t been given enough time to consider the specifics of the proposal, which changed somewhat last Friday, and they were concerned about unintended consequences if they allowed two single-family homes to share a lot on the National Seashore.

“Taking into account what [the National Seashore] means to the town of Truro, what it means to the state, what it means to the country, I don’t think the board should be setting a precedent,” said ZBA member Darrell Shedd.

Several board members and Truro residents submitting public comments cited potential implications for septic use, occupancy, and fairness to others in the neighborhood.

“I don’t see any reason why we need to make this house available to rent or be used. We’ve seen the erosion for years that this has been going on,” said Truro resident Janet Worthington. “So, OK, move it back, then deal with the rest, but forget about renting, septic, the rest. It’s unfair to the rest of the community and it’s not good to set precedent this way.”

In response, attorney Ben Zehnder, who’s representing the Dennis family, rolled back his stance. He asked to withdraw the application and said he’d seek emergency authorization from the town’s building inspector to move the house to a temporary spot and then return to the zoning board seeking a long-term solution.

At that point, the board can determine how temporary the new location should be and make a decision about zoning on the property.

The board agreed, and issued a 90-day continuance of the hearing.

“I don’t think we’ve had proper notice for what we’re being asked to decide,” Shedd concluded. “I think the zoning issues are something that should be presented in the future.”

Zehnder says he didn’t expect the meeting to go the way it did.

“I think the hardship for the applicant in not getting this relief is significant,” he said. “If left alone, the house is probably going over the edge.”

While the path ahead remains uncertain, there was universal agreement on that point: the race is on to move the house before the sea claims it.

“It’s going to go into the ocean,” ZBA member Virginia Frazier said, “if we get another storm like we’ve had.”

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.