NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 15, 2013

State blocks rebuilding of Plum Island home

NEWBURY — Officials of the state Department of Environmental Protection have filed a “notice of intervention” to temporarily block the building of a house on storm-ravaged Fordham Way on Plum Island.

Harry Trout, whose home had been at 36 Fordham Way, had filed tentative plans with the town’s Conservation Commission to build a house there to replace the structure that was demolished following recent storms.

But state DEP officials have availed themselves of a clause that permits the agency to intercede in the planning of construction on the vulnerable oceanside area.

Trout, reached yesterday, said, “I don’t want to comment because this is such a sensitive issue. But we will be meeting with the DEP next week, and we’ll find out if they are going to make it hard or easy to rebuild.”

The move marks what some islanders see as a change in the relations between the state agency and islanders.

This past winter, as erosion slowly ate away at the dunes along Annapolis Way, the agency came under fire from islanders who accused it of using delay tactics against homeowners who wanted to protect their beachfront houses. Then came the devastating March nor’easter, which destroyed six homes and left a half-mile stretch of beach heavily eroded and numerous homes imperiled.

After that storm, the accusations against the DEP became far more intense and heated, and drew statewide attention.

In response, the DEP allowed islanders to dump hundreds of large rocks and tons of sand along the dune with no interference. And at a public meeting that drew over 100 people, top DEP officials said they would work cooperatively with islanders to navigate the regulatory process of rebuilding homes. The meeting was held in an effort to broker a new era of closer cooperation between the state agency, town officials and islanders.

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