Land Bank Sues Mass Architectural Access Board Over Sidewalk Dispute

David Creed •

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The Nantucket Land Bank filed a lawsuit Friday afternoon against the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board after they declined to issue them a variance from state requirements related to the maintenance of a newly built sidewalk along Easy Street. The sidewalk abuts Nantucket Harbor on one side and Easy Street on the other.

The Land Bank is arguing that following the construction of this sidewalk, they learned that they cannot comply with both state requirements and Nantucket Conservation Commission requirements for maintaining it.

The Nantucket Historical Commission required the Land Bank to use a specific kind of brick while the Conservation Commission required that the bricks be laid within a porous foundation to facilitate sufficient stormwater drainage. The sidewalk settled unevenly after most of the work had been completed, which resulted in a number of bricks exceeding the appropriate height. It also led to cross-slopes in certain areas exceeding two percent.

After a contractor fixed the areas that were non-compliant, recent storm surge inundated the area with coastal flooding, which resulted in additional instances of non-compliance. The Land Bank says in the suit that following this storm surge, 614 square feet of brick out of the 12,754 square foot project area does not comply with surface and/or cross-slope requirements. A Land Bank consultant found that the cost of complying with these surface and cross-slope requirements would be approximately $29,000 each time an action is required, which will be at least once per year given how much the area is subject to flooding on an annual basis.

The Land Bank filed an application for variance from these requirements and a hearing was held on August 8. The board decided to grant the Land Bank’s application on only some of the requirements with conditions such as a civil engineer or licensed land surveyor will inspect the site every six months to ensure compliant cross slopes and that the petitioner will immediately remediate any cross slopes exceeding 4 percent and bring them back into compliance

The Land Bank is now asking the court to vacate the board’s decision and require the board to grant the Land Bank an unconditional variance from these requirements given the frequency in which they would have to pay for a contractor to bring them back up to code.

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