Friends of Bassing Beach are filing a lawsuit asking the court to review land tenure rights.
The city of Scituate, Massachusetts, is taking heat to plan to rent tidal flats to private mussel farmers in Briggs Harbor for their exclusive use. A group of homeowners called Friends of Bassing Beach filed a lawsuit against Scituate and the thirteen people applying for permits in May, asking the judge to rule over ownership of the tidal flats where the oyster farms are operated.
The plan has been in progress since the fall of 2018 when Jamie Davenport, owner of a commercial clam operation in East Dennis, reached out to the chosen few with the proposal. During the negotiations, the city cemented plans to rent 15 acres in Briggs Harbor to private companies and individuals. However, neighbors, nearby Cohasset and Cohasset residents, boaters and recreational groups had problems with this. Local sailing enthusiasts were the first to oppose the plan because they feared it would disturb the boaters. Anyone who would like to use the water for recreation like in the last 100 years no longer has access to it. They got together to start the Friends of Bassing Beach and bought land along the coast in mid-April.
Photo by Matthew Essman on Unsplash
“There is some confusion about who can enjoy the territory and when,” said attorney Martin Gaynor, who represents Friends of Bassing Beach. “Where these properties are actually located was not exactly described. They used sticky notes to mark them up. “
He added that residents “believe it has a superior title or better claim to the land, which is decided in its chartered research. We also independently assess where the low and high water marks are to demonstrate what clearly belongs to the city. “
District court judge Diane Rubin said the Bassing Beach landowners have the right to let the court determine ownership and it is warranted to file a filing as it is reasonable for them to seek clarification before the project begins .
The Friends of Bassing Beach petitions website states: “Applicants were screened by the Shellfish Advisory Commission during an improperly closed session of the Executive Board before being referred to the Board of Selectmen who took no action. The Attorney General found that the Advisory Commission was violating the Open Sessions Act and ordered them to revise and release the minutes of the improperly closed session. “
“It sounds like the city didn’t understand the property rights when they put them out for advertising,” said Rubin. The attorney representing the agricultural petitioners named in the lawsuit, John Danehey, filed a motion for dismissal under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP law, which made it a defendant who believes he was targeting his right Application for dismissal should exercise at the beginning of the proceedings.
Danehey said his clients should never have been named in an argument because they simply wanted to use a program that was introduced to them. Rubin replied that plaintiffs should not have to pay the costs of litigation and urged the court to keep costs down. Gaynor confirmed that he will try to minimize their involvement.
Opponents are suing to prevent Scituate from allowing mussel farming
Landowners are suing Scituate over the proposed oyster farming project
Petition against oyster farming in Cohasset & Briggs Harbor and the area known as Bassing Beach
Massachusetts Law on Anti-SLAPP