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Board of Appeals



Applicant: Trustees of the Hingham Bathing Beach

Property Owner: Trustees under Deed of Trust, dated November 21, 1916, registered with the Plymouth County Registry District of the Land Court as Document No. 936

Premises/Property: 0 Otis Street (Assessors Map 50 Lot 51)
Hingham, MA 02043

Title Reference: Certificate of Title No. 5167 issued by the Plymouth County Registry District of the Land Court

Plan Reference: Plan set entitled, "Hingham Beach Restoration, Town of Hingham, MA," prepared by Polaris Consultants LLC, Quincy, MA, dated February 6, 2015, Sheets C1 - C-7


This matter came before the Board of Appeals (the "Board") on the application from the Trustees of the Hingham Bathing Beach (the "Applicant") for a Special Permit A1 under § III-C of the Zoning By-Law (the "By-Law") and such other relief as necessary to implement a beach restoration project through construction of a buried gravity block seawall in the floodplain at 0 Otis Street in the Official and Open Space District.

The Board of Appeals heard the application at a duly advertised and noticed public hearing on Wednesday, September 16, 2015. The Board of Appeals panel consisted of its regular members Joseph W. Freeman, Acting Chair, and W. Tod McGrath, and associate member Michael Mercurio. The Applicant was represented during the hearing by the project engineer, Michael F. Clark, Polaris Consultants LLC, and Alan Perrault, Bathing Beach Trustee.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board voted unanimously to grant the requested Special Permit A1 under § III-C of the By-Law to implement a beach restoration project on the Premises through construction of a buried gravity block seawall in the floodplain.


The subject property consists of approximately 6 acres of land, which serves as a bathing beach and recreational picnic area. The Hingham Farmer's Market also operates from the property's existing 185-space parking lot on a temporary, seasonal basis on Saturdays from May to November.

The property is located within FEMA Flood Zone VE 14 according to the 2012 Flood Insurance Rate Maps incorporated into § III-C and Zoning Map Part B of the By-Law. As of August 2015, FEMA approved a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) sponsored by the Town. The LOMR adjusted the flood map designation in this area to Zone AE 10, though Town Meeting has not yet adopted the revised maps. The property also includes Coastal Beach, Coastal Bank, and Land Subject to Coastal Storm Flowage resource areas. As such, the Conservation Commission reviewed the project and issued its Order of Conditions in July 2014.

During the hearing, the Applicant described the project as a coastal resiliency plan designed to protect existing public infrastructure at the Bathing Beach. The beach and associated parking area have experienced significant storm damage in recent years. The proposed project will improve flood protection by removing more than 12,000 SF of pavement along the Coastal Bank. The parking area will be moved approximately 10-50' landward while maintaining the existing number of spaces through reconfiguration of the layout. A buried gravity block seawall will be will be located seaward of the modified parking area in an effort to protect the lot during significant storms. The base of the wall will be approximately 5' wide and consists of 4 layers. The waterside face will have an architectural surface in case it is exposed in the future. An engineered dune will be created at the edge of pavement and the bank and beach beyond will be regraded to mimic the natural profile of the beach. Beach grass and shrubs will then be planted to stabilize the bank. Access to the beach will be maintained through the dune over a rollout walkway in two locations.

The Board asked about maintenance of the dune and plantings, particularly following storm events. The Applicant confirmed that there is a Beach Management Plan in place to replace these features as needed. According to the Plan, the DPW will likely need to replace sand that migrates from the beach to the boat ramp area once or twice a year. The Applicant represented that the proposed work is part of a multiphase project that started with revetment work last year and will tie into the eventual boardwalk envisioned for the Harbor.

The proposed work also requires approval from the Planning Board. The Applicant filed a Special Permit A3 and related Site Plan Review applications with the Planning Board to request relief related to the parking lot reconfiguration. The Planning Board is scheduled to hear these applications on September 21, 2015.


Based on the information submitted and presented during the hearing, the Board made the following findings:

a. The proposed use will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the Zoning By-Law, for the following reasons:
The property is presently used as a recreational beach, picnic area, and seasonal farmers market. The project will prevent further erosion and flooding of the parking lot which supports these allowed uses within the Official and Open Space District.

b. The proposed use complies with the purposes and standards of the relevant specific sections of this By-Law, for the following reasons:
The proposed buried gravity block seawall and associated improvements to the beach system and parking lot complies with the relevant specific purposes of the By-Law in that it protects the existing recreational use of the property. The proposed use is not unsuitable because of drainage conditions.

c. The specific site is an appropriate location for such use, structure, or condition, compatible with the characteristics of the surrounding area, for the following reasons:

The proposed block seawall structure will be sited to protect the public parking lot from erosion. With the addition of a constructed sand dune on top of the seawall it is compatible with the characteristics of the surrounding area in that it will mimic a natural dune system.

d. The use as developed and operated will create positive impacts or potential adverse impacts will be mitigated, for the following reasons:
The proposed use will create positive impacts in terms of flood protection. No adverse impacts are expected.

e. There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians, for the following reasons:
The existing parking lot will be reconfigured and circulation through the lot will be improved by elimination of existing dead ends within the parking area.

f. Adequate and appropriate facilities exist or will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use, for the following reasons:

Fencing is proposed to keep people off the dune system while maintaining secure access to the beach. A Beach Management Plan is in place to re-nourish the beach as needed.

g. The proposed Project meets accepted design standards and criteria for the functional design of facilities, structures, stormwater management, and site construction, for the following reasons:
The proposed project meets accepted design standards.


Upon a motion made by W. Tod McGrath and seconded by Michael Mercurio, the Board of Appeals voted unanimously to GRANT the Special Permit A1 under §III-C of the By-Law to allow implementation of a beach restoration project through construction of a buried gravity block seawall in the floodplain at 0 Otis Street in the Official and Open Space District, subject to the following conditions:

1. The proposed work shall be completed in accordance with the approved plans and representations made during the hearing.

This decision shall not take effect until a copy of the decision bearing the certification of the Town Clerk, that twenty (20) days have elapsed since the decision has been filed in the office of the Town Clerk and no appeal has been filed, or that if such appeal has been filed, that it has been dismissed or denied, is recorded with the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds and/or the Plymouth County Land Court Registry, and indexed in the grantor index under the name of the record owner or is recorded and noted on the owner’s certificate of title.

For the Board of Appeals,

Joseph W. Freeman
September 30, 2015