PROPRIETORS-1.jpg

A view Thursday of the Proprietor's Lodge on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield. The planned 12-slip marina approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection would be pinned seasonally to the lake bottom in the area to the right in this photograph. 

PITTSFIELD — Residents who oppose a planned Pontoosuc Lake marina are fighting to overturn state permission, arguing that the project is too big, not in the public interest and would harm the environment and hamper access to navigable waters.

In July, Eric Taylor won a provisional 30-year waterways license from the state Department of Environmental Protection to float a 12-slip marina behind the Proprietor’s Lodge at 22 Waubeek Road. A pre-hearing on the appeal has been set for September, followed by a full hearing in January. A spokesperson for the group that filed the appeal declined to comment before the January hearing. The lead appellant is Robert Pensivy, of 65 Waubeek Road. The DEP’s Division of Wetlands and Waterways granted the license July 20 to Taylor, a Hinsdale resident who owns Pontoosuc Lake Properties LLC. His Waubeek Road property is the site of the former ITAM Lodge. Neighbors in the tightknit lakeside community have contested earlier moves by Taylor related to lodge parking and use of outdoor music. They fault “spot zoning” in the past for allowing commercial activity in an area of narrow streets on the lake’s south shore. In its appeal, the group says the marina would jut out into water commonly used for boating on what they say is the lake’s busiest area, “shrinking the navigational passageway between island and shoreline considerably.”

In its approval, the DEP found that the proposed marina “will not result in significant interference creating demonstrable navigational safety considerations,” even while granting that the facility would affect how boaters now use the lake. Not so, neighbors say in their appeal. “The proposed marina will most certainly result in significant interference, change and [alter] the navigational pattern of the Great Pond ....” On top of that, the appeal suggests that the busy area will become even more congested. It warns of cross traffic “for boats heading in and out of the southern point from the only boating channel and boat launch area. … Moored boats will block passage as they wait to enter/exit [the] proposed marina, compromising the safety of public right-of-way recreational use.” The lake, a state Great Pond, already is “overcrowded and taxed,” the opponents say, with five other marinas operating and current enforcement of boating laws inadequate, in their view. Though Taylor’s application described a dock structure measuring 1,145 square feet, opponents claim that misrepresents the project’s possible impact, arguing that far more of the lake would be affected.

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An aerial view of the Proprietor's Lodge in Pittsfield, looking out onto Pontoosuc Lake.

“This application in fact hands over more than 4,000 square feet of water real estate to ‘one applicant’ to monopolize, thereby forfeiting the rights of the public at large to use for recreational activities,” the appeal says. Allowing the marina, the filing says, would violate the public trust doctrine — “a legal [principle] that dates back to the Colonial times, that the air, the sea and the shore belong not to any one person, but rather the public at large.” The appeal repeatedly cites the 2,000-year-old public trust doctrine, concluding that it “would be wholly unjustified to suit the rights of ‘one’ rather than the people as a whole or the ‘greater good of all.’”

Dock diagram for Proprietor's Lodge

This diagram shows the scale of the dock system planned for a marina at the Proprietor's Lodge in Pittsfield. The proposal has a provisional license from the state Department of Environmental Protection, but it is being appealed. 

Opponents also say the DEP failed to take into account that the marina would be located not in a cove, but along “a rocky shoreline … with difficult weather conditions particularly at this southern point.” The filing claims that northeast winds along the lake’s southern shore create rough waters that make navigation difficult. The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen had asked the DEP to deny the marina license, saying it would disturb fishing lanes on the lake. The project also was opposed by the Pittsfield Conservation Commission. In an interview last month, Taylor said the marina would enable him to bring people to the lodge from his other business on Pontoosuc, the Lake House Guest Cottages on the eastern shore in Lanesborough. He said that would fulfill his original business plan. If the license is upheld, the dock would be pinned seasonally to the lake bottom behind the lodge, linked to a concrete abutment near the new “ceremony spot” Taylor constructed after opening the property in September 2018. The DEP license requires that two slips be kept available for nonmotorized boats. Further, it says the dock must allow public access during the day.

PROPRIETORS-1.jpg

A view Thursday of the Proprietor's Lodge on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield. The planned 12-slip marina approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection would be pinned seasonally to the lake bottom in the area to the right in this photograph. 

PITTSFIELD — Residents who oppose a planned Pontoosuc Lake marina are fighting to overturn state permission, arguing that the project is too big, not in the public interest and would harm the environment and hamper access to navigable waters.

In July, Eric Taylor won a provisional 30-year waterways license from the state Department of Environmental Protection to float a 12-slip marina behind the Proprietor’s Lodge at 22 Waubeek Road.

A pre-hearing on the appeal has been set for September, followed by a full hearing in January.

A spokesperson for the group that filed the appeal declined to comment before the January hearing. The lead appellant is Robert Pensivy, of 65 Waubeek Road.

The DEP’s Division of Wetlands and Waterways granted the license July 20 to Taylor, a Hinsdale resident who owns Pontoosuc Lake Properties LLC. His Waubeek Road property is the site of the former ITAM Lodge.

Neighbors in the tightknit lakeside community have contested earlier moves by Taylor related to lodge parking and use of outdoor music. They fault “spot zoning” in the past for allowing commercial activity in an area of narrow streets on the lake’s south shore.

In its appeal, the group says the marina would jut out into water commonly used for boating on what they say is the lake’s busiest area, “shrinking the navigational passageway between island and shoreline considerably.”

In its approval, the DEP found that the proposed marina “will not result in significant interference creating demonstrable navigational safety considerations,” even while granting that the facility would affect how boaters now use the lake.

Not so, neighbors say in their appeal. “The proposed marina will most certainly result in significant interference, change and [alter] the navigational pattern of the Great Pond ....”

On top of that, the appeal suggests that the busy area will become even more congested. It warns of cross traffic “for boats heading in and out of the southern point from the only boating channel and boat launch area. … Moored boats will block passage as they wait to enter/exit [the] proposed marina, compromising the safety of public right-of-way recreational use.”

The lake, a state Great Pond, already is “overcrowded and taxed,” the opponents say, with five other marinas operating and current enforcement of boating laws inadequate, in their view.

Though Taylor’s application described a dock structure measuring 1,145 square feet, opponents claim that misrepresents the project’s possible impact, arguing that far more of the lake would be affected.

PROPRIETORS-2.jpg

An aerial view of the Proprietor's Lodge in Pittsfield, looking out onto Pontoosuc Lake.

“This application in fact hands over more than 4,000 square feet of water real estate to ‘one applicant’ to monopolize, thereby forfeiting the rights of the public at large to use for recreational activities,” the appeal says. Allowing the marina, the filing says, would violate the public trust doctrine — “a legal [principle] that dates back to the Colonial times, that the air, the sea and the shore belong not to any one person, but rather the public at large.”

The appeal repeatedly cites the 2,000-year-old public trust doctrine, concluding that it “would be wholly unjustified to suit the rights of ‘one’ rather than the people as a whole or the ‘greater good of all.’”

Dock diagram for Proprietor's Lodge

This diagram shows the scale of the dock system planned for a marina at the Proprietor's Lodge in Pittsfield. The proposal has a provisional license from the state Department of Environmental Protection, but it is being appealed. 

Opponents also say the DEP failed to take into account that the marina would be located not in a cove, but along “a rocky shoreline … with difficult weather conditions particularly at this southern point.” The filing claims that northeast winds along the lake’s southern shore create rough waters that make navigation difficult.

The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen had asked the DEP to deny the marina license, saying it would disturb fishing lanes on the lake. The project also was opposed by the Pittsfield Conservation Commission.

In an interview last month, Taylor said the marina would enable him to bring people to the lodge from his other business on Pontoosuc, the Lake House Guest Cottages on the eastern shore in Lanesborough. He said that would fulfill his original business plan.

If the license is upheld, the dock would be pinned seasonally to the lake bottom behind the lodge, linked to a concrete abutment near the new “ceremony spot” Taylor constructed after opening the property in September 2018.

The DEP license requires that two slips be kept available for nonmotorized boats. Further, it says the dock must allow public access during the day.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.