The Tisbury Board of Health has declined a request from a local realtors association to reconsider its new nitrogen regulations, sticking with their intentions of improving water quality in Lake Tashmoo and Lagoon Pond by upgrading backyard septic systems.
The Cape Cod and Islands Realtors Association sent a letter to the board earlier this month suggesting that the new rules will target one of the few, relatively affordable locations on the Island, and that the regulations will ultimately make Tisbury more expensive.
“The average priced home that sold in these areas over the last year was $1.5 million — well below the island’s average of $2.2 million,” the letter from the association reads. “This action quite simply makes the more attainable properties in Tisbury more unaffordable.”
The Tisbury board of health regulations — which the board voted through in September — are scheduled to go into effect in the beginning of 2024, and would impact some 1,500 properties near Tashmoo and the Lagoon.
Under the revised regulations, the buyer or seller of a home would be required to install nitrogen-removing technology — often called innovative alternative systems or I/A systems. The technology can be quite expensive, as much as $50,000 as some in the inspection field say.
In the letter, the association asks that the board not require the new technology when a property is transferred. They want the board to require the upgrade only when a system has failed. That requirement is already in Tisbury’s current nitrogen regulations.
“As an Association, supporting clean water infrastructure is a significant priority of our advocacy work,” the letter states. “We are writing to ask you to reconsider a portion of your new regulation, as your reconsideration will help with year-round home affordability and also maintain our common goals for clean water.”
Health board members at a Tuesday, Nov. 14, meeting said that they would “politely decline” the Association’s request.
Member Jeff Pratt said that their regulations do not supersede anything that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has considered. MassDEP recently set new sensitive watershed regulations for Cape Cod that will require towns with impaired coastal waterways to apply for 20-year, nitrogen mitigation permits. Plans would have to address the nitrogen pollution coming from backyard septic systems.
For towns that fail to do so, the homeowners within the impaired watersheds will be required to install innovative-alternative septic systems within five years. And health board members Tuesday agreed that the same regulations were likely planned for Martha’s Vineyard as well.
Pratt said that the Tisbury health board’s regulations going into effect are essentially a 20-year plan to remove nitrogen from the Lagoon and Tashmoo watersheds. Homeowners, he said, will have to pay for the upgrade eventually, whether now or within 20 years.
The board voted unanimously to send a letter to the realtors association suggesting it would pass on their recommendation.