Compromise elusive on preserving James Island

COHASSET, MA - 7/31/2015: . A neighborhood opposition to a family's plan to build a house on James Island - a seven acre peninsula sticking into Little Harbor, off Atlantic Avenue in very pricey part of town. Neighbors say the house will ruin the environment. Steinmetz says they don't want their view ruined, and that it won't. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo) SECTION: REGIONAL TOPIC 09socohasset
David L Ryan/Globe Staff file
A view of Cohasset from James Island, a 7-acre peninsula jutting into Little Harbor.

The chairman of Cohasset’s Community Preservation Committee has called a request for $300,000 in public money to help buy James Island in Little Harbor and prevent development there – but with limited parking for public access and no dogs allowed – an example of “nimbyism taken to the extreme.”

“There is no way I would approve this,” Russell Bonetti said after the committee reviewed the proposal in September. The neighbors “pretty much want us to buy the land for them. They want a private playground and they want taxpayers to pay for it. This whole thing is about ‘I don’t want . . . [development] in my backyard,’ ” he said.

Neighbors have been fighting about James Island since 2014, when Cohasset residents John and Jane Steinmetz bought the almost 7-acre peninsula with plans to build a 7,800-square-foot house there. Some area residents objected to the size and location, and, after numerous lawsuits, the Steinmetzes agreed to sell the land for conservation, with the Trust for Public Land working to make that happen.


Neighbors have pledged $1.2 million toward the purchase; the Cohasset Conservation Trust has promised $100,000, and the town was asked to contribute $300,000 of the cost through the Community Preservation fund. The request recently was withdrawn, Bonetti said

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Kelly Bolling of the Trust for Public Land said he had hoped to find a compromise between the neighbors’ concerns about parking and traffic overwhelming James Island and the preservation committee’s desire to make the space as accessible to the public as possible.

“We had our sights on a compromise scenario, whereby four public parking spaces would be provided rather than the originally contemplated two — with leashed dogs permitted — but agreement unfortunately couldn’t be reached on that scenario,” Bolling said in an e-mail.

“Absent some willingness to compromise, I’m afraid James Island will remain mired in litigation and ultimately be developed,” he said.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at