State Environmental Agency OKs Cohasset Couple’s Controversial Dream Home

A detente in the battle of James Island?

Photograph by Robert Paniconi for "The Battle of James Island"

John Steinmetz. Photograph by Robert Paniconi for “The Battle of James Island

The long, bitter struggle for a craggy peninsula in the middle of Cohasset’s Inner Little Harbor may soon reach its conclusion.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has ruled in favor of lawyer couple John and Jane Steinmetz, who wish to build their roughly 7,800-square-foot dream home on the 6.7-acre, waterfront property, purchased in September 2014 for $1.2 million.

“I was absolutely thrilled,” Steinmetz says. “I knew our project had no adverse environmental impact, and I’m very happy that the DEP took the time to go through this, look at every point, and agree that there’s no adverse environment impact from our project.”

The town’s Conservation Commission has twice blocked the project over the proposed driveway’s proximity to the harbor’s fragile wetlands. After peppering the town with legal complaints, Steinmetz—a BU-educated litigation lawyer turned stay-at-home dad—announced in late April that he would withdraw his lawsuits without prejudice as a peace offering, submitting plans with the driveway moved further away from the wetlands.

Upon studying the project’s potential environmental impact, the DEP issued a “superseding order of conditions” for the original plans last week, effectively overruling the Conservation Commission’s decision. The town may appeal the order.

“I think the chance of the opposition winning on appeal is almost zero, but they do have a right to appeal if they want to, and they’ll spend more money, waste more time, and delay me,” Steinmetz says. “But they can do that if they want.”

Steinmetz, who currently lives in Cohasset with his wife and four children, still awaits a decision in his state court appeal of the Conservation Commission’s decision before he can start building the three-story home.

“All I’ve ever asked for at the local level was a fair hearing, and we never got one. We never, ever got a fair hearing at the local level,” he says. “Everyone who’s looked at this objectively has ruled in our favor.”