Dock and Landscape Rules and Procedures


            Willett Pond Charitable and Protection Association (“WPCPA”) is responsible for processing abutter applications to the owner of the Pond – the Neponset River Landholding Association (“LH”) – to install docks and to modify landscaping in the waterfront land-strips owned by LH in accordance with the rules set forth in our Lease and Subleases.  From time to time, there have been instances where abutters have failed to follow those rules and were faced with a variety of negative consequences, including suspensions of work, restoration of destroyed trees and vegetation, town conservation commission enforcement actions and suspensions of pond usage rights.  In order to avoid such issues, we urge all abutters to follow the applicable rules, and have set forth the following as a summary of the procedures required to do so.  
            1.         Where Can I Find the Rules?  The Lease and Sublease determine what you can and cannot do in terms of docks and landscaping, along with the procedures by which to obtain required approvals.  The substantive rules are contained in Exhibit B and Exhibit C of the Sublease, while the procedures for getting approvals for docks and landscaping are in Section 8 of the Lease and Section 6 of the Sublease. The WPCPA Board is also available help navigate those documents and answer any questions about dock and landscaping improvements, which are collectively referred to below as “Improvements.”
            2.         Basic Dock Rules Docks are limited in size to 4 feet x 16 feet and are not allowed to be “T” or “L” shaped.  Although many docks on the pond are larger than that 4 x 16 or are in different configurations, no such deviations are allowed unless approved in writing through the application process described below.   In addition, no docks are allowed to have lights, electricity, storage structures, or seating and all docks must be removed in the winter, except for wooden docks installed many years ago.
            3.         Do I Need to Apply for Dock Approval?  If you have a previously installed dock with standard dimensions, or if you have a previously installed dock with non-standard dimensions that was approved in the past, you do not need to re-apply for its use.  Dock applications are only required for new docks or for modifications to previously installed docks.    
            4.         Dock Applications and Exceptions to the “Basic” Dock Rules.  New docks which conform to the required configuration can obtain an approval “as of right” but an application must still be filed and approval must still be issued through the process described below.  For new docks which are longer than 4 x 16 or in a “T” or “L” configuration, or for abutters who wish to modify an existing dock to non-standard dimensions, an application to WPCPA is also required.  In that case, however, your application must include an explanation as to why the proposed deviation is necessary in order for you to use the Pond from your home, for example, if the water at your home is too shallow to dock a boat with a 16-foot dock.  Without a good basis for an exception, your application will likely be denied. Your application to WPCPA for an exception to the standard dock formation must also be accompanied by a recommendation by our Pond Consultant, Tom Palmer. Tom can be reached through the WPCPA Board.
            5.         Grandfathered Docks and Other Grandfathered Conditions.  As most of you know, there are several properties on the pond which have docks or landscaping which are significantly out of compliance with the landscaping and dock limitations allowed by the Lease and Sublease.  For example, some homes have wooden docks with driven piles or chain-link fences close to the water’s edge, which would almost certainly not receive an approval today.  Those docks and landscaping, however, are “grandfathered,” which allows those non-conforming uses to remain in place until there is a change in ownership in accordance with Section 6(i) of the Sublease. 
            6.         LandstripsMost of the houses around the pond, especially in Walpole, are separated from the water by strips of land owned by LH (“Landstrips”).  Any landscaping in those Landstrips must comply with the requirements of Exhibit C of the Sublease.  In addition, if you are seeking to make any change to landscaping on the Landstrips, even a change which complies with Exhibit C, you must obtain approval from WPCPA and LH before doing so.  Please remember, that although the right to use and maintain these Landstrips are included in our leasehold rights, you do not own that land, and since you do not own that land, it is critical that you use it according to the rules. This requirement means no changes without approval, and no changes which exceed the terms of any approval.
            7.         Conservation Commission RestrictionsAny Improvements at your property must also comply with the requirements of your town’s Conservation Commission (“ConCom”).  The Walpole, Westwood, and Norwood ConComs regulate landscaping on all land within 100 ft of the pond’s high-water line – the “Buffer Zone –  and also provide for “No Alteration Zones” ranging from 25 feet to 35 feet from the water.  ConCom rules vary from town to town and change over time and can generally be found on town websites, but abutters need to know that there can be substantial penalties if ConCom requirements are not followed.
            8.         WPCPA or LH Approval is NOT Conservation Commission Approval Each abutter is personally and solely responsible to obtain any required approval from your town’s ConCom or other regulatory body.  Approval by WPCPA or LH is not a substitute for ConCom approval, and is not an approval of anything that violates ConCom or other legal requirements.  WPCPA may give our opinion regarding whether ConCom permission is required, and may provide facilitation, input or signatures where required or appropriate, but we are not lawyers, judges or conservation agents, and we are not responsible for determining what is necessary to comply with ConCom or other regulatory requirements.
            9.         Who Do I Apply To? All applications must go to WPCPA, and any approvals must come from WPCPA.  Abutters cannot apply directly to LH, and LH has no authority to approve any application without it first being reviewed and conditionally approved by WPCPA.
            10.       Does it Have to be in Writing?   Applications do not need to be “formal’” but all applications and approvals must be in writing, or must be contemporaneously confirmed in writing with WPCPA.  Abutters are cautioned never to rely on so-called “oral” approvals. 

            11.       Procedures for Applications.  For landscaping or for new or modified docks, applications and approvals are processed as follows:
            a.         Applications to the WPCPA Board can be by email to or by letter, although email is preferred.  

            b.         Applications should include any and all details, plans, charts, photos, etc. necessary for WPCPA, and eventually LH, to evaluate the application.  In the alternative, if an abutter is unsure as to what may be allowed or what documentation is required, the abutter can email the WPCPA Board to ask for a consultation regarding the proposed application or Improvement and we will assist you to the best of our ability.

            c.         For any Improvements except for docks in the basic 4 x 16 configuration, the application must be accompanied by an email or report from WPCPA consultant Tom Palmer which evaluates and makes a recommendation regarding the application.   WPCPA will pay for 2 hours of Tom’s time for any application, but beyond that, Tom’s costs will be charged to the abutter at $50 per hour;

            d.         WPCPA will review your application and will either approve, deny or request more information.  If WPCPA approves your application, that approval is conditional, since LH must also then approve the application. 

            e.         A conditional approval by WPCPA is forwarded to LH for its consideration and approval, denial or request for more information.  LH then has 21 days to approve, deny, request supplementation, or request a meeting to obtain more information;

            f.          If an application is denied by WPCPA or by LH, an abutter is entitled to a meeting within 7 days to discuss that denial.

            g.         Applications to ConCom can occur before, during or after the WPCPA/LH approval process.  We can make recommendations as to timing those procedures, but that is solely your responsibility.  And as stated above, neither WPCPA’s or LH’s approval of any plans for or work on the property is absolute – all Improvements must meet the ConCom and any other government requirements.
            12.       Approvals are Limited and Do Not Allow for Unpermitted Work.  Finally, any Improvement must be performed in accordance with your application and the approved plans, and must otherwise be in accordance the Subleases and the WPCPA Lease.  Please do not assume that an approval is a blank check, or that “forgiveness” can be obtained more easily than “permission.”  On this Pond, that is not the case, and violations can lead to suspension of your rights to use the Pond and Landstrips, as well as remedial work and costs.
Please do not hesitate to WPCPA at with any questions. 

For your convenience this document can be downloaded as a pdf. Download here.