EDC Votes to Recommend Increased Off-Season Access in Seasonal Resort Community Properties

On January 19th the Economic Development Committee re-visited the issue of off-season access to winterized cottages in the Seasonal Resort District.  As I previously mentioned, here, when we were reviewing the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning for most of that time period we were looking at ensuring these properties were available during the off-season to attract these summer residents back for various school vacations.  At the very last meeting before the by-law went to Public Hearing this was changed from allowing ten days of off-season access in any thirty day period to only four days.

As the EDC did not want this issue to be a stumbling block to the adoption of the by-law, they agreed to this change, with the promise to revisit it in the future.

Over the past few weeks, I had a poll up on the blog that asked if you supported a longer off-season stay, or the shorter four day restriction.  Twenty-nine people responded, all in favor of the longer stay.

The EDC believes the longer stay will provide the following benefits to the town:

  • Increased off-season spending in town by these seasonal residents as some may decide to visit during Christmas or February school vacations.
  • Improved public safety/reduction in vandalism on the properties as the possibility of a cottage being occupied will increase the risk of a vandal being caught in the act.
  • Improved functioning of waste water treatment facilities on these properties as having some level of off-season flow will maintain the bacteria needed to digest waste in the systems.

For those reasons, the EDC voted to recommend extending the off-season stay from the four days presently in the by-law to fifteen days.  While there was discussion of allowing unfettered access to these properties in the off-season, the EDC wants to see how this works for a couple of years first.

The proposed zoning amendment is as follows:

o See if the Town of Dennis will Vote to Amend Section 12 Seasonal Resort Community Districts Subsection 12.6 Provisions Affecting All Seasonal Resort Communities Part A. by making the noted deletion (strike-through) and addition (bold italic):

A. Seasonal Resort Communities may be open between April 1st and October 31st, inclusive. Seasonal Resort Communities may provide for short term use, up to four fifteen days in any thirty day period, during the remainder of the year, provided that there is an occupancy permit which ensure sanitary facilities are provided.

By: Economic Development Committee

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12 thoughts on “EDC Votes to Recommend Increased Off-Season Access in Seasonal Resort Community Properties

  1. The challenge is going to be convincing Town Meeting. The involvement of the Revitalization Committee and Dennisport businesses are going to be key.

  2. As noble as these three benefits might be, not a single one is mentioned in the purpose and intent of the Seasonal Resort Community By-law. Moreover, neither the economy, nor vandalism is mentioned in your own video urging passage of this SRC By-law. We did not spend all those hours to create just another neighborhood. Changing that one little word would do nothing at all to PRESERVE this “historic way of life.” Please stop with the semantics and the tinkering. Once you achieve your goal of “unfettered access,” then you will have changed the use of this land from its “historic ‘way of live’ and character, thus rendered the by-law moot.

  3. Thanks for the comment Don. Actually, up until the final meeting before the Public Hearing on the SRC By-law the off-season access was recommended to be 10 days in any 30 day time period. While the actual number of days these properties are available in the off-season is not in the video, it was a big part of many of the discussions. Cottage owners at the Village At Nantucket Sound pushed hard for earlier opening and later closings. As they have purchased their cottages and an interest in the colony, they hope to get more use out of them, much like most second home owners. No one is looking to make these year-round homes, but from just looking at photos posted on Facebook in various locations, many of our summer residents have been visiting us this winter.

  4. From the 18:15 – 19:42 mark of the EDC online video, Town Planner Dan Fortier explains the seasonal restrictions and proposed changes this way:

    “There’s the fear that if we don’t have some level of restriction that these will simply become year-round housing . . . Given where we were a year ago, fifteen months ago, going to town meeting with ten days [per month off-season occupancy] the reaction had even started on our committee . . . that ten days was too long, I think it’s important to take this a little bit at a time. I think going to ten days in any thirty-day period is a start. Once we can show people that it’s not leading to any problems for the town, we might then be able to come back at a future date and either increase it or eliminate the restrictions. . . I think bringing it forward a little bit at a time is important at this point.”

  5. Context of the discussion, the question was raised as to whether we should get rid of any restriction on the seasonal residents being able to access their properties in the off-season. With the idea that someone might want to visit the Cape in the off-season for a time-period of longer than the 10 days I was suggesting we reinstate. For instance, several local private schools take two weeks off for Christmas and February school vacations rather than the one week taken by most public schools. Do we want to stop these property owners from being able to choose Cape Cod over the Berkshires? With there being a concern that if we remove the time restriction all together on the cottages that they will become year-round housing, and not vacation properties, I was cautioning to start small, show that the shorter time period, when we can illustrate that they are not becoming long-term living arrangements, we can consider whether we regulate the length of stay in the off-season at all. No-one is proposing removing the restriction in the by-law that calls them seasonal properties. However, if there is the ability to extend the season to benefit the town, the EDC needs to consider this. The “season” is April 1st to October 1st, say an owner wanted to stay to Veteran’s Day (12 extra days) they cannot with the 4 day restriction. As proposed they will be able to. So, yes, I cautioned the EDC to not remove all restrictions, and advised them to take little steps and see what happens. If there is no issue with off-season use (November 1st to March 31st) then in the future the EDC could revisit the discussion. Quite frankly, I believe the 15 days will meet the desires of just about everyone who might want to come down every weekend in the off-season and stay over on long weekends (say a 4 day weekend for Veteran’s Day and a 5 day weekend at Thanksgiving for instance).

  6. Again, this is not the purview of this by-law to promote the economy or to prevent vandalism. It is to preserve a specific area which has for 80 years a recorded history of a specific season and with a specific purpose. To begin to expand beyond what has been (so-called) “historic” is to re-write history. and to undo the will of the voters. Can we revisit other aspects of this bylaw? I doubt it. But a lot of voters I have discussed this with see a lot of other things they’d just as soon change if this redefinition of the season is going to be pursued. For example, who established 900 sf as a maximum footprint when most existing (dare we call them “historic”?) cottages are about a third that size and a single story. Things are beginning to stink, and it might not be the septic situation at all.

  7. As an added, but important, thought here: Anyone following this give-and-take between Dan and myself should understand that this is simple a written, pubic debate about zoning. Nothing more than a discussion of issues, and nothing whatsoever to do with personalities or character (neither one of which I have). Make no mistake: I have the utmost respect for Dan and the work that he does on our behalf (not to mention the ungodly hours that he — and other town officials — must keep with all the meetings that are in addition to his office hours).

  8. Don, you sat in on most of those meetings, the importance of these areas to the Dennisport economy was always an important consideration. That is why we asked the cottage and RV owners to collect information on their spending while here. To be honest, prior to this by-law, zoning did not restrict the access beyond a generic “seasonal” concept. The level of access prior to this zoning was controlled by the property owners. The cottage colonies located outside this district could be considered as having far less restrictive off-season access than those in this district. I can see I won’t convince you otherwise, but, if you go back to the earliest drafts of the zoning proposal, you will see that over the course of the summer we carried ten days of access per thirty day period. One EDC member was “confused” about where that came from. That led to a last minute change to keep the zoning proposal from being delayed. At that meeting, where the change took place, it was agreed that we could always revisit the issue later.

  9. Agreed, I have total respect for Don as well. In fact, discussions like these help flesh out the issues and will answer many questions that people may have. Don and I have had many discussions over the past two years about the zoning in this area. Much like my discussions with others around town, every discussion, even when you do not see eye to eye, helps the learning curve.

    Thanks for the input Don.

  10. Don, relative to the footprint size, that was a difficult decision. In the more easterly colonies, Village at Nantucket Sound in particular, there are some cottages that presently have footprints in the 900 sf range. Many cottages are near 400 sf, but I was surprised when we started this by how many exceeded 600 sf.

    Dan

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