About Daniel Fortier

Daniel Fortier is the Town Planner for the Town of Dennis. He is a certified planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has been the Town Planner since 2001.

Northampton eyes ‘light pollution’ measure; police chief Sienkiewicz cites safety concerns | masslive.com

We require full cut-off lighting in our decisions, perhaps we should consider codifying this requirement into the zoning by-law/

Northampton eyes ‘light pollution’ measure; police chief Sienkiewicz cites safety concerns | masslive.com.

Notes from the Underground — What’s in a Number? Confronting Urban Population Decline

I have posted before about our population loss and the increase in second homes over the past decade.  I have also noted a loss of the 24 -50 age cohort.  This article gives us more to digest.


Using Wall Street Tactics to Preserve Affordable Housing – Next City

A rather interesting article. Leaves a lot to think about, and focuses some attention on a problem with some agencies with “focus on affordable housing.”

Some may not think the one unit at a time approach to providing affordable housing as accomplishing much, but a 13 unit Chapter 40B project will only provide 3 affordable units. So when an agency that provides funding for Chapter 40B projects comes to own, by foreclosure, a single unit of housing,  letting it go without an affordable housing deed restriction is almost criminal.  And definitely contrary to the agency’s overarching purpose.

Unfortunately,  as the article points out, even affordable housing funding agencies are bottom line focused. Often losing sight of their stated purpose.

In Dennis,  an agency with an affordable housing focus provided a low interest loan for acquisition of a residential unit. The buyer defaulted during the recession. The agency foreclosed on the unit at a value well within local affordability guidelines. Ultimately the agency sold the unit at a loss WITHOUT AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING DEED RESTRICTION. A lost opportunity.

The article below points out that we need a strategy to avoid such shortsightedness.


“Keep Dunkin Off Route 6A” – Part 3

Now I will address the specifics of what is before the Planning Board.

The site has a bit of a history to it. After Mobil closed down, and no one was able to reopen the service bays on the property, the site was acquired by Christy’s of Cape Cod. At the time Christy’s came forward to convert the service station to a convenience store it still controlled enough sites to be considered a formula based business.  The Christy proposal was reviewed under these standards. During the review of this proposal, Christy’s divested of most of its holdings. However, as convenience stores fall under Section of the Dennis Zoning By-law, the convenience store still needed a Special Permit to operate at this site. As part of reviewing this Special Permit, the Planning Board approved not only the site plan with parking, lighting, pedestrian facilities and a host of other issues, the Planning Board also approved a sign that was part of the application.

As time went on, Christy’s sold the property to the current owners, who inherited the restrictions that were placed in the original Special Permit. The sign was allowed to be modified to replace “Christy’s of Cape Cod” with “Cape Cod Farms.”  All other restrictions relative to the sign face was kept in place.

NOW, the Planning Board is faced with a request specific to the sign. The Planning Board is NOT being asked to approve Dunkin going into the store. The proposed sign modification is illustrated below:

Dunkin 1

Obvious thoughts are ones that many have raised, the sign does not announce that it features the current coffee served or any other product sold; the colors are too harsh for the sign; the lettering too large; etc. These are all issues that both the Dennis Planning Board and Old King’s Highway will have to wrestle with.

As a sign has been approved for the property with specific conditions, the Board is not compelled to approve the modification. However, they must give it a fair hearing, discuss alternatives, and act within the limits of zoning.

As I have mentioned, the substitution of Dunkin branded coffee and other items is not before the Board.

“Keep Dunkin Off Route 6A” – Part 2

Before getting to the specifics of the application before the Planning Board, I would like to address the idea of why we keep on having to address this issue.

I recognize that, for the neighbors, this seems to keep coming back again and again. And, it is.

The Planning Board has not had the opportunity to actually reject a request to locate Dunkin in Cape Cod Farms. Every time it has come forward, the applicant has withdrawn the request before the Board has taken a vote. As of yet, we do not really know how the Board would vote.

The process of withdrawing an application, allows an applicant to return, on their own schedule to once again ask for permission to conduct a business at a location.

Had the Planning Board rejected an application, the Zoning Act still allows the applicant to refile. In general a denial places a two year moratorium on making the same request to a board. EXCEPT, that the Zoning Act creates a repetitive petition process that allows an applicant to request a review in less than two years, if they can illustrate substantive changes to the original application.

As there has never been a vote on Dunkin at Cape Cod Farms, we do not have a repetitive petition.


“Keep Dunkin Off Route 6A” – Part 1

As Dunkin Donuts has once again floated the possibility locating within the Cape Cod Farms Convenience Store on Route 6A, the calls have come in once again that we protect the Old King’s Highway from this intrusion.

I wish that it were so easy. Let’s talk first in generalities – and as if this were coming in as a stand alone use.  Starting at this level makes it a bit easier to address, then we will get down to the specifics.

If we strip away the name, and just look at the use, we are looking at a restaurant use. To stop the location of a coffee shop/bakery on Route 6A we would have to banish all such uses, either by prohibiting restaurants, or by defining various classifications of restaurants, and prohibiting all coffee shops and bakeries.

An alternative, which Dennis has adopted, is to establish limits on formula based businesses being able to locate within particular areas. As I discussed on May 2, 2013, Formula Based Business – An Explanation, we can establish limits on formula based businesses, but we cannot ban them if they bend to our design criteria.

One comment that has been received suggested that an empty bank building up the street could host a use similar to a Dunkin. In actuality, it probably could. As I reviewed back in May 2013, a franchise business would be reviewed against the standards established in the Formula Based Business By-law as follows:

FORMULA BASED BUSINESS: A type of retail sales establishment (not including consumer services), or a restaurant, tavern, bar, or other food establishment which is under common ownership or control or is a franchise and is one (1) of ten (10) or more other businesses or establishments worldwide maintaining three or more of the following features:


1.  Standardized menu

2. Trademark or service mark, defined as a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods from one party from those of others, on products or as part of the store design.

Such as on cups, napkins, bags, boxes, wrappers, straws, store signs, or advertising devices.

3.    A standardized façade.

4.  Standardized décor and color scheme used throughout the interior of the establishment.

5.  Standardized uniform including but not limited to aprons, pants, shirts, smocks or dresses, hat, and pins (other than name tags).

6.  Standardized signage.

For a franchise proposal on Route 6A in the vacant bank building, the franchise would need to address these standards to not be considered a formula based business. .

1.  Standardized menu

If it is a franchise restaurant, more than likely it would have a standard menu. While there might be adjustments, it would be hard to tell a sub shop or coffee shop to completely change what it served.

Score 1 for Standardized Menu.

2. Trademark or service mark, defined as a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods from one party from those of others, on products or as part of the store design.

Such as on cups, napkins, bags, boxes, wrappers, straws, store signs, or advertising devices.

The normal franchise packaging would be hard to change, whether Subway, Mary Lou’s or Starbucks.

Score 2 for Trademark or service mark, etc.

3.    A standardized façade.

If the bank facade were not to change, there would be no standardization of the facade.

No standardization on facade.

4.  Standardized décor and color scheme used throughout the interior of the establishment.

Tables, chairs, counter service areas are all easily adaptable to any location, this is an easy standardization test to avoid.

No standardization on decor.

5.  Standardized uniform including but not limited to aprons, pants, shirts, smocks or dresses, hat, and pins (other than name tags).

Uniforms are easy to abandon, or modify if the location is a desirable one. It could be pretty easy to have everyone where a white shirt, rather than the Mary Lou’s traditional pink one, aprons and hats can similarly be easily changed, or not required.

No standardization on uniforms.

6.  Standardized signage.

Signs are often emblazoned with a business trademark and trademarked colors.  However, historic district guidelines can, and have, shaped the look of signs up and down Route 6A. Place on top of this Formula Business guidelines, and alternative designs can be expected that can avoid the standardized corporate sign.

No standardization on signage.

So, in the end, it is possible for a Formula Based Business to locate on Route 6A if it bends to the rules that the Town of Dennis have established to regulate such uses.




When Planning for Retirement, Consider Transportation – NYTimes.com

This really hits home for Dennis. Our population is aging and clearly getting to that stage where driving is not going to be an option. While we need to study how to encourage more young families to stay on the Cape, we also need to plan for the needs of our aging population.

These solutions may not be mutually exclusive. Density supports transit. Planning nodes with appropriate densities and amenities to provide a high quality of life for young professionals and seniors, jobs, entertainment and services can be achieved. An Exit 9 growth center, or increased housing densities along Route 28 can promote a better quality of life for current and future Dennis families. A quality of life which, if approached properly, can support a carless future as well.


Flooding, from a slightly different perspective

With the updates to the FEMA maps we have spent an inordinate amount of time looking at the impacts of a 1% storm on the town. The Union of Concerned Scientist have put forward a new, perhaps more insightful, analysis.

As discussed in, // Sea Level Rise Making Floods Routine for Coastal Cities, there are many properties at risk from just slightly higher tides than our average high tides today. Below are a few highlights and links for different parts of town included in their review. I am focusing, for the intent of this post, on the seemingly insignificant one foot increase in tides.

West Dennis

In West Dennis a one foot increase in tides will place 16 housing units at risk of impacts during routine high tide events. At first I scratched my head on this one, then I thought about the extent of the rack lines along many of the waterfront beaches. Given some of these come almost up to the outer reaches of the most coastal oriented properties, it is not so hard to believe that a slightly higher tide will reach out and touch them.

DSC00136 (Small)

Dennis Port

I have been on the beach during a few recent storm events in Dennis Port I was actually surprised by how few were considered at risk (6 homes). Perhaps the cottages at Camper’s Haven were not included. However, the rack lines near Metcalf Beach and elsewhere clearly shows tides lapping at the pilings for many decks along this coastline.

DSC08097 (Small)Dennis

The final area looked at is the coastal areas in the Dennis Village pat of town.  Here, eight homes are considered at risk from just a one foot increase in tides. More likely these homes are in the low lying areas along Chase Garden Creek. However, nearly all of the Aquaculture Research Center property would be regularly inundated at high tide.

I  have stated many times over the past several months, homeowners in Dennis need to think about how they prepare for future flooding, both from 1% storms and from sea level rise in general. Perhaps the 30 homes most immediately in harms way have already thought about this, but everyone within a flood zone, should be thinking about elevating their homes.