A Community For Those Most At Risk

Over the past two weeks a proposal for town owned land along Hokum Rock Road has generated a lot of discussion. The parcel is located on the south side of Hokum Rock Road on land that has served as the town sand pit .


The property is bordered by sand pits to the west, town owned land to the south and open space associated with the Fox Run Subdivision to the east. Overall the site contains just over 16 acres.  The proposal, since its first introduction, has been scaled down to address community concerns.

Town Meeting will be asked to make the northerly five acres of the site available for the creation of an affordable housing community for adults with autism and autism spectrum related disorders. A request for proposals will be issued asking for qualified proposals to provide this community. 


Area shaded with yellow to remain open space.

.                                                                   Area shaded with yellow to remain open space.

Our conceptual plan calls for the creation of four dwellings, a community center and possibly a barn. Each dwelling will consist of a living room and kitchen along with four bedrooms. Each of the bedrooms will be designed like a studio apartment providing the resident with their own bathroom, refrigerator and area to prepare food.

We are looking to create a community that serves the life needs of these at-risk adults. Many still live at home with aging parents. These parents are worried about what will happen to their adult children. These worries include the very real possibility that these adults may wind up homeless. The community will provide opportunities for on-site counseling, life training, transportation services, advocacy and other services needed to provide a quality of life for these members of our town.

Despite $900M in CPA outlays, many Massachusetts cities and towns failing housing mandates – Boston Business Journal

Dennis comes in with 19% of Community Preservation Act funds spent on housing initiatives.


Economic Development Committee Meeting April 17, 2014

Economic Development Committee Meeting

Thursday April 17, 2014, 9 am

Dennis Town Hall Annex – Conference Room

685 Route 134
South Dennis , MA 02660



  1. Sesuit Harbor Zoning By-law Review (one more review? Semi-final revisions Here)
  2. Route 28 Zoning Map Amendment for land between Holiday Hill and Benny’s Holiday Hill Rezoning
  3. Exit 9 Economic Center Zoning Discussion – Part 1 Understanding what is there


We need to create a contact list specific to Exit 9, please bring suggested key participants ideas so we can add them to the contact list.

Let’s Get The Discusion Started

When the Cape Cod Commission denied the Lowe’s application there were a few comments made related to Dennis Zoning for this area. While they were either completely incorrect (Dennis has zoned this area industrial so they must not want retail here) or inaccurate (Dennis has not adopted any changes to this areas zoning since it was designated an Economic Center), it is time to tackle a long considered overhaul to zoning in the Exit 9 area.

The land use vision is included in the 2002 Local Comprehensive Plan. The Plan calls for the area to become a mixed use center.  Current zoning even gets us part of the way there. If you look closely, we allow retail, professional office, manufacturing and other non-residential uses in this area. Actually, low density residential is allowed, BY-RIGHT, in the General Commercial III Zoning District and higher densities are allowed by Special Permit as well. However, most of the area is zoned at too low a density to create a walkable development area, and setbacks promote separation rather than the integration of uses on adjacent properties.

The general concept would be to promote a mixed use area that targets some percentage of total floor space for residential use, street level pedestrian orientation for some retail, with larger retail uses behind this street facade. Professional office space, research and development, and medical technology should be targeted. I have been looking at the so-called “innovation districts” for some conceptual ideas as well. These districts try to promote areas that provide opportunities for start-up programmers to share resources, two decades ago we referred to them as incubator spaces.

Here is a general timetable:

April 17th EDC Kick-off Meeting, 
April 17 – May 15 Identify key stakeholders 
May 15 EDC Meeting with key stakeholders to discuss concept and needs
May 15 – June 19 Meet weekly to discuss land uses with Stakeholders
June 19 EDC review results of stakeholders discussions
June 19 – July 17 Meet weekly to discuss density criteria, building height, setbacks, parking considerations
July 17 EDC to review progress
July 17 – August 21 Meet weekly to discuss site design, landscaping, internal connections
August 21 EDC to review progress
August 21 – September 18 Meet to formulate development mitigation requirements
September 18 EDC to review progress.
This is a very aggressive schedule. Much of this relies upon buy-in by the landowners on the concepts put forward. Some of it will challenge the traditional patterns that have been established out there of 40,000 sf lots with 9,900 sf steel buildings on them.

With this timetable we would have a build-out for a future land use scenario in the July/August time frame. Town Meeting is being asked to fund a Route 134 traffic study. This schedule will  which provide for a future growth scenario for the traffic study. Two growth scenario’s actually, existing zoning build-out and proposed zoning change build-out would both be able to be considered.

After September 18th we would be taking all the concepts and crafting the by-law. The actual zoning proposal could be ready for Spring Town Meeting in 2015. It is an aggressive schedule. Much of this overlaps with coordinating public review of the Sesuit Harbor Zoning proposal.

The EDC has just about finalized the Sesuit Harbor proposal. There is a need to review this by-law proposal with the Sesuit neighborhood between May and August. This might mean skipping one of these EDC progress report meetings.

We hope to develop a proposal for Cape Cod Commission acceptance. This will allow for the Commission to reduce or eliminate its control over this area.  We will need to establish an infrastructure improvement program for this area. This would include waste-water and traffic mitigation fees, to be used to fund transportation improvements and a centralized waste water system that will be needed for this area. It is possible we may need some form of special taxation district if the fee system is unworkable.

Stay tuned, I will be tossing lots of ideas out through this and the Economic Development blogs.

York selectmen discuss buying beaches | SeacoastOnline.com

Maine’s coastal access issues are the same as ours here in Massachusetts due to our colonial connection. For years the state talked about trying to acquire more beach access rights. This will be interesting to watch.


Some Housing Data: Ideas on Preserving (some) Housing For Year Round Residents

There are many ways to address the gap between wages and housing costs.

Better jobs, obviously. Dennis has already made adjustments to our industrial zoning to allow some new industries into town. Perhaps we will need to further adjust this.  I have started looking at the “innovation” district zoning that several communities have adopted for consideration. In these districts the goal is to provide opportunities for new thinking and ideas to bubble up.

Or, we could look at supply side alternatives. Generally, a housing market should have a 3% to 5% vacancy rate to allow easy movement of the population. In Dennis we are barely at 1%. To achieve an appropriate vacancy rate we would need to add as many as 800 housing units to the current housing supply. Under today’s zoning, creating this increase in housing would consume just about all the vacant land zoned for residential uses in Dennis. Maintaining this type of vacancy rate long term would require density increases. We have strategically introduced housing density increases in Dennis Port and West Dennis Village Centers. These efforts will need to continue.

Another option, working with the existing housing supply, would be to protect certain areas of town from converting “homes” into “businesses”. Specifically, adopting zoning restrictions on weekly rentals. What could be a particularly controversial concept. Areas of Hawaii (1, 2), California (3, 4), West Virginia (5) and Utah have all adopted limits on where weekly rentals can be located, essentially setting up sections of communities that protect year-round residents from the direct impacts or the “summer vacation” population. Hull is also dealing with this issue currently, Homeowners fight ruling that bans rentals.

In Dennis, in general our largest concentrations of seasonal housing is either north of Route 6A or south of Route 28.

Dennis has about 6,000 weekly type rental permits, the vast majority of the seasonal housing units reported by the Census. There are impacts on housing affordability, on both sides of the discussion, due to the seasonal weekly rental market. The availability of rental income allows a buyer/investor to pay more for a home than a year-round resident worker, pushing up housing value. On the flip-side, the availability of rental income may allow a future retiree with the ability to buy in to the over-heated housing market.

If the town were to restrict new weekly rentals in certain areas, say between Route 6A and Route 28, a portion of the housing demand inflating housing costs could be controlled.

A lot we need to ponder.


Some Housing Data: Discussion

We have discussed much of this before, in October 2011 I posted Census 2010, Making Heads and Tails Out Of Housing “Growth”  and before that in May 2011 Fun With Numbers – Actually Dennis Is Growing, During the Summer in which I discussed how Dennis added 1,481 housing units in the past decade, yet saw a drop in population and minimal change in the number of vacant homes. Essentially, what we were seeing is, as homes became available, they were being gobbled up by second home buyers.

During the recession there was a drop in demand for housing from all sectors, primary and secondary home buyers. This drop in housing demand brought housing back within range of resident workers as the discretionary spending for second homes became scarce. Housing prices took a nosedive at the start of the recession. Then stabilized over the last few years before ticking back up, about the same time population growth returned to the area, see Population Migration – New Data. This return of population to the Cape, coupled with increase discretionary spending for second home buyers is driving this increase in housing/income mismatch. If the vacation home market returns as it was in the early 2000’s, the mismatch between income and housing costs could return. If that mismatch returns we might, once again, see a return of out-migration of working families as the IRS data suggested back in 2009, County Migration Patterns – Leaving Cape Cod.

Next, some ideas on preserving (some) housing for year round residents.