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

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 |

“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.


Boston Globe: The Nantucket housing shuffle

I found this article through the Oaks Bluff Planning Board page. They were using it to make a comparison between the cost of housing in their town to that on Nantucket, i.e. determining how to properly regulate while not creating a situation where islanders get forced out as the area becomes too expensive for year-round workers.

Like it or not, Cape Cod and Dennis, have the same problems. In the last census over 50% of the homes in Dennis were occupied as seasonal housing, second homes. Second homes create a unique strain on a community, driving up housing costs by bringing in disposable cash from areas outside the Cape economy.

As we continue to plan for the future of Dennis, we need to recognize that we need to plan for the second home market as much as for our local, year-round worker needs.If we do not, then we will make it harder and harder for the year-round economy to grow. Essentially, while we continue to sell summer as our primary export industry, we need to do this in a manner that does not over stress the local housing market. This means that we need to continue to consider how we accommodate the demands for seasonal living, in targeted seasonal communities, in order to relieve excess pressure on available year-round housing.

The Nantucket housing shuffle

Conditions are forever…..

I saw this article and thought I should pass it on.

Some Old Land Use Restrictions Don’t Die, Or Even Fade Away

Of course with a few comments.

The Samuelson v. Planning Bd. of Orleans case clearly establishes that a Planning Board’s conditions do not disappear over time, like private agreements. However, the case also establishes that the concept that “conditions are forever” may have its limits.

Often the Dennis Boards have discussed conditions and whether they could create conditions that tied the hands of future Boards. These discussions have always wound up at one place, that a current Board can establish conditions, but property owners can always petition the Board or a future Board to modify or remove those conditions.

The Samuelson decision clearly reinforces this particular provision, noting that the Kennedy’s could have petitioned the Planning Board to modify the original subdivision under Chapter 41 Section 81W. This specific request was not made, rather the applicant hung its hat on a concept that applies to private agreements that restrictive covenants lapsed after 30 years.

There is a side issue that this case leaves open, but references two cases to be followed, regarding the appropriate party or parties to petition for a modification.

The lesson is, conditions are forever, unless the Board that granted the permit and established the conditions, is 1) properly asked and 2) agrees to modify the conditions.

FEMA/NFIP Flood Maps

On July 16th the new FEMA National Flood Insurance Program Flood Insurance Rate Maps went into effect. A few things people should be aware of:

  • Applications to the Planning or Zoning Boards should include actual, not assumed elevation data. This will provide the opportunity to properly assess the flood zone implications of the proposal.
  • Applications to the Building Department should also include an elevation certificate and an appropriate survey plan illustrating ground elevation.
  • All vertical datum should be in NAVD 88.
  • If your project is located in the flood zone, the application should include an engineers determination of flood zone compliance.
  • Projects with a value of 50% or more of the value of the existing structure will require bringing the structure up to flood zone compliant status.
  • The Board of Appeals, under the “substantially more detrimental” determination reserves the right to require structures to be elevated even if the value is below this level.

We understand that continuing flood insurance coverage will require providing your insurance company with an elevation certificate.  The Planning and Building Departments would like to encourage all residents to file copies of these certificates with our offices as well. This will improve our record keeping and ability to assist you in the future.

The disappearing front porch

Just thinking, most homes today lack a key feature homes of 100 years ago focused on… the front porch.

The desire to maximize living space has led to flat front wall designs with no front yard gathering area. This design has led to less communal neighborhoods and rather bland sameness house to house. Many yearn for the wrap around porch with intricate personal touches. But surrender these for greater indoor living space.

Over the coming weeks I will be exploring how to bring back the front porch.  I hope to bring you all along with me on this exploration.

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.