Seasonal Resort Community – Definition of Season and Off-Season Use

We are still looking for people for the Planning Board to consider to serve as part of the working group studying the concept of off-season access to cottage colonies both within the Seasonal Resort Community District and outside of that district. From within the SRC, I have two people who have asked to participate, one from Heritage Sands and one from the Village at Nantucket Sound. I also have had contact by one person who sat through most or all of the meetings in 2010 who wants to at least try to attend the working group meetings; the Revitalization Committee has put forward a member to participate and there has been one person stating an interest to participate as a citizen at-large. The Economic Development Committee will meet later in October to appoint one of its members to the working group. We are still in need of people to step forward to serve on the working group that will make recommendations to the Planning Board. We especially need a representative of cottage colony interests from outside the SRC district and from the public at large so the Planning Board has choices to work from.

Below are links to the draft versions of the by-law from April 2010 through to the Town Meeting version of the proposal.

April 5, 2010, my original version included the following section:

“K. All seasonal cottages in a seasonal cottage complex shall be closed and the water service to the units turned off between November 1 and April 30 of the following year.” As this working group will be discussing all options, this should be added to any list of alternatives for consideration.

The first revision, a document also dated April 5, 2010 with a number of mark-ups that came from the document being posted onto a Wiki page left this section as is (Wikispaces has closed down the non-educational portions of their site):

“K. All seasonal cottages in a seasonal cottage complex shall be closed and the water service to the units turned off between November 1 and April 30 of the following year.”

The next iteration came out on June 22nd with modifications that came through the Wiki:

H. All Seasonal Cottage Complexes may be open for normal occupation between starting be open only between April 15 and October 31 May 1st and ending October 31st . Seasonal Cottages  may be occupied provide for short term use, up to ten days in any thirty day period, during the remainder of the year All seasonal cottages in a seasonal cottage complex shall be closed and the water service to the units turned off between November 1 and April 30 of the following year(Is it necessary to define “short term use”?)

This provision remained the same through July 10, July 19, August 3 and August 6 revisions of the by-law. Discussions that took place in our “Discussions with the Town Planner” sessions at the West Dennis Graded School House.

In the final discussion that took place, version dated August 31, which included members of the Zoning By-law Study Committee, it changed to the “four day in any thirty” version.

Regulating “Seasonal” Uses

Since 1973 Dennis has regulated cottage colonies as “seasonal” uses with no real attempt to define what is the “season” and what level of access might be available in the off-season. Across much of town cottage colonies have condominiumized and have created their own concept of “season,” some even creating condominium documents that almost read like year round properties. A few others recognizing a “season” but granting nearly unfettered  “off-season” access.

When we crafted the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning District we tried, for the first time, to define “season” and regulate “off-season.” The Economic Development Committee looked at how the properties were accessed prior to the zoning being crafted, predominantly on weekends, and proposed an allowance that would have provided for this to continue. The EDC proposed access of up to 10 days in any 30 day period, which would have allowed for continuing the past practice. At the final Zoning By-law Committee review of this proposal, it was cut to 4 days in any 30. The Economic Development Committee went along with the change with the idea it could be revisited in the future.

We are at that point of reconsideration. There are many options:

  • Keeping it as it is, 4 days in any 30, with no changes;
  • Keeping it as it is but requiring a register be kept in the office for enforcement;
  • Reverting to the original 10 days in any 30, but add the register requirement;
  • Stating specific windows of access, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, and February school vacation; or perhaps,
  • Weekends and holidays which could capture a number of three day weekends.

The Planning Board wants to look at this on a town-wide basis and come up with a set of standards that applies everywhere. They have formed a working group that consists of two Planning Board members (Peggy Fantozzi and Brad Bishop), one Economic Development Committee member, one member of the Dennis Port Revitalixation Committee, one person from a cottage community inside the Seasonal Resort District, one person from a cottage colony outside the SRC district, and one interested resident “at-large.”

This working group will study the issue, hold public meetings, and make a recommendation to the Planning Board.

If you are interested, please email me at:

dfortier@town(dot)dennis(dot)ma(dot)us