Below is a memo to the Dennis Economic Development Committee regarding a possible amendment to the Seasonal Resort Community regulations on off-season length of stay. The Committee will discuss this on January 19th. If you have not provided your input on the survey regarding this proposal please let us know what you think.
15 months ago, as we wrapped up the discussions of the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning Proposal, a question arose related to the allowed length of stay at these facilities during the off-season. The proposal as originally crafted, and reviewed over the course of the summer of 2010 sought to attract these seasonal residents for three key off-season time periods, Christmas week, February School Vacation and April School Vacation (this latter school vacation is covered with the opening date we ultimately placed in the by-law). My original draft suggested seven days in any thirty day time period. This changed to ten days due to discussions at one of the meetings held with cottage and RV owners at the West Dennis Graded School House. It was felt that any of these “week-long” vacation periods actually included over seven days with the lead-in and close-out weekends. The ten days was to allow a Friday arrival at the start, and a Sunday departure at the end of the school vacation weeks. The discussion also recognized that, in most years, school is out for more than ten days around the Christmas/New Years holidays, however, we stayed with the ten day limitation.
At the end of this process a question arose over this ten day length of stay. As it was more important to bring the overall by-law proposal to closure than to hold it up over this one issue, the length of stay that went to Town Meeting was reduced to just four days. The determination being that four days was adequate access to allow the cottage owners to come in on a weekend to paint or do other repairs to the cottages. This completely missed the point of the ten day stay, which was to expand the economic opportunity that these properties bring to the town to beyond the summer season.
A case in point, during February of 2011 the Cape was virtually snow free, while major portions of Massachusetts and Connecticut were still blanketed with snow. For those regional seasonal residents with “cabin fever” an escape to their Cape Cod getaway, if it were properly heated, would have been ideal. The Zoning By-law pretty much precluded such an escape.
During the Thanksgiving to Christmas time period in 2011 the Cape saw unseasonably warm temperatures with many days in the 50’s. We experienced similar weather during the holiday week. Access to these properties would have attracted at least a portion of the tenants to town for their holiday shopping and perhaps a few days between the two holidays (say perhaps to visit First Night Chatham). All of it providing increased revenue opportunities for local merchants.
The economics of the situation were the catalyst for proposing the ability to use winterized units during the off-season. Since the adoption of the by-law safety issues have been brought forward as well. Areas are safest when there are eyes present to watch a property. In late 2010 the town experienced several different acts of vandalism. One was directed specifically at one of these properties, the second targeted randomly vacant properties through-out town. The thefts and vandalism that occurred on these properties were noticed by neighbors walking through the property in one instance close to when the acts occurred. However, most thefts are not discovered until many weeks or months after the acts occur as no one visits or has access to the properties until they legally reopen for the summer season. In discussions I have had with Chief Michael Whalenabout off-season access to these properties, he is a firm believer that the properties would be safer if off-season access was increased for these sites.
So, I would like the EDC to discuss whether the following amendment should be proposed for Town Meeting consideration:
To 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 ten 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