In November 2010 we adopted the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning By-law. The new zoning provided, for the first time, zoning directly targeted towards allowing cottage colonies and recreational vehicle parks as allowed uses Prior to this zoning, cottage colonies were a non-conforming use subject to a regulation essentially based upon its definition:
COTTAGE COLONY A group of three (3) or more buildings on a lot, which are devoted to residential use on a seasonal basis.
And Town General By-law restrictions:
164-7 It shall be unlawful to remain or live in any tourist camp for more than ninety (90) days in any six-month period, excepting, of course, bona fide employees.
The definition simply establishes that the structures are “seasonal” and not year-round housing. The General By-law limited stays, but in a manner which allows for two 3 month seasons. Essentially providing both summer season, Memorial Day until about Labor Day, and off-season access which averages out to about 10 days per month there-after, but could provide for a solid two or three week (or even 3 month) stay around the winter holidays.
When we crafted the Seasonal Resort Community By-law, there was a strong desire among the cottage owners to have a “season” established in the By-law. This was desired as property owners, cottage and RV owners had no firm guidelines as to the appropriate “season” and most access exceeded the general by-law provisions. By firmly defining the “season” and access during the “season” we created a need to address the “off-season.”
In addressing the off-season in the rezoning, we created a dichotomy. The other cottage colonies along Old Wharf Road, Lower County Road, Sea Street, or anywhere else in town not located in the Seasonal Resort Community continue to be governed by the Dennis General By-law provisions which allow for significant levels of off-season access to their cottages. Within the Seasonal Resort Community District off-season access was restricted.
Originally we proposed allowing ten days of access per month, over the 5 off-season months, providing 50 days of off-season access. Due to questions that arose at the end of the lengthy process, essentially at the zero hour for getting the proposal to November Town Meeting, this was modified to 4 days per month. In accepting this compromise the Economic Development Committee noted it was an issue that could always be revisited later.
The EDC is now recommending the town revisit the issue. They are recommending that the cottages and RV’s in the Seasonal Resort Community District, if they are winterized, be allowed to be used for up to 15 days per month during the off-season. This is, actually, still more restrictive than what the General By-law places on cottages located outside of the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning District. The General By-law, while limiting total number of days to 90 in any six month period, does not restrict the actual length of stay. In essence, this means a cottage in a colony located outside the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning District could be occupied for a solid 90 day time period in the middle of winter, and not impact the cottage’s summer use.