I had the opportunity to take a stroll through several of the properties in the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning District on Friday. Also had the opportunity to chat with a couple people getting the area ready for the coming season. People seem excited, the smell of fresh paint was evident. Some cottages had the look of either being power washed or reshingled. There was much that showed the anticipation of a new season.
What was particularly evident was the signs that people were putting time and money back into their cottages, something that was not evident back in the unsettled times of the winter of 2009-2010.
Had a chance to visit with one of the cottage owners as well and chat about the Seasonal Resort Community Zoning. He was upfront, that he liked much of the zoning but had some issues as well. I asked about his issues and he told me that he had considered going up with a higher roof for more light and air, no loft, just more light. He found that to make such a change he would have had to make changes to bring the cottage up to current building and life safety codes. This would have made a short money project much more expensive. As we talked it became evident that he understood that these costs were necessary to protect his investment.
He liked the idea that there were controls over spacing of cottages, admitting that these properties had been somewhat like the wild west in years past. He pointed to evident, incremental changes that occurred over the years to the cottages in his little cluster, changes that made it difficult to even walk between buildings. He knew that he was in an area that would never be able to expand its footprint, but held out hope that someday, with longer term leases, he will be able to raise his roof a few feet, re-wire the cottage and meet all the other Building and Fire Code standards.
All this brought me back to many of our discussions in 2010 while crafting the Seasonal Resort Community By-law. During that summer there was much give and take and there were many constants. As I pointed out in an earlier post, I had started with a rather small building footprint. It was through numerous discussions that the potential size changed. Cottage owners saw the need from two perspectives, first they desired more elbow room and second, due to the need to meet modern codes (building, flood and fire), they needed a comfortable living arrangement to make it worth the added expense ($100,000 for the owner I talked to).
For the town Building, Flood and Fire Code compliance was vital. These properties have been identified in the town’s Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan (draft document in 2010) as being both flood and urban wildfire risk areas (Humarock Beach on a larger scale). A comfortable size, that could encourage Fire, Flood and Building Code compliance was important to us as well.
The ability to enlarge structures was traded off with strict building separation requirements, restrictions on the number of stories (2 1/2 reduced to 1 1/2 stories), and new height restrictions (35 feet reduced to 25 feet). Yes, we agreed that cottages could become bigger, but we also ensured they would not match that of many adjacent homes which tower over these properties.
The by-law, combined with state actions, should also promote environmental improvements. Waste water improvements are being pushed by the state. But as individuals take advantage of their lawful zoning status other, not so evident contamination issues can also be cleaned up.
The final Seasonal Resort Community By-law, adopted overwhelmingly by Town Meeting in November 2010 was the end result of an unheard of effort by town officials, year-round and seasonal residents and property owners to plan and design a feasible approach to providing a future for the seasonal character of these properties while providing incentives for the owners and summer residents to address environmental and public safety problems associated with these properties.