“Season” – An Over-Used, Under-Defined Term in the Dennis Zoning By-law: Recommendations

In a previous post I pointed out a number of issues with the use of the term “season” in the Dennis Zoning By-law. I also promised to post some suggestions. Hopefully this post will generate some discussion and start to craft an answer.

First, let’s address Boat Storage.  Boat Storage is an “off-season” issue. However, it’s “off-season” is not the same as the “off-season” for other “seasonal” properties.  In general, boats start being removed from the water soon after Labor Day and are mostly back in the water by Memorial Day.  The facilities where boats may be stored, exhibit similar characteristics. These sites have the heaviest site use being between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with site traffic demands falling off drastically after Labor Day. For Boat Storage, it would appear that ensuring the parking lots where these boats are stored for the “off-season” are available for these two holidays and the time in-between.  I would suggest that the term “off-season” in Section 3 (Parking) and Section 9 (West Dennis Zoning Districts)  of the Dennis Zoning By-law be replaced with the time period of “between September 15th and May 15th of the following year.”

Second, is the use of “seasonal or year-round living” in the definition for Accessory Structure as noted below:

ACCESSORY STRUCTURE A detached structure located on the same lot with the principal structure to which it is accessory, and not used for either seasonal or year-round living.

This definition is to ensure that accessory structures do not become additional residential units.  The solution to this is to remove the possibility that someone might be capable of living in the structure. An appropriate change in language might be to make the definition more specific, replacing “not used for either seasonal or year-round living” with “may not contain a bedroom or other sleeping accommodations or cooking facilities.”

Third, and probably the most problematic, is the use of “seasonal” in relation to cottage colonies. As I stated in the previous post, these tourist camps were originally just for the Memorial Day to Labor Day time period.  That time period has crept out into both “shoulder seasons” and beyond. Setting a “season” for these properties, the ones outside the newly created Seasonal Resort Community District, needs to consider the “season” that has come to be.  I would suggest that we look at the replacing the term “seasonal” in the definition of Cottage Colony (A group of three (3) or more buildings on a lot, which are devoted to residential use on a seasonal basis) with an actual time period such as:

COTTAGE COLONY: A group of three or more dwelling on a lot all but one of which are restricted to intermittent use and are available for occupancy between March 15th and November 30th.”

This change addresses both the status of the “seasonal” aspect of cottage colonies and a second issue related to the “seasonal” nature of these properties.  This issue being that many of these properties, in their tourist camp days, had a “main house” which was the year-round dwelling of the property owners/operators of the tourist camp. The definition proposed above recognizes the year-round nature of owner/operator residence in a Cottage Colony.

Finally, the term “season” is used and defined in the “Seasonal Resort Community Zoning District” standards.   The Seasonal Resort Community Zoning District defined the “season” as being from April 1st to October 31st. Along with this we provided access for up to 4 days in any 30 day time period during the “off-season.” We came to this present discussion due to a desire to increase “off-season” access. Ideally, we are looking to make these properties usable as an alternative destination for cottage owners for Thanksgiving week, the Christmas/New Years holiday period, and perhaps the normal mid-winter school vacation time period which is usually in mid-February. Much discussion took place relative to this suggestion last fall/winter. The primary issue revolved around how many days were being added. If we look at the traditional cottage colonies, owners appear to have “seasonal” access for 45 days more than in the Seasonal Resort Community district. In the Seasonal Resort Community District there are 20 days of “off-season” access. Ideally, we would like to encourage visitors for the 9 day period from the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after the holiday; the 16 day period from the Saturday before Christmas to the Sunday after New Years; and a 9 day time period typically associated with most winter vacations from school in mid-February. My current thinking, and an off-shoot of last spring’s discussion, would be to replace the present allowance for the 4 days in any 30 day period for access. This would provide for a more predictable time period for use of the properties.  It would also provide a better opportunity for monitoring and enforcing use of the properties.  And, the access periods would cover a portion of each month of the “off-season” except March. This provision will only benefit properties with upgraded utilities. Presently most, if not all, of these properties have very shallow water lines which would freeze in the winter if not shut off. Off-season access is greatly limited due to the lack of utilities to these properties. The lack of utilities, especially water, in the deepest reaches of these properties presently hinders fire fighting capabilities during the winter months. Perhaps 12.6 A could be changed to read:

 A. Seasonal Resort Communities may be open between April 1st and October 31st, inclusive. Seasonal Resort Communities may provide for off-season occupancy for the 9 day period from the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after the holiday; the 16 day period from the Saturday before Christmas to the Sunday after New Years; and a single 9 day time period starting on a Saturday and ending on a Sunday nine days later in mid-February short term use, up to four 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.

 Please give me your feedback:

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