The following Town of Dennis Community Development Strategy will be the subject of a Public Hearing at 4:30 pm on December 15th in the Large Hearing Room at Dennis Town Hall, 485 Main Street, South Dennis.  Comments are welcome.

The Town of Dennis adopted Local Comprehensive Plan on September 22, 2002.  The Plan was adopted by the Dennis Town Meeting after a series of Public Hearings on the draft document over the preceding twelve months.

The process to develop this plan was long and comprehensive. Initiated in the spring of 1994, the Local Planning Committee, with the assistance of the Town Planner and the Cape Cod Commission, held a series of community workshops led by a professional facilitator.  Questionnaires were sent to 6,500 residents and responses were used to initiate the development of this plan.

Although this is the primary planning document referred to in our Community Development Strategy, the town also has a Housing Action Plan, an Open Space and Recreation Plan, Village Plans for Dennis Port and West Dennis and files an annual Commonwealth Capital Submittal.  As Dennis is an integral part of a larger region, referred to as Barnstable County or simply “Cape Cod”, we also participate in numerous regional planning initiatives including the update to the Regional Policy Plan and Cape Cod Commission affordable housing efforts.  When reviewing all of the listed planning documents, the Local Comprehensive Plan is the most appropriate and thorough document to cite in our Community Development Strategy.

The Town of Dennis’ Community Development Strategy is as follows.

GOAL I:  To encourage sustainable growth and development consistent with the carrying capacity of Dennis’ natural environment in order to maintain Dennis’ economic health and quality of life, and to encourage the preservation of village centers that provide a pleasant environment for living, working and shopping for residents and visitors.  Also to preserve and enhance the agricultural uses that are environmentally compatible…

STRATEGY:  To encourage cluster development and mixed-use residential/commercial development.  Direct development away from natural resource areas.  Improve the appearance of strip commercial development.  Zoning has been amended (Dennisport and West Dennis are examples) to allow top-of-the-shop and a third story for apartments.  The local Affordable Housing By-law further encourages the development or redevelopment of commercial structures to incorporate affordable housing.  In these by-laws (the two villages and the Affordable Housing By-law) the town has established a 25% affordable requirement.  Numerous work sessions, public hearings and visioning sessions were held to achieve public consensus.  Improve the economic health and quality of life by assisting families to be active participants in the local economy by providing assistance for childcare, employment and training to sustain household income and viability.  Relative to agricultural uses, the Town of Dennis has adopted a Right to Farm By-law and formed an Agricultural Commission to represent agriculture and aquaculture issues in town.  The Agricultural Commission worked to return Melpet Farms to active agricultural use and is now overseeing a horse farm on this property.  In addition, the town is working with Barnstable County to preserve the Aquaculture Research Corporation site in Dennis Village to protect shell fishing interests on Cape Cod.

FUNDING:   Primarily local revenues.  Assistance will be needed to improve the appearance of strip commercial development.  Changes in the sign code will help.  The town may seek funding for a commercial rehabilitation program at some point in the future.  Consensus should be achieved first regarding priorities and standards.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Redevelop First, Concentrate Development, Be Fair, Expand Housing Opportunities, and Increase Job Opportunities

GOAL II: Protect the public interest in the coast and rights for fishing, fowling, shellfishing, and navigation, to preserve and manage coastal areas.  Enhance public access to the shoreline.  Limit development in areas subject to coastal storms.  Maintain coastal water quality. 

STRATEGY:  No coastline development that interferes with public access.  Work with MCZM to enhance public education.  With the efforts of the Town of Dennis, Cape Cod Bay has been designated a No Discharge Zones.  The town has also completed the construction of a pump-out facility at Sesuit Harbor which completes the circle of facilities on Cape Cod Bay.  The town will also continue to construct public walkways, and other public facilities to promote increasepropertyd public access to the coastal waterways.

FUNDING: Local resources, CZM, DEM Coastal Access grants, DHCD barrier removal grants for public access for disabled.  Lobby federal agencies and officials for assistance with unique coastal water issues.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Restore and Enhance the Environment, Conserve Natural Resources

GOAL III: Promote economic development that is compatible with Dennis’ environmental, cultural and economic strengths. 

STRATEGY:  Encourage redevelopment over new development.  Enhance and revitalize traditional village centers, including development of village amenities such as walkways, id of historic buildings.  Provide residents with the necessary assistance to work in the community including childcare assistance, after school programs, summer recreational programs and adult day care programs.  Improve & maintain recreation facilities. Encourage off-season tourism.  Continue focusing town resources on Dennis Port (new library and Sea View Park as examples) and work with the Dennis Port Revitalization Committee to bring the results of their Charette planning process to fruition. Zoning changes in Dennis Port, recognized by Governor Romney with the first Smart Growth Award and the 2004 Massachusetts APA Outstanding Planning Project Award, and West Dennis, awarded the 2008 Massachusetts APA Outstanding Project Award, typifies the Town’s progress in this area.   In South Dennis, the town has adopted zoning for the Dennis Industrial Zoning District that promotes opportunities for the manufacturing of clean energy technologies such as the construction of solar panels and wind turbines, blending of bio-fuel etc. In addition, the Town is working on creating a South Dennis Economic Incentive Zone in the area of Exit 9 that will modify zoning to encourage the creation of higher density, mixed use development which seeks to provide new employment opportunities as well as housing for all income levels.

FUNDING:  Local revenues along with grant funding for walkways.  Mass Historic assistance with funding of historic buildings.  DHCD funding for housing rehab, childcare and downtown revitalization. Assist developers by linking them with funding sources for affordable housing and commercial redevelopment.  Work with the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Redevelop First, Concentrate Development, Expand Housing Opportunities and Increase Job Opportunities

GOAL IV:  Foster a public transportation system

STRATEGY: Review proposed development based upon traffic impact. Implement complete streets strategies promoting joint use of public right-of ways by pedestrians, bicycles, public transit and vehicles. Minimize curb cuts.  Accommodate access for disabled.  Encourage mixed-use development. In particular the re-zoning of the two village centers in Dennis Port and West Dennis provide for the opportunity for increased residential densities on, or within walking distance of, existing public transportation routes.  Plus, the affordable housing by-law, which encourages inclusion of housing in new development and redevelopment of commercial properties has also resulted in the construction of a number of deed restricted affordable housing projects along public transit lines.  For instance, in recent years the town and state have worked together on projects such as the conversion of the West Dennis Motel into South Cape Apartments (24 efficiency apartments), conversion of an old church on Mill Street (5 apartments), conversion of vacant commercial space at 16 Telegraph Road (7 apartments) and the conversion of an underutilized shopping center for housing at 47 Route 134 (18 apartments).  All of these projects are either directly on, or less than one-quarter mile of, a Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Bus Route.  The land owner at 47 Route 134 even dedicated a portion of his property adjacent to the town sidewalk for a bus shelter. Employ trolleys or buses for access to beaches (for instance the town is considering such services for Chapin Beach) and summer events.  (This has been done successfully for Dennis Festival Days).

FUNDING: Local revenues. State Housing funding.  Also access state highway monies for road expansion. Seek funding for access for disabled.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Provide transportation choice.

GOAL V:  Provide adequate community facilities and regional facilities.  Encourage telecommunications facilities. Manage solid waste. 

STRATEGY:  Publicly provide adequate municipal buildings, recreational facilities, water supply and sewage collection.  Develop an integrated solid waste management system.  Use environmentally sound disposal methods for hazardous waste.  Following the provisions of the Dennis Local Comprehensive Plan and the Dennis Open Space and Recreation Plan the town has been working on open space and recreational opportunities in all five villages.  These include the Accessible Playground and Bass River Park in West Dennis, Sea View Park and Metcalf Memorial Beach in Dennisport, Crowe’s Pasture in East Dennis, the Nobscusset Road Park and Playground in Dennis Village, and the extension of the Cape Cod Rail Trail and improvements to Johnny Kelley Park in South Dennis.

FUNDING:  Local revenues and bonding for new police station and library.  Private, local and state revenues for open space acquisition and park facilities.  Seek funding assistance to expand water supply and initiate town sewage treatment system.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Concentrate Development and Plan Regionally

GOAL VI:  Encourage energy conservation and improve efficiency. 

STRATEGY:  Promote efficient use of energy through energy efficient construction.  Convert to underground utilities wherever possible.  Encourage carpooling, bicycling, mass transit and walking.  This has been incorporated into the new library design and construction in downtown Dennis Port.  The town is also working on the extension of the Cape Cod Rail Trail westerly to Yarmouth and Barnstable.  Promote the use of alternative energy facilities.  The town has adopted a wind power zoning by-law to promote commercial scale wind facility development in the Dennis Industrial District.  The town has formed an Alternative Energy Committee.  The town has installed solar panels on the town landfill and police station. The regional school district has also erected solar on school properties.

FUNDING:  Maximize use of funding available through Cape Light Compact and other public and private groups.  Access additional state funding for bike paths, sidewalks.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Conserve Natural Resources and Plan Regionally.

GOAL VII:  Promote the provision of fair, decent, safe, affordable housing for rental or purchase.  The town shall seek to raise its affordable housing stock to 10% of all year-round units by 2015.

STRATEGY:  Encourage affordable housing in residential and mixed-use residential and commercial areas.  The town was one of the first to adopt a special permit incentive based affordable housing by-law in the region.  The by-law allows for density increases in exchange for a 25% affordable housing set aside.  The by-law has been very effective at promoting the construction of deed restricted affordable housing in Dennis.  Most of these projects, such as the ones noted above, have been constructed as in-fill and redevelopment projects. Continue to create incentives to maximize the number of affordable housing units. Maintain existing resources of affordable housing through rehabilitation of existing stock including the housing rehab program in Dennis Port village.Make every effort to “re-develop first”.  Maximize top of the shop potential.

FUNDING:  Work with private developers.  Seek HUD monies for the development of additional affordable rentals in scattered town-owned sites.  Seek DHCD funding to continue housing rehabilitation program.  Work with Habitat for Humanity, HOME funds and any other available funding source to work toward the town’s goal of 10% by 2015.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Redevelop First, Concentrate Development, Be Fair and Expand Housing Opportunities

GOAL VIII:  Protect and preserve the important historic and cultural features of the town. 

STRATEGY:  Encourage redevelopment of existing structures as an alternative to new construction.  Use Commission’s Design Manual “Designing the Future to Honor the Past”.  Preserve the numerous historic structures in Dennis through preservation, respectful renovation, and historically correct alterations.  Increase public awareness.  Increase handicap access.  The Dennis Port Village Center has adopted design guidelines intended to direct the future development in the village to be respectful of, and potentially mirror the historic architectural patterns of the village, a similar set of guidelines are being developed for West Dennis.

FUNDING:  Seek funding to sponsor archeological excavations and studies around Indian tribal areas.  Seek funding for historic renovations through Mass Historic.  Find innovative, respectful ways of increasing handicap access through public funding sources including DHCD.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES:  Redevelop First, Restore and Enhance the Environment.

Prioritized List of Projects and Activities which Dennis will undertake to address our Community Development Needs:

1)  Continue to implement seasonal employee housing zoning provisions to create opportunities for local seasonal employers to protect a portion of the housing stock to provide affordable seasonal rentals for seasonal employees of the area tourist economy. Accomplishments to date include provisions for employee housing in the adopted Hotel Resort Zoning District.

2) Prioritize the villages of South Dennis and Dennis Port as the target areas for the creation and expansion of housing and economic development activities.  At present the town is working to create an economic center in South Dennis that will increase employment and housing opportunities in this village.

3) Work with the Cape Cod Commission on the establishment of Economic Centers and Village Center areas within which mixed-use development, with affordable housing set-asides would be encouraged. In particular, the Exit 9 Economic Center in South Dennis.

4)         Secure funding to preserve and rehabilitate existing affordable housing and make use of Community Preservation funds to promote the creation of affordable housing and historic preservation.

5)         Continue the work on the Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan.

6)         Explore the use of Transfer of Development Rights to promote economic development in priority areas while protecting important resource areas.

7)         Explore methods to relieve the regional development review burden for development and redevelopment in smart growth areas and for affordable housing initiatives that meet state objectives.

8)         Seek or initiate programs to support local families sustain household income and viability including assistance for childcare, employment and training.

9)         Work with the Cape Cod Commission on the designation of Dennis Port and West Dennis Village Centers as Growth Incentive Zones to relax regional regulatory requirements and promote mixed use development in these areas located on existing transit routes.

10)       Continue to work on the creation of a new cultural arts zoning district on the north side of Dennis to reinforce the town’s support for the activities at and in the vicinity of the Dennis Playhouse.

11) Create an Americans with Disabilities Act Self Evaluation and Transition Plan assessing the status of the town’s efforts to remove access barriers to public properties and buildings for disabled individuals.

12) Implement barrier removal to improve accessibility for disabled individuals including improving access to all public buildings, constructing curb cuts, and similar public improvements that serve disabled individuals.

13)  Create an after school literacy program under the auspices of the Dennis Public Library to serve low income children. The program will provide a safe, supportive place for disadvantaged youth and provide homework  and similar assistance.

14)  Site preparation and pre-development of potential affordable housing sites including but not limited to vacant South Yarmouth Road and Paddock’s Path properties which the town has acquired title to through tax foreclosures.

15) The town owned VIC Hall in Dennis Port serves the local Head Start program. However, the building is old, is not fully accessible, may contain hazardous materials (lead paint, asbestos) and is in dire need of rehabilitation. The Head Start Program is an important part of meeting the educational needs of low-income residents by preparing pre-school kids for school.

16) The VIC Hall, used by the Head Start Program abuts a contaminated brownfield site. The privately owned brownfield site fencing is not well maintained and does not provide full protection for the low income youths using the program.  The town seeks to properly fence the VIC Hall property to provide a safe site for the Head Start children to participate in outdoor recreational activities.

17) Dennis has an aging population. Many of our seniors rely more and more on their children for round the clock supervision. This demand strains the financial resources of many flow income families. The town is seeking to provide subsidies to provide opportunities to place elderly, low income seniors income into day programs.

18) Various churches provide haphazard emergency assistance such as rental or bill paying assistance to low income residents. However, there is no true, dedicated revenue source for such assistance.  The town seeks to create a dedicated revenue source to meet emergency financial assistance to low income residents.



  1. Paula Bacon

    Most of the plan is thoughtful and well considered. For Cape Cod to not prioritize a village like West Dennis which has wonderful exposure to water and good linkage to another village like South Yarmouth with many smart growth elements already in place would be a missed opportunity. A destination with character is just waiting to get some attention.

  2. Daniel Fortier Post author

    Paula, the plan if for the use of Community Development Block Grant money. CDBG funds need to be used to serve predominantly low income areas. Generally 50% of the population served needs to be classified as low income. South Dennis and Dennis Port are the two poorest census areas in town. West Dennis’s income levels is about 50% higher than they are in Dennis Port and about 15% higher than South Dennis. If we prioritized West Dennis, we would not be addressing the neediest population.

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