Community Compact Highlights Smart Growth and Affordable Housing Efforts in Dennis

What: Dennis Community Compact Signing

Where: Dennis Town Hall, Route 134 and Bob Crowell Road in South Dennis

When: Tuesday, July 25th at 5pm

Who: Lt. Governor Polito, local delegation, members of the press etc..


Dennis has been a leader on Cape Cod with mixed use development planning. We have been recognized for our work in Dennis Port in 2004 with both the Governor’s Smart Growth Leadership Award and the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) Comprehensive Planning Award and in West Dennis in 2007 by the Massachusetts Chapter of the APA Comprehensive Planning Award. We are now working on a Mixed Use project in the Exit 9 area that will look to creating a future economic center that will combine high density housing with new economic opportunities that recognize the changing world economy. This planning district is being developed in cooperation with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and the Cape Cod Commission.

Why did you choose this best practice and what assistance would you need to accomplish this best practice?

* The town chose Mixed Use Development as its best practice area to focus on as it meets the needs for promoting concentrated development where housing and employment can work together. The mixed use development approach allows for coordination of infrastructure that serves all community needs in one area. By concentrating development under the auspices of MGL Chapter 40R we will be able to focus transportation, waste water, recreation and other municipal infrastructure expenditures in a manner that serves the greatest need for the funds expended. We need the state’s assistance with this to be able to best provide for infrastructure investment. For instance, in Dennis Port Village Center, while great strides have been made to improve the economic condition in this village over the past 13 years, waste water has become the key issue that is keeping the village from meeting all of its potential. This is the same with the West Dennis Village Center and is expected to be an issue for the Exit 9 area on a much grander scale. In the Exit 9 Smart Growth Overlay District, we are working with state personnel to create a balanced zoning approach that will allow the Chapter 40R and S reimbursements to provide the seed money for meeting the startup infrastructure costs. These funds will be combined with some form of special taxation district to generate additional infrastructure funding. The special taxation district has been discussed with a portion of the key landowners and the Cape Cod Commission. Town Staff has also discussed modifying the Dennis Port and West Dennis Village Districts to make them compatible with Chapter 40R requirements with the state. These changes may also be forthcoming. We will need the state to accept these districts into the Chapter 40R program to provide the town with seed money for waste water infrastructure in particular.

Why did you choose this best practice and what assistance would you need to accomplish this best practice?

* Dennis has been a leader in creating affordable housing. We adopted an affordable housing zoning by-law in 2001 and have had numerous applications approved under this by-law since then. In 2004 and 2007 we enhanced our affordable housing zoning by making multi-family housing available in the Dennis Port Village Center (2004) and West Dennis Village Center (2007) with 25% affordability requirements. In addition, the town has developed community housing at Melpet Farms, has converted a number of commercial properties into multi-family housing with affordability requirements and has worked on modifications to accessory housing possibilities. The town has several larger projects on the drawing board that will raise concerns due to regional permitting requirements. These regional permitting requirements will trigger the need for the town to permit projects that are acceptable under local zoning by the means of Chapter 40B. These projects include a possible Chapter 40R redevelopment of an older industrial site adjacent to the Dennis Port Village Center, a village oriented project in the heart of Dennis Port Village Center, the redevelopment of the former Columns Restaurant site and a village oriented housing project on Route 6A in Dennis Village. Each of these projects will meet the requirements of the applicable Dennis Affordable Housing Zoning, but will require Chapter 40B status due to regional regulatory restrictions.

Community Compact recognition for these efforts will allow the town to continue to work with the Cape Cod Commission on finding mechanisms to exempt affordable housing from regional review while maintaining local permitting controls. Community Compact recognition will also allow the town to work with state agencies to access infrastructure funds to support these projects and access waste water funding.


Flood insurance plan would shift burden to riskiest properties – Houston Chronicle

“…which over time could prompt homeowners to vacate the most at-risk areas.”

The “plan” allows the private insurers to siphon off the low risk insurance policies, leaving the federal government with the debt laden ones. Ultimately FEMA is left with greater debt.

If flood insurance were profitable, we would not have created a National Flood Insurance Program. Now that some can see profit around the edges, they want to skim those policies off, leaving a larger unfunded burden for the NFIP. 

Perhaps we need to learn a bit from the “six months of rain in twelve hours” that hit Wisconsin and realize these are natural disasters that affect the nation. While insurance for them is important, it should be one that covers wind, rain, flooding, tornadoes, wild fire, volcanic activity, earthquakes and mud slides.  Create one risk pool for all.  Or, maybe just realize the nation has an economic interest in fast recovery from natural disasters and plan accordingly in the federal budget.

Flood Insurance Reauthorization – Discussion and Opinion

The NFIP needs to be reauthorized by September 30th.  At this point there appears to be two central pieces of legislation and a variety of smaller side pieces being circulated.  Below is my attempt to summarize, not necessarily in an unbiased manner, what is going on.
On the House side there are two key bills, one is for a full reauthorization (HR2874) the second that only sets a rate cap (HR2868).  The consensus of the reviews are that HR 2874 will be devastating on coastal communities. HR2874 will remove insurance for repetitive loss properties and make new construction in flood zones uninsurable under the NFIP.  The sponsor has been stated that coastal properties are a drain on the NFIP as these “coastal mansions” cost too much to repair. Forget the fact that flood insurance is capped at $250,000 for everyone.
Starting with the new construction aspect, while not promoting construction in “harm’s way” may be a good idea, given the recent Chatham takings case, there could be some significant financial ramification for this. We would have to decide, do we set standards for flood zone construction and allow them to build, probably on a cash basis, without flood insurance? The obvious risk to us would be structures that might eventually be damaged and abandoned that the public might have to foot the bill to remove after tax foreclosure.
Relative to repetitive loss properties, every structure within the flood zone is anticipated to have to file a claim eventually. For Dennis, we have over 3,000 residential structures, or 1/5th of our housing units, in the flood zone. If these properties lose flood insurance after filing a claim, the impact will be devastating to the local housing market. Nearly everything south of Lower County Road between the Swan River and Bass River and about a quarter of the homes south of Route 28 across town would be impacted.  The impact would be two-fold, first we would face a housing market collapse within the flood prone area as mortgage companies would be required to turn away from these areas. In areas outside the flood zone, as our second home market would, most likely continue to flourish, would see sky-rocketing property values.  Even if the cash market remained strong in the flood zone, where 2/3rds of the sales in recent years have been cash transactions, there will be a definite downward push on real estate values, and if mortgaged properties are damaged by flooding, we will have properties walked away from which is still adversely impacting parts of New Jersey from Sandy and Mississippi and Louisiana from Katrina.
“The bill would strip federal flood insurance eligibility from certain properties that flood repeatedly, some expensive properties, and new properties built in designated flood zones.”
Caps flood insurance at $10,000 for a single family home, voted out of Committee along with 2874. I can find no outside summaries as basically this is a very limited scope bill.
The Senate Bill is better and seems to be the one that is getting the most support. It is mostly a step in the right direction. It caps rate increases to 10% rather than the 25% that came out of Biggert-Waters and the subsequent “affordability” amendments. Protects affordability, promotes expenditures on mitigation efforts for flood prone properties and freezes interest on FEMA debt to the Treasury for Katrina and Sandy. 
In my view, and that of many who have been following this, it does not go quite far enough. There is no insurance required for areas in California and elsewhere for wild fires or mudslides. Oklahomans, Missourians etc. are not required to carry tornado insurance. Rather, national disasters are declared and regular homeowner insurance providers are “rescued” as the federal government covers rebuilding. Flood disasters need to be handled in the same fashion as other “natural disasters” with the federal government recognizing
Recently I read about a home in Oklahoma that was being rebuilt for the third time after being hit by a tornado, yet our repetitive loss properties will lose the ability to be insured. There needs to be a limit on the NFIP responsibility for storms. In October and November 2016 the NFIP faced nearly $4 billion in claims from flooding. Up until then it had been a pretty good year for them. These two months probably left the program in the red. For homeowners in these areas (and here) the impact is two-fold. First you have to deal with the flood insurance recovery, but, second, you need to deal with your homeowners policy for “non-flood” damages. In New Jersey, after Sandy, they have found that this means two deductibles that climbed for many as high as $10,000 as insurers push the highest deductibles since “floods only happen once every 100 years” and “who really gets much wind damage?” When you have to find emergency housing, who has $10,000 to spend before you can tap your insurance reimbursement?
In the House Committee on Financial Services Rep Maxine Waters (Biggert-Waters Act co-sponsor) called for:
Given the CBO notes that the program takes in $4.3B in premiums……
Anyway, here is a link to the Senate offering that is co-sponsored by Senator Warren, it is probably the best we can hope for, but we should continue to push for perhaps a $2 billion storm cap (wind and flood damage) that turns a Flood Insurance covered event into a national disaster that is funded through grants and not the flood insurance program.
And a summary document: 
We are trying to get a meeting set up with Congressman Keating and Senator Warren. The timing is short.