Cape Cod Town Sides with RV Parks in Zoning Issue

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November 20, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Dennis, Mass., cottage and trailer park residents turned out in droves Thursday morning (Nov. 19) to hear what zoning changes Town Planner Dan Fortier and the economic development committee have in mind for the Old Wharf Road area of Dennisport.

They came away satisfied that their summers in Dennisport are not about to end, according to Wicked Local Dennis, Yarmouth, Mass.

They also applauded Fortier’s decision to resume discussions of this area after May 15 when they will be in town to participate. Many drove long distances to attend the meeting.

Fortier presented a history of development and zoning in the area, which between 1935 and 1945 was primarily used as a campground. In 1937, the first land-use regulations were established in Dennis, placing restrictions on tourist camps. “Those restrictions are still on the books,” Fortier said.

In 1959, Town Meeting adopted regulations for trailer parks in the area, and 1965 zoning prohibited new trailer parks and the expansion of existing ones south of Route 28. By 1963, a bylaw prohibited tent campgrounds, although existing campgrounds were allowed to remain.

“Long before the first comprehensive plan and townwide zoning bylaw, the town sought to regulate and restrict uses in this part of town,” Fortier said. “Whatever we ultimately do will require Town Meeting action.”

Zoning passed in 1973 made the area a hotel district, and the existing cottage colonies and trailer parks were allowed to continue to operate under the grandfather clause. But because of their lack of status, property and cottage owners’ were not allowed to make any changes in how they looked in 1973.

“Hotels, motels and motor courts are a ‘yes’ in the resort-residential zoning district,” Fortier said. “I’ve been trained to ask what’s the worst that could happen as a result of a zoning bylaw, so I have proposed that this committee consider amending the zoning to allow you people some flexibility and to give the town a vision of what the area should look like and establish controls.”

Present zoning does not allow the town to reject any hotel use in the area. “If the Indians took the land and wanted to put in a casino, under current zoning they could do it,” Fortier said. Stressing that he’s looking to future protection of both the town and the property owners, Fortier vowed to work with representatives from the properties in question to find a common ground.

Attorney David Reid, representing the Cummings family’s Salt Air Village, said that 36 years after the town began moving toward hotel/motel uses in this area of Dennisport, the cottages remain. “There is a need for them, something that makes them succeed,” Reid said. “Hoping they’ll be replaced or banning them doesn’t work.”

Fortier said he hopes Salt Air will continue to authorize Reid to represent them as the committee moves ahead with zoning. “We need to wrestle with a level of conformity and give you some level of ability to do something with your cottages that won’t require permission from the town.”

Many cottage, trailer and RV owners, including year-round residents of Dennis, Chatham, Yarmouth and other Cape towns, spoke of their long history in the area and their contributions to the community.

Fortier said their best bet is to buy an interest in the property their cottages and trailers are on, preventing any unwanted changes in its use. “Just don’t do anything there without proper permits, because you’ll lose your grandfather use,” Fortier advised.

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