Cape Cod Town Seeks to Save Cottages/RVs Parks

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November 1, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Voters at the Nov. 16 special town meeting in Dennisport, Mass., will be presented with two different and competing zoning proposals to protect the town's decades-old cottage colonies and RV parks, the Cape Cod Times reported.

A warrant item approved by several town boards asks the town meeting to change the zoning from hotel use to seasonal resort community. But a petition submitted by a small group of cottage owners asks town meeting members to change the zoning for three properties — Chase's Ocean Grove, Salt Air Village and the Village at Nantucket Sound (formerly known as Curtis Pine) to rural residential, said Dennis Town Planner Daniel Fortier.

The colonies are situated mainly along Old Wharf Road in Dennisport.

Cottage colonies and RV parks have been a nonconforming use of the land since 1973, when town zoning officially prohibited them, Fortier said. As a result it has been virtually impossible for cottage owners to make substantial improvements to their property, he said.

Fortier said the seasonal resort community zoning would allow owners to apply for a building permit for such improvements as decks and the addition of dormers.

The proposed zoning change "takes away the possibility of a hotel going in there," Fortier said, which means cottage owners "get a long-term sense of security."

Seasonal residents of the cottage colonies came together last fall after town officials envisioned a future in which hotels and resorts could play a bigger role in developments along Old Wharf Road. Fortier worked on the proposed seasonal resort community zoning in a series of summer meetings with cottage and RV owners.

The seasonal resort community zone change would affect properties occupied by Chase's Ocean Grove, Campers Haven, Salt Air Village, Village at Nantucket Sound, Ocean View Cape Cod (formerly Grindell's), all in Dennisport, and the Old Chatham Road RV Park in South Dennis, Fortier said.

The zoning proposal won the unanimous support of the town's board of selectmen, finance committee, planning board, economic development commission and zoning bylaw study committee, Fortier said.

The zoning proposal would allow buildings to have a maximum height of 25 feet or 1½ stories, which means some cottages might be able to install dormers, Fortier said. It limits the maximum footprint for a cottage expansion to 900 square feet.

Currently, some cottages are separated by only a few feet. Future improvements would have to allow a minimum of 10 feet between cottages to allow emergency services room to move, Fortier said.

A change to rural residential zoning, as requested by the petitioners, would require minimum lot sizes of 60,000 square feet, Fortier said. While in theory it could preserve the integrity of existing cottages by restricting anybody's ability to make substantial improvements, it would also keep the colonies a nonconforming use, he said.

Fortier said he fears a developer proposing a less dense development of single-family homes, for instance, could have an advantage over the seasonal colonies before the board of appeals.

In the case of nonconforming uses, the appeals board has to consider whether the new proposal is more detrimental than the existing use when deciding whether to grant a variance, Fortier said.

"The protection's not there," he said.

The selectmen and finance committee both recommended that town meeting reject the petitioned zoning change, Fortier said. The planning board hearing on the petition won't be heard until Nov. 15, the night before the special town meeting, he said.

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