Voters to Act on Heated Bay State RV Zoning Issue

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November 15, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

A group of summer residents is challenging proposed zoning changes that would make cottage colonies and RV parks a conforming use of land along Old Wharf and Old Chatham roads in Dennisport, Mass.

Several dozen residents of Chase's Ocean Grove say that rather than protecting the decades-old cottages, Article 11 on Tuesday's (Nov. 16) special town meeting warrant would make them attractive to developers, who could enlarge them and force out longtime owners, the Cape Cod Times reported.

"We want the Grove to remain as is," said Fred Drake of Milford, one of the 280 seasonal cottage dwellers at Chase's Ocean Grove.

He and about 50 other people belong to Ocean Grove Homeowners Preservation Association Inc., which has put its own zoning proposal, Article 12, on the special town meeting warrant. Proponents of Article 11 and Article 12 both say the future of the summer properties is at stake.

Article 11, backed by town officials and developed by Dennis Town Planner Daniel Fortier, would make land that is now zoned for residences and resorts into property zoned for seasonal resort communities.

The land occupied by Chase's Ocean Grove, the Village on Nantucket Sound, Salt Air Village and Ocean View Cape Cod RV Park (formerly Grindell's) has not been zoned for seasonal cottages and RV parks since 1973, according to Fortier. Article 11 also would cover Old Chatham Road RV Resort on Old Chatham Road.

If voters approve Article 11, it would allow cottage owners to make improvements by expanding their footprint to 900 square feet and adding half a story. But improvements could encourage managers of the affected properties to charge higher rents, effectively forcing longtime summer residents out of their cottages, said Chuck Murray of the Ocean Grove Homeowners Preservation Association Inc.

The situation is tricky because cottage owners own the buildings, but the resort managers own the land on which the cottages sit, said Murray, an Acton resident

Already, Mark DeWitt, a new manager of Chase's Ocean Grove, has increased rents from $2,500 a year to as high as $6,500, depending on how close a property is to the water and its size, Murray said.

He said resort managers had less incentive in the past to price cottage owners off the land because the land owners couldn't rebuild any cottages they took down.

But Article 11 would allow land owners to not only rebuild the tiny seasonal dwellings but also double their size in some cases, Murray said. "This is to replace us," he said. "(A land owner) builds McCottages, he gets more rent. It's just like putting a hotel in there."

The cottages are on land zoned for larger residential properties, which makes the cottages a non-conforming use and any proposals to build new or improved structures on the land must go before the Dennis Board of Appeals. Murray's group proposes in Article 12 to make the cottages an even more non-conforming use, by increasing lot sizes from 40,000 to 60,000 square feet.

But Fortier said keeping the cottage colonies in a non-compliant zoning state could make them susceptible to re-development by a builder proposing a less dense use of the land.

If Article 11 is not adopted, the board of appeals could judge a development proposal based on whether it is more detrimental than what exists on a property, which means it could result in the replacement of a warren of small cottages with fewer, larger houses with more open space, Fortier said.

Fortier also said not every cottage could increase its footprint to 900 square feet if Article 11 is adopted, since any cottage expanding outward would have to maintain a 10-foot buffer between the structure and neighboring buildings.

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