Skip Navigation
This table is used for column layout.
September 25, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Planning Board Members Present: Michael Cole, Chairman, Dan Coppelman, Leslie-Ann Morse, Tom Johnson, Lisa Panaccione, Howard Sandler
Planning Board Members Absent: Don Andersen, Vice Chairman, John Knox-Alternate,  Lee Verrone-Alternate  
Staff Present:  Sarah Raposa-Town Planner

Town Planner Sarah Raposa gave an introduction to the meeting followed by a coffee break.

The Chair of the Planning Board called the meeting to order at 9:10 a.m.  The purpose of the meeting is to get guidance from the public for the board.  There will be four brief presentations and the board will take comments from the public after the presentation.

Bob Smith (former member Critical Planning Committee) narrated a slide show he prepared of the Route 6 Corridor featuring commercial properties from the Rotary to the Wellfleet line.

Mike Cole said that the first presentation is on the Sign Code.  Lisa Panaccione gave an explanation of the effort by the Board for the past ten years and the current Sign Code Committee working on revisions to the Sign Code

Dan Coppelman spoke in regard to planning for the future, proposed zoning changes in North Eastham, proposed goals and proposed uses for the Purcell Property which includes Senior Affordable Housing, Trades, Technology, Retail, Professional Offices, Community Services, Open Space and Recreation, and Public Buildings and Uses.

Mike Cole used visuals to describe existing uses for District D - Limited Business, District C - the  Commercial/Industrial area, and District A - Residential, and described proposed uses for District C in the Holmes Road area and the Purcell property.

Sandy Bayne, Chairman of Water Management Committee, gave a slide show in regard to Town Water, Waste Water and future development.  Municipal Water planning is driven by human health issues and Wastewater Treatment planning is driven by environmental issues.  Ms. Bayne referred to a map of Eastham’s Kettle Ponds and explained the link between salt water, groundwater, estuaries, ponds, wetlands and watersheds.  Municipal Water Issues and Wastewater Issues were outlined and discussed.  Ms. Bayne referred to a map of the Eastham Watershed Areas and pointed out the areas that will need to have nitrogen removal to protect marine waters.  The next map show was a map of undeveloped areas in Eastham, which shows potentially buildable areas.  There are approximately 563 lots and if we have wastewater treatment in place, we might have the potential to increase the population by about 10%, which is another issue for us to think about.

Ms. Bayne noted issues to consider.
1.      How protect possible municipal wells?
2.      How protect sensitive environmental areas?
3.      How control remaining development?
4.      Can we agree we want Zoning which is both growth neutral and protective of environmentally sensitive areas?
Ms. Bayne also said that the Town of Dennis has received approval from the Attorney General to increase lot sizes in order to protect their water supplies.

Tom Johnson said that there is currently a limit on the size of house you can build based on the size of your lot.  When town water or wastewater, or both,  are in place we will lose that protection and if we don’t do something, we could have a half acre lot that is currently zoned for two bedrooms  build up to four bedrooms. And if that happened, there could be a 20% increase without even building on the 563 vacant lots .  Another factor to consider is that this is going to be a long project of ten to fifteen years to get water and wastewater.  Also, we want to be fair to those that have  water and those who do not.  For example, someone who bought a half acre lot years ago and built a two bedroom house and their neighbor built a four bedroom house.  The guy who built the two bedroom house, planning to add bedrooms when he sold his home in Boston or wherever, can’t do that now. The neighbor was able to do that because of timing.  The  Cape Cod Commission has said that before we do any development of the Purcell property we must be able to supply 100,000 gallons of water a day just for that one property.  So, to go forward, we have to be cognizant of the wastewater and water supply system to the town.

Mr. Johnson asked the audience to write down any questions they might have.  

Mr. Cole gave a overview of the presentation so far.  With infrastructure becoming available, it is a two-pronged effort.  Town water addresses health issues and Wastewater addresses environmental issues.  We must put density, put the things we want where we want them and trade off that with not having the density and the risks where we don’t want it. Taking that in mind you will see why we are here today.  Eastham gets 96% of its tax revenue from its residential properties, 3% from commercial/industrial and 1% from personal property.  Of the 15 towns on the cape it is the lowest percent from non-residential, the lowest percent from commercial.  What is the best use of our non-residential property particularly knowing that we are not likely to add acreage to that district?  We are not likely to go into your neighborhood and say we are going to make it a business district.   There is the potential with infrastructure coming on board in the next couple of years and we must plan how to  better utilize it where we want it, and to put safeguards in place where we don’t want development.
Mr. Cole quoted from a 1969 Town Plan that Sarah Raposa found and had given to him.  

Mr. Johnson said that the required 100-foot setback makes these gigantic parking lots in front.  If you look at the picture in the slide show of the nursery, if you put a sign in the middle of some shrubbery, it doesn’t push out at you as a terrible looking sign.  This is what an integration of changes in Zoning and design standards would be like.

Mr. Cole said that if you own a business in town and you alter the use or alter the building, you must come before the Planning Board for Commercial Site Plan Review.  If you own a house or plan to build a house, there are triggers, basically size in relation to your lot.  It is a ratio of total under roof area divided by the size of your lot area that you would have to come before the board for Residential Site Plan Review.  Finally, another topic we would like to hear from you on is Road Takings.  Private roads that at the time they were constructed according to road standards of the town, but at that time weren’t ready to be taken, are now all sold out and they come back to town meeting ten to twenty years later, after the standards have changed and the roads have deteriorated slightly.  What is the fair thing to do.  That is another thing we are looking at with the Highway Surveyors and the DPW.

Mr. Cole opened the meeting to questions.

Ms. Raposa presented questions from the audience.
1.      Sign Code is far less important than other aspects of zoning.  It is a valid issue however, and  worth revisiting.  Did you review the report on road signage done by Christopher Lovelock and another fellow?
        Ms. Raposa said she gave a copy of the report to Vice-Chairman of the Planning Board, Don Andersen, who was not able to attend today.

2.      Under North Eastham Re-zoning - Has a member of the Planning Board served as a liaison to the Affordable Housing Trust, as the Purcell property was purchased for affordable housing?
        Mr. Cole said it was voted in between 2001 and 2002 and the vote was to purchase the property for affordable housing and other municipal uses.  Two years later a town meeting article was presented to develop the property with affordable housing and it was turned down.  These are the last ten acres available for business in this town.  To put housing there you need to take a realistic look at the surrounding areas. For real estate that would be a hard sell.  Mr. Johnson said that some of the critical planning did include having a developer include retail on the ground floor with some affordable housing upstairs as one of the options to try to get that so we don’t have to pay for the affordable housing.  So being able to get that would be a nice plus.  Mr. Cole said that Eastham just had a Housing Report done, by a grant, and would encourage everyone to read it, at least the executive summary.  It is a very powerful report.  It talks about the housing needs in Eastham, particularly for the workforce, and so called top of shop housing, and the other is senior housing. We have virtually none and people need to move to Orleans to find it.

3.      Under North Eastham Re-zoning - Do you envision the zoning changes to be across the town or would you create a zoning by-law for just this area?        
        Mr. Cole said that the Critical Planning Committee has looked at this project for seven or eight years, hired a consultant within the first couple of years to look at that may happen there, surveyed the area three times the nuclear businesses, a broader group of businesses and then the residences in the area.  Hired a consultant to convert that into how it might get planned and within a couple of years in Phase 2, the consultant drew up potential zoning to make that happen.  That was the trigger for moving it from the Critical Planning Committee to the Planning Committee.  The Planning Committee does zoning, so that is where it is now.  We are looking at things that really are a broader, wider range than initially planned, not just the Purcell property.

4.      Under North Eastham Re-zoning - Would thee be room for a water fountain park, described as intermittently spurting from the pavement of a pretty courtyard?  I have seen them in other towns.  They are decorative and bring young families to the town because children love them.
        Mr. Cole said that when we surveyed, the first thing that came up was looking for green space/socialization space.  People want a place to go and be with other people and have things around them whether it be a restaurant, coffee shops, or different facilities, the post office, but it’s the green space where they can congregate.  Another big concern was public rest rooms.

5.      Question about Water - How many ponds does Eastham have?  Is it true that hay was used at one time to bring back ponds?
        Sandy Bayne said that we have seventeen ponds, several of them are vernal pools really.  We sample and test every year twelve of them.  The one that you saw just west of this proposed work on Holmes Road we can’t get into.  As far as hay being used, nitrogen reduction can happen by wood chips, there are materials that will absorb nitrogen, hay may be one of them, but for ponds, the issue is phosphorous.

Ms. Raposa said that was the end of the questions on cards.  Mr. Cole said that on the back of the agenda, there is a list of the projects that the Planning Board is working on, and gave a short explanation of Residential Site Plan Review and Commercial Site Plan Review for businesses.  Another important project is Road Taking.  Sandy Bayne said that in other towns the roads don’t have to be built up so they could be taken sooner, and wanted to know if that was an Eastham policy.  Ms. Raposa said that it is 51% in Eastham.  This came to a head a couple of years ago when a giant snow storm paralyzed us and we don’t plow private roads.

Mr. Cole said that we have Local Comprehensive Plan that has been in place for a couple of years.  It is promulgated by the state now, but first by the County Cape Cod Commission.  It has a lot of logic to it but suffers from inertia, we are all pretty busy, But simply the idea that the town has got to have a plan so you have sense of where you are going, and that all of us be coordinated towards that.  It gets revised every five years, we just went through it, for the third time, and I think we’re finally getting some traction and we have got to pay attention to it. We have a Long Range Planning Committee, Local Comprehensive Planning Committee, we used to have a Critical Planning Committee, and the Planning Board.  So one of the efforts is trying to condense that to get on track.
Ms. Raposa said that the update from the 2002 Local Comprehensive Plan will be going to Town meeting in May, 2011 and the various groups will get together to work on the five year update beyond that.

Tom Johnson mentioned upcoming and ongoing meetings listed on the town website and on the bulleting board outside town hall, and noted that there were handouts available regarding topics discussed today.

A question from the audience to see if the town has thought about reducing the number of required parking spaces to allow for more green space.  Mr. Cole said yes, and listed a number of alternatives, including shared parking between businesses. We are definitely trying to get away from oceans of pavement in front of businesses.

A woman from the audience said the small business people are the meat and potatoes.  It is the visibility that makes people stop.  If people see the business they are going to stop.  If you put businesses in back of the general store, those people are not going to make it.  Senior housing is terrific and if you put a walking path, other people will come there too.  Lisa Panaccione said that good signage and good landscaping are important.  It is important to plan ahead of time and if it is done right it will enhance Route 6.

Gentleman said that the Purcell property and the area around it will only be able to be used once and it should be used on something that will generate serious revenue.  In regard to condo use, we have the abandoned condos next door.  When we have developers for property, is there some kind of financial screening for these people, so that as they build these properties they can withstand many of the downturns that come with the economy.
Mr. Cole said that the Critical Planning Committee focus does not represent a new center in Eastham.  It is creating a potentially mixed use area in North Eastham because that is where the business district currently is.  It is also not intended to cost the taxpayers money.   In answer to the second question, the Planning Board considers landscaping important and requires a landscaping bond.  The builders could be asked to submit performance bonds or payment bonds.

Carol Martin wanted to thank the board for a well thought out program.  Lisa Panaccione said that there are Sign Code Work Committee meets every Friday morning at 10 a.m. and all are welcome.  Mike Cole said that the Planning Board meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m. when we have projects.  Our work sessions are on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m. and all of these meetings are open to the public.  

Sarah Raposa read the next question - Who are we?  Eastham, a seasonal residential community.  Our biggest assets are National Seashore access, beaches, bike trail, summer activities.  Where are these in plans for the future?
Tom Johnson said that if we don’t do something when we get water or sewer, we can possibly increase 20%.  Providing 3 million gallons of water a day, a 20% increase gets us closer to adding another million.  Also the sign issue.  Signs do two things, they direct somebody to use your business like choosing one restaurant over another, and they also direct people to stay who would otherwise drive right through Eastham.  We have to make sure that our businesses have an adequate chance to get the commerce they need to stay afloat in this economy.  Mr. Cole referred to the 1969 Town Plan and a statement about population growth and a concern.  Before the year 2000, the year round population will probably reach its ultimate saturation level of about 10,000 people.  In 2000, we had a population level of 5,500.  Not everything can be predicted.  Mr. Cole strongly recommends taking a look at the housing report.  Population has leveled off and a few years ago we had a decrease in population.  The senior population is down because as people get older they don’t want to, or can’t  stay in their homes, and we have no senior housing.  Also, the high school graduate population is also declining.  We can make this work if we are looking for opportunities to make it work.

Comment about the flashing sign on Route 6 about the parking lots, Nauset full, Coast Guard full, Marconi open.  That just says keep on driving out of town.  Is there anything we can do about that sign, get it removed.  Ms. Morse said that the sign belongs to the government and there is nothing we can do about it.  Mr. Sandler said the sign is for traffic control. It is not about the sign, it is not pretty, but it is the message, even when there are other Eastham spots open like the bay beaches and the ponds. Could we possibly put a sign on the police station lawn about the beautiful bay beaches being open.

A concern about safety for people crossing Route 6, walking or biking for the five miles from the Rotary to the Town Hall.  Help, please!
Mr. Johnson said that the state has been cleaning the sidewalks.  It isn’t very safe because there are quite a few telephone poles in the middle of the road and you do have to get around the rotary.  Ms. Morse said that if you are coming into Eastham you should take the bike trail.  Mr. Cole said that they asked and received an okay for a business with frontage on Route 6 put in a sidewalk, and we could do that whenever possible.  

A request for a gentle sloping ramp for putting boats off a trailer into Cape Cod Bay.  The only safe place in Eastham where you can easily take a boat off a trailer is Great Pond.  Rock Harbor on the Orleans side there is a ramp and on the Eastham side there is another.  The prevailing wind is from the southwest.  From the Eastham side of that you going directly into the wind.  Is there some other place, maybe Boat Meadow landing.  Mr. Johnson said that due to erosion, there isn’t a ramp on the bay side to safely get your boat down.  There is also a ramp by the Goose Hummock shop in Orleans.

A gentleman said that Eastham has an excellent reputation and asked why we want to change and go to four bedroom houses.  How do we justify making these changes in town?  
Mr. Johnson said we want to prevent the four bedroom houses by changing the zoning. That is the purpose of this meeting to say where we want to go and determine how to get there.  
Mr. Cole said that we are trying to hang on to the classic definition of Rural Seaside Community.  Chatham and Orleans might say the same. Wellfleet and Truro have much less density than Eastham does and they’re just starting to do things with a little bit of a downtown and village and passed a restaurant district extending down the main street and out to Mayo Beach.  It is all about good planning, where do we want the things that we want under the right controls and where do we want to keep what we’ve got.

Ken Taber of the Hole in One Group commended the board on this meeting and allowing the public to comment.  His question is,  What does this board need to do to start getting some of your ideas and thoughts approved and put into work, and will it have to take 5, 10 or 15 years?
Mike Cole said that the Critical Planning Committee and now the Planning Board have been on this for eight years.  We are not experienced in making changes and making investments.  That is why we are here today.  It is not the kind of thing to come to town meeting all at once because it would be overwhelming, and when people are overwhelmed, they vote it down.  We are looking at the notion of re-zoning this area.  One the timing, the infrastructure is on town water.  We can’t do these things without town water.  We are currently looking at a couple year horizon to bring in town water.  We are looking to have everything in place so we can put out RFPs and be able to say that yes we have the land and we have the infrastructure.  We might have pieces of it ready for town meeting this year, but we will certainly have a number of hearings.  We will be talking to the water people to have District D near the top of where the water comes down.  This will be a large job for the Zoning Board to tackle.   I think we are looking at a two to five year horizon.  We have to do things conservatively and carefully.

Martin MacDonald spoke in favor of the meeting today and the Planning Board.  What the board is doing deserves appreciation, as well as the input from the public at meetings like this and the fact that you are going to have more meetings like this, and I hope that more people are going to come and participate.  Change happens, you can’t stop change, but you must plan for the change so that things don’t happen willy-nilly.

Sarah Raposa read the next question.  A playground somewhere for parents to gather together.  Tom Johnson mentioned his trip to New Zealand and described the layout there.  Tom said there could certainly be room for a playground.  Parents come to the high school and there are not a lot of places for them to dine or run errands.  Lisa Panaccione said that it is the domino effect.  If you have a minimum business economy it does not permit longer hours.  Ms. Panaccione has a small business in Eastham and closes at 5 p.m.  If it was a destination area and she had neighbors, she would stay open longer hours.  If the stores in North Eastham stayed open late, she would grow with the growth at the other end of town and would change the way she did business.

Next question was about the Community Preservation Act.  How much money is in the fund now, who controls it, and when was the last time this money was spent and for what?  
Ms. Raposa said that it is for Open Space and Recreation, Affordable Housing and Historic Preservation.  The law mandates that 10% of the revenue be distributed to each of these areas and then there is a larger fund for proposals.  The taxpayers control the spending by voting on the articles presented at town meeting.

The next question is in relation to the dog by-law.  The town meeting passed a no leash by-laws that in essence dogs may be unleashed if the dog responds to its owners voice control.  Now, the Board of Selectmen ruled that dogs must be leashed in the Dyer Prence area.  Is this ruling legal in overriding the town meeting by-law?
Ms. Morse said that is way outside the purview of the Planning Board and they should talk to the Board of Selectmen or the Town Administrator.

Mr. Cole said that for the next couple of years ahead our focus is to do planning.  Every once in a great while we get a tiny subdivision and we might get a Commercial Site Plan Review.  Every meeting we will get two or three Residential Site Pln Reviews and beyond that we want to get back to planning, and our focus right now should be to look at the business district in North Eastham, whether it is the sign code for that or what we want to see there via zoning.  So yes, I wold say that is our focus.  It is a pretty significant job and we want to hold these hearings and encourage input.  You can talk to us, come to our meetings, email us through the town website, email Sarah, and she is a pleasure to talk to.

A MOTION to adjourn the meeting by Leslie Ann Morse seconded by Tom Johnson.
The VOTE: 6-0
In Favor: Cole, Coppelman, Johnson, Morse, Panaccione, Sandler
Opposed: None
Motion Passed: Unanimous

Meeting adjourned at 11:35 a.m.

Respectfully submitted
  As prepared by Madelynanne Magill

Dan Coppelman, Clerk
Eastham Planning Board