Landmark Zoning Bylaw Could Prove Model For Cape
By: Michael C. Bailey
The Town of Brewster has adopted what the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) is calling a landmark piece of zoning reform, and the APCC is hoping it will serve as a model for other Cape towns.
“It’s one of the most important bylaws ever passed on Cape Cod,” Margaret A. Geist, executive director of the APCC said. The APCC worked extensively with the Brewster Conservation Trust and town officials to promote the bylaw, which passed at Brewster’s October Town Meeting held on October 19.
The APCC first pitched the “Natural Resource Protection Design” (NRPD) bylaw in 2008 as a new approach to zoning that, according to Donald Keeran, the APCC’s assistant director, has been utilized elsewhere in the nation with great success.
In the case of the Brewster bylaw, it emphasized water resource protection -- specifically, two separate areas in the southeastern and southwestern portions of town, which together encompass 6,538 acres in the Pleasant Bay Water Recharge Area.
The bylaw accomplishes this by, first, permanently setting aside in a given subdivision the most sensitive areas (i.e., wetlands), then clustering homes away from those protected areas. NRPD subdivisions become “by right,” which streamlines the permitting process for landowners by eliminating the need for special permits.
Densities in designated NRPD zones are three to five acres. A formula determines how many residential units may be built on a give lot within the NRPD-affected areas, and developers may add to the number of units in a subdivision by agreeing to take extra water protection measures, such as connecting all the residential units to a shared wastewater system designed to remove nitrogen.
The changes are not expected to have any adverse impact on tax assessments or property values, and in fact are expected in the long-term to increase the value of any homes built in these zones as they are adjacent to permanent open space.
Quoting a 1986 report by the National Association of Homebuilders (“Higher Density Housing: Planning, Design, Marketing”), the APCC noted that developers could reduce the cost of construction by 34 percent through clustering homes since features such as streets and sidewalks, and sewer and water lines are condensed.
Brewster voters approved the bylaw at the town’s October 20 Town Meeting.
The APCC “strongly encourages other towns on Cape Cod to take a look at the bylaw and consider it as a potential model for their community…this bylaw completely turns around how we think about growth.”
The full bylaw may be viewed online at www.apcc.org/content/apcc-advocates-brewster-bylaw
What do you think? Is Natural Resource Protection Design a valuable planning tool, or does it further complicate the Cape’s already complex zoning bylaws?
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