Mixed Reviews Over New Proposed Commission Regulations

Questions arose Wednesday evening whether the Cape Cod Commission’s new proposed relaxed regulations would help the business climate on the Upper Cape.

“Who’s taking care of the needs of the service-type businesses here on the Cape? Our greatest need from a market perspective is to help our service based companies—landscapers, contractors, plumbers—the people who work and breathe and pay your salaries here on Cape Cod,” Kevin Pepe of Commercial Realty Advisors in Hyannis said.

About 25 residents and town officials attended the public hearing on the proposed changes to the commission’s Chapter H laws at the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne. 

The proposal would raise the threshold for mandatory referral for certain projects to the commission from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet. It would apply to light manufacturing and research and development businesses in selected the areas of Jonathan Bourne Drive in Bourne, on Edgerton Drive and in the Falmouth Technology Park in Falmouth and in the Sandwich Industrial Park in Sandwich.

“A balanced economy is a stated purpose in the Cape Cod Commission Act and that is the driver for this proposed threshold revision and designation,” said Jon Idman, the commission’s chief regulator officer.

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“I love the proactive work the commission has been doing, but from someone who’s on the street perspective; I take phone calls every day from people looking to relocate business on Cape Cod. Ninety-nine percent of them do not fall into your categories,” Mr. Pepe said.

“Admittedly this is a baby step. In the future, we will look at more areas for different purposes around the Cape,” Mr. Idman said.

He said they selected the two industries based on a recent market assessment that looked at the county’s demand for retail and office development.

Mr. Idman gave an example of research and development business as a marine technology and software development company that is knowledge-intensive or scientific in nature.

“We want to entice high skill, high wage jobs to the Cape,” he said.

He said light manufacturing would include things like navigational equipment, computer manufacturing—businesses that have a value-added nature to the original products and that have a light environmental impact.

“Our assessment concluded there is a demand for 900,000 square feet for non-retail commercial over next 10 years, and marine-related technologies were identified as a key niche for Cape Cod,” Mr. Idman said.

Mr. Pepe disagreed with the commission and said he had participated in the market research done last year.

“How are we going to take market assessment information and translate it into what’s really happening here on Cape Cod as it relates for actual demand for space?” he asked.

For others in attendance, the proposed new threshold regulations were welcomed.

Sandwich town planner Nathan D. Jones read a memo aloud for the record in support of the change. He said the proposed Chapter H designation, combined with other positive changes in the town could lead to the “expansion of the local tax base, local and regional job creation, the addition of valuable business ventures.”

Richard H. Johnson, president of the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation, said he met with his board and unanimously agreed to support the change.

“We truly feel it will be fabulous for some good growth and economic development in our industrial land,” he said.

Leslie M. Milsted, Bennets Neck Drive, Bourne, and her sister Lynne M. Freedman, Sea Breeze Drive, Bourne, part owners of a family business, PJ Medeiros Family Limited Partnership, in Pocasset were frustrated and wanted to know why their 10 buildings in Commerce Park were not selected for the threshold change. Their property is adjacent to the business park selected by the commission.

“Where was this criteria developed? How do we find out how it was selected? And how can a landowner be involved in trying to expand locations connected to Jonathan Bourne Drive?” Ms. Freedman asked.

Mr. Idman said all comments will be recorded and taken to the Cape Cod commissioners.

“We like the proposal to raise the threshold, but we’d like to see a larger inclusion area and like to see change to include more than research and development and light manufacturing. Why not make a decision for the future? Let’s look at the need down the road,” Ms. Milsted asked.

“The goal for the designation was finding where there is appropriate infrastructure and balancing other concerns of the regional policy plan,” Mr. Idman said.

He said their property is next to a wellhead protection area, but assured that in the future, more areas will be considered. Wellhead protection areas are set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect drinking water.

The conversation will continue Thursday, May 8 at 3 PM in the Innovation Room at the Strategic Information Office (SIO) building in Barnstable. 

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