Mashpee Selectman Wants Out of Cape Cod Commission

Thomas O'HaraGENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Thomas O'Hara

Selectman Thomas F. O’Hara said this week that the Cape Cod Commission may have outlived its usefulness and that Mashpee should take a leadership role by becoming the first town to withdraw from the regional regulatory agency.

“They seem to be all-powerful,” he said.

Late last week, Mr. O’Hara submitted a petition article to the town clerk’s office requesting that May Town Meeting voters direct the Mashpee Board of Selectmen to place a question on the next election ballot. The ballot question would read, “Shall the Town of Mashpee petition the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts asking that the Town of Mashpee be released from membership in and removed from the authority of the Cape Cod Commission and the Cape Cod Commission Act?” 

If approved at Town Meeting, the earliest the question could appear on a ballot would be during the May 2015 town election.

It was the conditions the commission required of Newton-based National Development, which plans on building a 54-unit assisted living facility at the corner of Route 151 and Old Barnstable Road—and the fees it assessed the company—that spurred Mr. O’Hara to sponsor the petition.

I think they [Cape Cod Commission] interfere too much with development and hold back potential development with the exorbitant fees they assess. 

                                     John Cahalane 

At Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Mashpee Planning Board, Theodore Tye, managing director of National Development, presented the latest plans for the project, which will be called Bridges at Mashpee. The facility, which will only use five acres of a 24-acre parcel that was once slated to be the home of a new Shaw’s supermarket, was described as a low-impact project built in a typical Cape Cod architectural style. The remaining 19 acres of the parcel will be designated as green conservation space. Mr. Tye, whose company has built similar facilities in Hingham, Wellesley, Westford, and Marshfield, said that the Mashpee project was by far the subject of the most scrutiny. “The commission issued a 51-page decision for one of the smaller projects we have ever done. It’s a lot of process for a small project,” he said.

Mr. Tye also said the commission required that $108,000 be placed into a traffic mitigation escrow fund, $22,500 be given to the Mashpee Historic Commission, and $23,000 be given to the “fair share” nitrogen impact program. It also required, in lieu of a more than $1 million payment to the commission, that 10 percent of the assisted living units be classified as affordable. “That is almost unheard of in this industry,” Mr. Tye said.

Mr. O’Hara said that National Development is committed to the project and was able to pay the assessments, but another company in the same position might have walked away from investing in Mashpee.

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“The bottom line is that National Development is building a service facility that is needed on the Upper Cape. Mashpee will benefit because they will be a good taxpayer, providing good jobs. We need to be welcoming business to Cape Cod, and not chasing it away. I understand that there are growth, environmental, and other issues that need to be dealt with, but the town does a good job at that without the duplication of effort by the commission,” Mr. O’Hara said.

Mr. O’Hara also noted that since Mashpee is so close to build-out that the services of the commission may no longer be needed and could be viewed as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

John J. Cahalane, who currently serves as chairman of the board of selectmen, said that he would take seriously any directive from residents who voted in favor of the article. “I have a love-hate relationship with the Cape Cod Commission. I often think they interfere too much with development and hold back potential development with the exorbitant fees they assess,” he said.

A spokesman for the Cape Cod Commission declined to comment on the petition.

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