The Cape Cod Commission and four Cape towns received a $145,000 grant in September from the state to establish model bylaws to improve coastal resiliency.
Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. announced the grant to the Cape Cod Commission on September 25. The commission will work with the towns of Bourne, Sandwich, Brewster and Eastham.
Just over $1 million was awarded for planning grants across 21 total projects.
According to a press release, the planning grants were awarded to help mitigate and prepare for climate change, provide for sufficient and diverse housing and reduce the consumption of land, energy and natural resources.
“Local regulations, especially zoning, help determine where and how growth happens and in turn how much water, energy and other resources are required to support that growth,” according to the press release.
Cape Cod Commission Deputy Director Erin Perry said the grant will likely pay for a combination of commission staff time and to pay for a consultant.
Ms. Perry said the commission recently completed Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness assessments with multiple Cape communities.
According to the commission’s website, it also completed a three-year, $780,000 project funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to create public awareness about the effects climate change will have on Cape Cod.
That interactive website is at www.capecodcoast.org.
That meant the commission was poised to tackle planning after having compiled and completed research, including extensive mapping, of how sea level rise, extreme weather, erosion and storm surge will affect the Cape, Ms. Perry said.
“It’s been a progression, an exciting progression, and at each step there are more resources provided to the commission, and how we can address some of these hazards,” she said.
Flooding is a major concern on Cape Cod, with 19 percent of the landmass and $16 billion of property located in the floodplain.
“There’s a lot at stake,” Ms. Perry said. “It’s great that we’re taking this on.”
By creating model bylaws, it will allow the four communities participating to fine-tune how development can continue without putting increasing risks.
Model bylaws also mean that there will be a variety of options available to other towns to fit their own needs, which Ms. Perry called a “menu of options.”
“The intent would be that the information would be there for them to choose from,” she said.
She said she does not know what the model bylaws might change because the research into best practices has not begun, but it could involve changes around erosion and setbacks, and modifying current zoning bylaws.
“In order to move forward, to be more resilient, we need to change the way we think about development,” she said.
Sandwich Assistant Town Planner Leanne Drake said planning is not a one-size-fits-all environment, especially when it comes to bylaws.
That town will likely be looking at the beaches, homes on the coastline and downtown Sandwich, because it floods in the winter.
Bourne Conservation Agent Samuel Haines said coastal resiliency is an important issue because an estimated 40 percent of the assessed value of the town lies in the floodplain.
He said there has not been much interaction with the Cape Cod Commission yet because the contract was only just signed.
Mr. Haines said bylaws usually only affect new development. In Bourne, much of the land is already developed but if the town were to adopt new regulations, they would affect re-development.
“There’s no guarantee we’re going with this template or that,” he said.
It is possible that at the end of the model bylaw process, Bourne will take some pieces and present them to the town for a vote, or make no changes.
He said that any bylaw changes would ultimately be up to the voters.
The model bylaws could look at everything from setbacks for wetlands or septic systems to raising houses, considering how much of Bourne is in the floodplain.
Bourne, Wareham and parts of Falmouth are especially susceptible to hurricanes because water builds up in Buzzards Bay.
“If a hurricane comes at the right angle, the water just builds and builds and builds and then we have a storm surge,” Mr. Haines said.