The voters of Mashpee—the legislative branch of the municipal government—will decide 31 articles on the October Special Town Meeting warrant on Monday, October 21, at 7 PM at Mashpee Middle-High School.
Articles concerning accessory dwelling units (often known by their acronym ADUs), rental regulations, stormwater management, exploring the feasibility of Joint Base Cape Cod for wastewater management, and banning the use of polystyrene products and plastic straws are among those being presented to the voters.
The board of selectmen unanimously recommended the passage of all but two articles, with Article 29 splitting the board, 2-2, and Article 31 receiving a unanimous recommendation against passage.
Accessory Dwelling Units
Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, have received a strong showing of positive feedback at recent public meetings. At an October 2 planning board meeting, several residents lauded the proposed articles for potentially providing more long-term affordable housing options in Mashpee.
The proposed bylaws laid out in the articles would allow for properties to have one accessory apartment with up to two bedrooms rented for periods of at least 30 consecutive days.
ADUs would have to be at least 300 square feet, be self-contained with separate sleeping, cooking and sanitary facilities, meet any and all wastewater treatment, conservation commission and historic requirements, provide at least one off-street parking space, require no new curb cut or new driveway, and receive a certificate from the building inspector.
The ADUs—which can be attached or detached from the principal dwelling unit—would be subject to monitoring and fines for code and bylaw violations. The principal dwelling unit must be occupied by the property owner, the proposed bylaw says.
Town Meeting could also tighten rental regulations in Mashpee. Article 8, if passed, would require anyone renting or leasing a dwelling or portion of a dwelling to register with the board of health and receive a certificate.
A fee, at a rate set by the board of selectmen, would be required for registration and procurement of a certificate. A fine of $300 per violation is also laid out in the article.
The bylaw proposed by Article 8 would assist the town in enforcing health and safety laws, codes and regulations as well as provide a method through which the town could enforce and correct violations, the article states.
In September, Andrew R. Gottlieb, the chairman of the board of selectmen, said that people have been converting their basements into rental spaces without following code requirements and that short-term summer rentals have caused disruptions in some otherwise quiet neighborhoods.
Article 8 is aimed at regulating Airbnb and similar online rentals, Assistant Town Manager Wayne Taylor said in September. “Currently, you can go on the internet and just rent a place at a week at a time. We don’t currently have any enforcement,” Mr. Taylor said.
A related proposal, Article 16, asks the voters to allow the town to appropriate $17,700 for the board of health to contract with a consulting agency to identify short-term rental properties and issue notifications of short-term rental regulations.
Short-term rental properties are required to participate in the state’s short-term rental program that went into effect this year, an explanation for Article 16 states. Monies paid through taxes levied in that program will contribute to the Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Management Fund, which funds water pollution projects such as sewers, the article states.
Another related proposal, Article 9, asks the town to vote to create a full-time Code Compliance Inspector position, as recommended by Town Manager Rodney Collins.
The new inspector position would help enforce new health bylaws laid out in Article 8, as well as existing codes and laws, and would fall under the board of health. For the position, Article 9 asks that $100,473 be appropriated.
Regional Wastewater Treatment
Article 10 asks the town to vote to put $250,000 toward funding further investigation of the feasibility and planning of a regional wastewater collection and treatment facility at Joint Base Cape Cod.
A shared wastewater management study between Mashpee, Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth and Barnstable has previously explored the potential of upgrading existing facilities at the base for regional use.
That study estimates construction beginning on a facility in 2023, if the five towns come to the conclusion that the base is a cost-effective option.
The article, if passed, would allow further negotiations with the involved towns and would execute a memorandum of understanding to move the project forward.
Also related to the town’s wastewater management is Article 4, which would amend the town’s bylaws to meet Environmental Protection Agency mandates to regulate and control wastewater pollution into storm drainage systems.
The article would prohibit illicit connections and unauthorized discharges into the town’s storm sewer system and storm drain system and establish the legal authority for the town to ensure compliance through inspection, monitoring and enforcement.
Articles 5 and 6 aim to protect the environment. Article 5 proposes prohibiting businesses from using or selling most types of polystyrene-based products and Article 6 proposes prohibiting the use of single-use plastic straws by food and retail establishments.
Expanded polystyrene is more commonly known as Styrofoam, a trademarked version of polystyrene.
“Polystyrene is probably one of the worst plastics for ending up in the marine environment,” Michael Talbot, a member of Mashpee’s Environmental Oversight Committee, said last year when the polystyrene ban was proposed.
Both articles would create enforcement measures of fines of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, $300 per offense for third and subsequent offenses.
If the respective articles are passed at Town Meeting, both the polystyrene and plastic straw bans would go into effect on July 1, 2021.
Other Cape towns have passed or considered similar bans in recent years. A Styrofoam ban went into effect in Falmouth in September of this year.
Article 30 could change who has the authority over mooring regulations. Director of Natural Resource Richard York explained that mooring regulations are written into the town bylaws, meaning even small changes must go before Town Meeting.
Article 30 asks the town to authorize the selectmen to promulgate mooring regulations after public notice and a public hearing, rather than requiring a vote at Town Meeting.
Mr. York said the other article submitted by the department of natural resources, Article 29, will likely be “amended, postponed or withdrawn” because of the way it appears on the warrant.
The article asks whether the town will vote to ban the use of jet skis on Ashumet Pond, which is shared with the Town of Falmouth. Falmouth has a bylaw thatbans the use of jet skis on the pond but its bylaw cannot be enforced unless Mashpee passes a similar bylaw.
“As written, it seems that [Article 29] refers to all boats but that is not the intent,” Mr. York said. He said the article is meant only to refer to the use of jet skis on Ashumet Pond and not other boats.
The only article on the warrant that the selectmen and finance committee recommended the voters not pass at Town Meeting is Article 31, which was submitted by petition with 14 signatures.
The petition article asks Town Meeting whether town employees should be excluded from serving on elected town boards.
The petition states: “We consider town employees to be conflicted when holding an elected seat on any town board.”
The selectmen were unanimous in recommending that the article not be passed at Town Meeting, with Mr. Gottlieb stating, “If people don’t want employees on the board, they don’t have to vote for them.”
Also on the warrant is Article 14, which asks the town to appropriate $40,000 from Community Preservation Act funds for the completion of the Ockway Bay Boat Ramp Improvement Project, and Article 15, which asks for $100,000 in CPA funds to be spent to acquire 12 Cypress Circle, a 1.2-acre property, for affordable housing purposes.