The Mashpee Planning Board continued to chart a path for negotiations over a proposed expansion by the Mashpee Commons during a meeting in the Waquoit Meeting Room at Town Hall on Wednesday, June 9.
The planning board voted 4-0 to wait until a development agreement is approved with the Commons and the Cape Cod Commission before sending a zoning bylaw related to the proposed expansion to a Town Meeting vote.
The Mashpee Board of Selectmen voted earlier in the week to wait until at least March 2022 to consider a Town Meeting vote on the proposed zoning bylaw. The planning board had originally slated a schedule of meetings to review the zoning changes ahead of the July 12 deadline to submit articles for consideration at the October Town Meeting.
“Not having to think about going to an October Town Meeting is somewhat of a relief for us too,” said Paul Niedzwiecki, a contractor representing the Mashpee Commons. “I think we have an opportunity to have a structured discussion now and maybe one that doesn’t have the same kind of pace that we had anticipated.”
In the coming weeks, possibly at the next scheduled planning board meeting on Wednesday, June 16, the Cape Cod Commission is expected to meet with the planning board and the selectmen to discuss the three-party development agreement process.
The first of its kind for the Cape Cod region, the three-party development agreement process will involve the Mashpee Commons, the Town of Mashpee and the Cape Cod Commission, with the planning board as the primary negotiators for the town.
The proposed zoning bylaw, which is an overlay district over 187 contiguous acres of land that includes the existing Mashpee Commons, is one component of the development agreement process.
“The zoning, we thought we could have [that] discussion because it is kind of a mechanical discussion about form and function,” Mr. Niedzwiecki said. “A lot of those impact questions are going to be part of the development agreement process.”
The proposed overlay district envisions three tiers of development: a “core,” “transition” and “edge” area, with density and building height decreasing from the “core” to the “edge.”
“The most lot coverage allowed in Mashpee today is 25 percent in the Popponesset Overlay District,” Town Planner Evan Lehrer said. “What we’re dealing with now is a proposal for 100 percent lot coverage, 85 percent lot coverage.”
Mr. Niedzwiecki suggested that future meetings be focused on a particular subject so that the public and the Mashpee Commons come prepared to discuss certain particular topics.
“If we paced it on a weekly or a biweekly basis going forward and have some of these meetings be topical—like parking, density calculations and requirements, bulk dimensions, public safety—it would narrow and focus on the public comment,” he said. “It would help us get the right people here at the right time.”
Thomas Feronti, the director of planning and construction at the Mashpee Commons, began to address some concerns raised about wastewater treatment by clarifying that the proposed development would operate on the existing wastewater treatment plant.
All of the existing Mashpee Commons is connected to the treatment plant as well as the Mashpee fire station, police station, senior center and library, Mr. Feronti said.
“The intent is that all future development would be connected to our treatment plant,” he said. “There are no plans to install septic systems as part of anything that the Mashpee Commons does, as part of anything Mashpee Commons has ever done.”
The Housing Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit focused on assisting low- and middle-income households on Cape Cod, also provided a letter regarding the proposed Mashpee Commons project to the planning board on Wednesday.
“Housing Assistance is writing to commend the Town of Mashpee on entering into a development agreement with the Cape Cod Commission and Mashpee Commons,” said Alisa Magnotta, the chief executive director of HAC, in the letter. “Housing Assistance encourages the town to consider as much housing as possible on this property within the guidelines of the Commission.”
The letter stated that the Cape Cod Commission has an “excellent track record of fostering broad community input to ensure that larger housing developments are pursued in a way that balances our region’s critical need for housing and protecting our environment.”
“Housing Assistance agrees with the Cape Cod Commission that the approach of creating denser housing developments in appropriate activity areas is better for the environment than traditional single-family homes on large lots,” the letter said. “The more clustered housing is together, the less land it disturbs, and the more cost-effective wastewater treatment becomes.”
The planning board also discussed hiring consultants to help review the proposed project as the process moves forward and more information becomes available.