The Town of Mashpee is poised to enter a development agreement with Mashpee Commons and the Cape Cod Commission.
At this point, town regulatory boards have so far shared an openness at working together to negotiate needs if the mixed-use development goes forward with an expansion.
This coming Monday, the Mashpee Board of Selectmen will consider issuing a letter of support for the commencement of development agreement discussions with the Commons.
On Wednesday, July 17, members of the town’s planning board—the board that would lead the negotiations on behalf of the town—suggested they will invite members of town regulatory boards to a meeting in August to include them in the discussions.
While the planners will lead negotiations with the Commons and commission, the board of selectmen, per the town’s regulations, ultimately would decide whether the town will agree to any deals.
The planning board and some town officials have not always been on the same page when it came to the Commons’ expansion. At one meeting last year, the town manager and chairman of the planning board had some harsh words for each other, so this week’s round of meetings represents a step forward in collaboration.
Commons officials last week announced intentions to invite the town to participate in a three-party development agreement as they gear up to build on its property beyond the current footprint. What that development will look like will ultimately become more clear through the development agreement process, although non-detailed plans had surfaced during public discussions last year. The group has looked at developing around the rotary and beyond Job’s Fishing Road.
The Commons had sought a zoning change known as form-based code last year, hosting a number of community engagement meetings in order to hear what residents wanted in an expansion. Following the meetings, the developers had tried to receive a positive endorsement from the planning board for a zoning change at Town Meeting, but the two parties did not see eye to eye over open space preservation and affordable housing, and the Commons ultimately pulled back on submitting a zoning change.
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Last week, Paul J. Niedzwiecki, a representative of the Commons, told the selectmen that a development agreement would gather everyone involved in the negotiation process to one table to talk.
On Monday, the selectmen hosted a joint meeting with several regulatory boards in town to discuss a number of topics, including the Commons’ intentions and how the town should respond.
Everyone who spoke at the meeting agreed that the route the Commons proposed made sense. But the discussion grew somewhat tense when non-planning board members proposed having liaisons joining the board for the negotiations.
That section of the conversation started when Selectman Carol A. Sherman suggested that each board would have at least one member present for the discussions.
Planning board member Joseph P. Cummings pushed back, saying that ultimately it was up to the planning board to lead the negotiations on behalf of the town and its choice to have others involved. He read a section of the town’s bylaws relating to development agreements, emphasizing the board “may” allow others to join them.
Planning board member John F. Phelan said that other boards should have a designee, so as not to have a back-and-forth discussion outside of the negotiations that would ultimately stall the project. Selectman Thomas F. O’Hara agreed.
Selectmen chairman Andrew R. Gottlieb also chimed in and said that many of the issues under the Commons’ development could be outside the planning board’s purview, including economic development, public health and broader concerns.
Planning board member Dennis H. Balzarini suggested that his fellow board member’s words were being twisted, but Mr. Gottlieb responded that it was up to the planning board to include others and that he hoped that the board would.
At a planning board meeting two days later, board members voiced a desire to try to work with other regulatory boards in town. Mr. Balzarini suggested they invite members interested in joining the negotiations to an informal meeting prior to the planning board’s meeting next month. He said that meeting could set the ground rules for negotiations as well as share what other regulatory board members hoped to get from the negotiations.
Mr. Balzarini also noted that the Cape Cod Commission works for the town, so meetings should take place within the town.
Board chairman Mary E. Waygan gave Town Planner Evan R. Lehrer the task of forwarding the town’s bylaw on development agreements to regulatory boards looking to get involved with the process. Mr. Phelan objected to the idea, saying that everyone already knew the bylaw. Ms. Waygan said she wanted to make clear that the planning board actually writes the development agreement.