In a joint public hearing Nov. 15, the Barnstable Town Council and Planning Board voted unanimously to ask the Cape Cod Commission to raise the square footage on developments of regional impact.
Translation: The town, rather than the Commission, would be in charge of regulating large developments within newly designated “Chapter H” areas along Route 132 and in Independence Park.
Elizabeth Jenkins, Barnstable Planning and Development director, said increasing the DRI thresholds would provide greater regulatory flexibility to businesses.
“We’re generally putting a regulatory framework in place that supports investment and reinvestment,” Jenkins said. “This promotes the kind of sustainable growth and investment that we want to see here in Barnstable. It shows our businesses that we are committed to economic development.”
The application would increase the DRI thresholds from 10,000 square feet for commercial/industrial land uses to 20,000 square feet in economic centers, like Route 132, and to 40,000 square feet in industrial service and trade areas, like Independence Park.
Beyond that, “any increase in gross square footage would trigger Cape Cod Commission review,” Jenkins said.
The revised regulations also are designed to guide growth away from protected resources, like the Cape’s ponds, bays, and estuaries.
Felicia Penn of Hyannis noted that the increase in industrial service and trade area threshold appeared to include land adjacent to the airport rotary – an area the planning board has made a concerted effort to keep undeveloped because of its proximity to Barnstable Municipal Airport.
Jenkins noted that the town purchased the former Chili’s site, which is restricted and cannot be developed.
“This designation will not have any significant influence on this property,” Jenkins said. “Route 132 is a gateway into our community and Cape Cod. Traffic and overall visual character are still reviewed by the Cape Cod Commission.”
The Chapter H application will next be reviewed by the Commission and, ultimately, presented to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates for final approval.
Regional Policy Plan
Kristy Senatori, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, briefed the council on the next iteration of the Commission’s Regional Policy Plan (RPP), which is updated every five years. Once the final draft of the RPP is approved by the Assembly of Delegates, it will serve to align regional and local planning efforts over the next five to 10 years.
The RPP is designed to balance the Cape’s natural, built, and community environments, Senatori said. New this year: The plan includes performance measures designed to closely monitor new growth and redevelopment.
“The RPP and the Chapter H application reinforce each other,” she said.
Much of the public feedback received to date on the RPP draft has focused on addressing climate change, Senatori said. In addition, commenters said the Commission should pay close attention to the Cape’s sub-regional differences.
“The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning and regulation,” she said. “I think that’s absolutely key to this plan.”
Highway Business District
The council and planning board also opened a public hearing on two zoning amendments that would expand the Highway Business District along Route 28 in Centerville and Hyannis, and along West Main Street in Hyannis.
Those proposed zoning amendments are designed to encourage investment in Barnstable’s aging commercial corridors by easing the regulatory process. Building permits and site plan reviews would still be required, but developers no longer would have to appear before the Barnstable Zoning Board of Appeals for a special permit.
Jenkins said the highway business district as it exists today was first established in 1988, with just two permitted land uses: professional (non-medical) offices and banks without a drive-through. The rewrite proposes 28 prospective land uses; reduces minimum set-back requirements for commercial properties; and increases the maximum height to three stories.
“The zoning is not adequately serving the businesses that are located there today, nor future businesses,” Jenkins told the council. The amendments are a way to support housing growth “in a form and density that would support a year-round workforce. We do have a housing crisis here on Cape Cod.”
Eliminating special permits would increase the amount of investment in these areas, said Cliff Carroll, a mortgage banker and real estate developer who serves on the Housing Assistance Corporation board.
“It’s difficult to repurpose a building that goes vacant,” Carroll said. “Lots of commercial areas are sitting vacant. This type of zoning change is going in the right direction.”
The zoning changes are recommended by the town’s Zoning and Permitting Regulatory Committee chaired by James Crocker Jr., council vice president. Because Crocker’s own commercial properties bookend the proposed zoning expansion in Centerville, he recused himself from the proceedings.
Fred Chirigotis, a former town council president who now serves as Barnstable’s Cape Cod Commission representative, said the proposed zoning changes along Route 28 in Centerville encroach upon residential neighborhoods west of Old Stage Road.
“I agree those [commercial] properties need to be developed, but two lanes of traffic in both directions haven’t helped anybody but the lawyers,” Chirigotis said. “The number of accidents on Route 28 at Bell Tower Mall – I don’t have to tell you about that.
“What is the plan?” Chirigotis asked. “Let’s have a plan for the whole Route 28 corridor. There are different sections, whole different villages. We need to look at each section of that road and make a comprehensive plan that works.”
Susan Sweet of Hyannis said she opposes expanding the highway business district. She said her home near Lambert’s is an undeveloped parcel that’s been in her family long before West Main Street existed.
“I will never sell it. It will never be developed in my lifetime. It’s open space,” Sweet testified.
At various times in her testimony, Penn called the proposed zoning amendments “not very progressive,” “insufficient,” “totally inadequate,” and “not appropriate.”
“To put those other uses at those four corners at Strawberry Hill Road, that’s terrible planning,” she said.
Likewise, Susan Horback of Centerville asked, “Where is our wastewater planning in relation to this?” Barnstable Board of Health is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m. in relation to that question.
“Many of these uses seem a little too intense for the area...which is primarily residential,” Horback said. “Let’s not allow uses ‘by right’ and expand the area if they’re really going to cost us later.”
Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, also testified against the zoning amendments.
“This small area...seems to be a few development parcels rather than solving for the whole problem that the town is facing,” Crocker said. “Bring it to the taxpayers. They’re counting on every one of you here to solve these issues. Let’s make it better. Let’s get sustainable development.”
The council voted to approve a motion by Britt Beedenbender that abutters be notified of the potential zoning changes, “so that people are aware and can engage in this process.”
The public hearing on the matter remains open, and the town council and planning board will again meet in joint session on Thursday, Dec. 6, at Barnstable Town Hall, 7 p.m.
The Barnstable Patriot - ‘The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning’