Cape Cod Commission Approves Craigville DCPC Regulations

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By: James Kinsella
Published: 10/29/10

In the wake of an often emotional three-hour public hearing, the Cape Cod Commission last night unanimously approved implementing regulations for the Craigville Beach District of Critical Planning Concern.

“It carries,” Peter Graham, acting commission chairman, announced at 6:12 PM in the commission’s meeting room in the Barnstable District Courthouse in Barnstable Village.

The 14-0 vote represents a key victory for advocates of the proposed district, and a rare override by the commission of a town vote on a DCPC.

“It was a tough decision, but I’m pleased with the outcome,” said Paul J. Niedzwiecki, executive director of the commission, following the vote.

At yesterday’s meeting, the commission considered two options: allowing the district to lapse so as to allow the town to adopt zoning regulations to govern development in the Craigville Beach area; or to vote for implementing regulations that would govern development and also allow for the planning district to remain in effect.In one sense, little difference exists between the proposed zoning regulations and the district implementing regulations, as they largely mirror each other.

Each would restrict permitted land uses, and building dimension, bulk and size. The proposed districting was an outgrowth of concerns over environmental deterioration in and near the Centerville River, and over fears that older homes in the area would be torn down to make way for so-called “McMansions.”

The big difference between the two approaches is what Barnstable Planning Board member Felicia Penn yesterday called “the gorilla in the room”: the lack of zoning grandfathering protection in the district implementing regulations.

Many property owners in the proposed 445-acre district do not want to give up their grandfathered zoning rights.

Elimination of grandfathering, advocates say, is precisely what is needed to provide the additional protection for an environmentally sensitive area not available under Barnstable town zoning.

Prior to the vote, Cape Cod Commission member Joanne O’Keefe of Dennis, who manages a cottage colony in Sagamore Beach, said she understands the wisdom of giving up some individual property rights for a greater good that protects all the individual property owners.

Ms. O’Keefe spoke of Quincy, where the lack of regulation led to ocean beaches that were unswimmable. She paid tribute to the work done by property owners along Long Beach Road to maintain the ocean beach, but said, “For all your excellent work, it may not be enough.”

The commission proceeded to vote for the implementing regulations.The proposal now will go to the Barnstable County commissioners with a request to pass it on to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates.

An assembly subcommittee then will review the proposal, which it will send with a recommendation to the full assembly.

Cape Cod Commission staffers anticipate a vote by the full assembly on the DCPC sometime in December.Opponents expressed unhappiness with the commission’s decision.

“They listened to us, but they didn’t listen very well,” said Charles C. Orr of Long Beach Road in Centerville, who circulated a petition among his neighbors against the DCPC. “I’m very surprised it was a unanimous decision. It was shocking.”

Mr. Orr said DCPC opponents will be reviewing their options, including legal action. Enough was questionable in the DCPC process to merit review, he said.

Royden C. Richardson of Centerville, the Barnstable representative on the Cape Cod Commission and an early advocate of the DCPC, recused himself on the vote. Mr. Richardson waited for hours in the hallway just outside the meeting room for the commission’s decision.

“I’m very satisfied, very grateful,” Mr. Richardson said. “I think of a friend of mine. He took me to Craigville Beach one day when he was 85. He said the beach had been the same for 85 years. He died shortly after that. Thinking of him, that’s why I’m very grateful.”

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