WELLFLEET — The Sept. 18 special town meeting was a bylaw bonanza. Voters approved 10 bylaw amendments as well as an inclusionary zoning bylaw that drew lengthy debate but then sailed through. The only proposal that was defeated was a proposed ban on “nips” — small bottles of alcoholic beverages.
The three-hour meeting, with child care and Cheetos for all, also saw the near-unanimous approval of adding a town planner position at town hall and funding for a wastewater treatment facility at Lawrence Hill.
Those authorizations, which require expenditures beyond the limits of Proposition 2½, will appear on the Sept. 27 special town election ballot as questions 1 and 2, along with a select board race to fill the remaining eight months of Kathleen Bacon’s term. Timothy Sayre is the only candidate to have submitted nomination papers; Curt Felix is running a write-in campaign for the seat.
Proponents of the borrowing authorization articles urged voters to support them as substantial steps for the town in mitigating its wastewater and housing problems. “If we want to remain a year-round community, we need to support this,” said Elaine McIlroy, chair of the Wellfleet Housing Authority, about the $2.6-million request for the wastewater treatment facility.
The facility is part of the town’s $106.6-million Targeted Watershed Management Plan to cut nitrogen loading in the harbor. The treatment facility will hook up the Lawrence Hill housing development, the elementary school, the police and fire stations, and some surrounding homes to a cluster system.
Town meeting voters supported the new town planner position costing $145,000 in the first year. Because it will require a Prop 2½ override, it is also contingent on a majority vote at the special town election. Waldo said that the town lacks the staff to proceed with many projects that have been endorsed by voters.
“We are failing to perform,” Waldo said. The town’s last local comprehensive plan was developed in 2008, Waldo said. Towns should develop a comprehensive plan every five years.
He added that Wellfleet is the only town on Cape Cod without a town planner.
Proponents of an inclusionary zoning bylaw managed to persuade voters to support it despite vocal opposition. The bylaw will require developers of multi-unit housing to reserve a fraction of the units to be rented affordably.
Gerry Parent, chair of the planning board, opposed the proposal. His board had voted unanimously not to recommend it because, he said, the town already has a similar bylaw.
That bylaw, passed in 2018, allows developers to seek a density bonus for additional dwelling units in exchange for a matching number of affordable units.
“That bylaw has never been used by any developer,” said select board member Ryan Curley.
The difference between the proposed bylaw and the existing one, Curley said, was that the proposed bylaw would be mandatory for any development of three or more units.
Developers could also opt out of the requirement by donating land or money to the Wellfleet Affordable Housing Trust.
“The formula in lieu of building is extremely difficult to understand,” Parent said.
The formula, Curley explained, mirrored the one in Provincetown’s inclusionary zoning bylaw, which contains a sliding-scale fee schedule.
Select board member Michael DeVasto moved indefinite postponement of the article and was supported by Parent and the other planning board members.
But Town Counsel Carolyn Murray warned that indefinite postponement would count as a negative vote, and bylaw proposals rejected by town meeting cannot be reintroduced for at least two years.
“It would be a terrible mistake to wait two years on this,” said select board vice chair John Wolf.
DeVasto’s motion was defeated.
McIlroy spoke in favor of the new law. “I love this bylaw,” she said. “Over the years, we have lost opportunities to build beautiful affordable housing. It’s important to get this on the books.”
When the final vote was taken, a wave of green voter cards passed through the school gymnasium, and the bylaw passed with a two-thirds majority.
No ‘Nips’ Ban
The article that spurred the most debate of the evening was a proposal to ban the sale of 50-milliliter liquor containers, called “nips,” in Wellfleet package stores. Voters defeated the article, but only after a 40-minute standoff.
On one side were conservationists and anti-litterers as well as social workers and substance abuse counselors who worried about the accessibility of nips for drivers. On the other side were owners of local liquor stores who expressed concern about the financial impact the ban would have on small businesses. They also doubted the efficacy of such a ban, considering that the surrounding towns do not have similar bans.
“Wellfleet is sandwiched between four towns which do not have a ban,” said Alan Kogos, owner of Seaside Liquors. “If this passes, we would be pushing our customers to neighboring towns where they would be purchasing nips.” Those customers, Kogos said, would be purchasing the rest of their grocery list of beverages along with the nips.
Julie Seabury, owner of Wellfleet Spirits Shoppe, supported Kogos’s argument. “It sounds great but really doesn’t solve anything,” she said. “I would suggest we work as a region or statewide, and then it will be effective.”
Christine Shreves, cochair of the recycling committee, hoped that Wellfleet could take the first step. “I don’t think we can depend on state action anytime in the near future,” she said.
Trees, Dogs, and Square Footage
Locally notable trees, defined as trees with a girth of 120 or more inches, will be protected from removal or trimming unless it’s authorized by the zoning board of appeals through a special permit.
The vote to amend the definition of cottage colonies to expand the allowed square footage of individual cottages will bring more cottages into conformity. And an affirmative vote on an amendment related to the intensity of use of multi-family dwellings will eliminate the requirement to have 8,000 square feet of additional land for every dwelling unit added to a development in the commercial district.
Two bylaw amendments proffered by Animal Control Officer Jacob Berrick were accepted. They will require dog owners to register dogs within 30 days of adoption and will allow dogs to visit cemeteries. Dogs will be prohibited from lifeguarded portions of beaches and ponds between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the summer, and owners will be prohibited to leave their dogs unattended in their vehicles.
Voters agreed to increase the infraction penalty for all bylaws to $300 per violation.