EASTHAM — Town officials are looking to create a zoning task force to examine and make recommendations on residential zoning and regulation issues, including the protection of historic homes and scenic views, the use of homes for large parties and weddings, nonresident divided ownership of properties, limits on the consolidation or merger of lots to facilitate the construction of larger homes, and the extension of the 50-percent maximum size increase rule to zoning districts outside the National Seashore.
“For almost a year now, we have been collecting — I don’t want to call them ‘concerns,’ because they’re not all concerns, just zoning topics that appear to be either misunderstandings between the Seashore regulations and our regulations [or] things that are allowed under our zoning that we’re not sure we always want to be allowed,” said Town Administrator Jacquie Beebe during a discussion of the task force draft proposal at the select board’s Nov. 16 meeting.
Among the issues Beebe has heard about was what she called a growing concern over residential homes being purchased and used as businesses.
“While it was great when all of us had second-home owners renting their homes or cottages, spending two months here, and renting it to other people to pay the mortgage,” she said, “it’s totally different when someone buys the house next door and it just becomes a factory of events and things going on.”
Select board chair Jamie Demetri, who worked on the task force proposal with Beebe and vice chair Aimee Eckman, said on Nov. 23 that the final charge for the task force should be ready for the board to vote on next month.
Board member Arthur Autorino expressed reservations about the proposal and asked who had raised the issues being considered for review. He cautioned against creating a committee to make changes just to “satisfy a small number of people who have issues.”
The list included in the draft proposal was derived from “collective input,” said Demetri. “It was definitely multiple people, multiple concerns, different perspectives,” she said.
The proposed task force would have between 7 and 10 members, chosen by the select board. It would include one member of the planning board and one from the zoning board of appeals; one member from the affordable housing trust, should one apply; and other community members who are not currently serving on a town regulatory board. Staff support would be provided by the town planner.
Select board members would not be allowed to serve on the task force, but a select board liaison would be designated.
If the draft proposal is approved, an announcement of the availability of positions on the task force and an application would be posted on the town website.
The draft proposal set a deadline of no later than the May 2022 annual town meeting for the task force’s suggestions for residential zoning or regulatory changes ready for consideration.
Recommendations by the task force would be subject to approval by the select board before moving forward to a public hearing and town meeting vote.