EASTHAM — People in Eastham are enthusiastic about using the town-owned 11-acre T-Time property at 4790 Route 6 for recreation or a community center. According to the results of a recent survey, they want a space to gather outdoors.
The “Community Center/Recreation” category came first on the three-section survey of residents’ opinions about potential uses of the property. The survey was designed by town staff, the T-Time Development Committee, and consultants Rose, Sandberg & Associates, who specialize in public relations. That section drew the most responses, with 2,227 people weighing in on the subject.
“Housing,” the survey’s second section, got responses from 1,834 people; and the “Business/Economic Uses” portion, which came last, drew the fewest comments, 1,814.
The survey was not designed to rank the three categories against each other, or to gauge public opinion on specific mixed uses that combined two of the categories — or all three.
This survey is considered the starting point for gathering public input and is part of phase one of the town’s work to research potential uses for the property. Recommendations for the parcel are expected to be presented to the select board in 2022.
Just over half of the survey’s 2,252 total respondents were year-round residents (52.7 percent). Part-time residents (32 percent) and Eastham business owners (8 percent), as well as others who were renters or had other ties to the town, made up the rest.
Almost half of the respondents were home owners (47 percent), and many were retirees (42 percent). Seventy percent of those participating were over 55 years old.
Eastham’s economic development planner, Lauren Barker, said that there were not major differences in responses based on residency, age, or work status, except on the subject of housing.
“For retirees, housing was not rated as important as it was for working people who responded to the survey,” said Barker. “That was really the only thing that jumped out.”
‘An Outdoor Gathering Space’
Among a list of possible amenities for a community center/recreation use, an “outdoor gathering space” came in first among 14 choices that included a “community TV facility,” which was at the bottom of the list, a “large multipurpose space,” and a “community garden space,” which were in the number two and three spots in this part of the survey.
Mid-ranked amenities included an indoor pool and a full-size indoor basketball court, which, T-Time committee member Steve Garran noted, may have been affected by an assumption by respondents that facilities at the renovated Nauset Regional High School would be available for use by the public.
“I know that a lot of people mentioned, ‘Oh, you can go to the high school and do that,’ ” said Garran. “Well, you can’t go to the high school in the middle of the day and use the basketball court.” Committee member Jacquelin O’Rourke noted there may have been a similar assumption that other indoor pools were available in town.
“When we talk about accessibility, it’s not just that the pool exists, it’s who can actually get to it and use it as a resident,” said O’Rourke.
“And who can afford it,” added Town Administrator Jackie Beebe.
Among the 1,834 responses to the housing section of the survey, just 39 percent rated housing as “important at T-Time” with 43 percent rating it as “not important at T-Time.”
“I was stunned by that,” said committee member Scott Kerry after getting the results at the June 15 T-Time committee meeting.
Leslie Sandberg, the consultant who does communications work for the town, said her interpretation of that result was that survey respondents may want housing — just not at the T-Time location.
“They said all the taxpayers paid for it,” Sandberg said, referring to the property. “So let all the taxpayers use it.”
“There were several comments — quite a few actually — about how people don’t want what Nauset Green looks like,” noted Barker.
The majority of those commenting on housing uses, 62 percent, said “mixed use” development would be important. Respondents rated workforce housing as the “most preferred” housing type (57 percent) with senior housing (53 percent) and starter homes for families (48 percent) coming in second and third, according to the June 15 presentation.
Committee member Andrea Aldana said that, while it was typical for communities to prefer “workforce housing,” also known as “community housing,” the data from applications submitted for the Village at Nauset Green demonstrated a significant need for housing for people with income levels below what would be required for “community housing.”
“This is one of those areas where we’re really going to have to look at people’s preferences against the strategic plan and what the town actually needs,” said Aldana.
‘A Farmer’s Market’
A farmer’s market was at the top of the list for those who commented on “Business/Economic Uses” for the site. But there is a permanent deed restriction on the property prohibiting take-out food establishments or markets of any type. According to the FAQs on the T-Time website, “The town would need to negotiate with Stop & Shop to get this deed restriction lifted.”
“I think we absolutely can do a farmer’s market, we just need to find a better location,” said Beebe.
This part of the survey generated a “business wish list,” according to the presentation: a coffee shop, pharmacy, health-care offices, nicer restaurants, a book shop, and a brewery are on it.
Listed under “not desired” were storage, visitor-oriented businesses, casual dining, “big box” retail, and nonlocal businesses.
The committee has plans for further public input. “If you missed your opportunity,” Barker said, “there will be plenty more opportunities.”
A slide show summarizing the survey results is available on the T-Time website at easthamttime.org. Click on the news tab and follow the link from there.