WELLFLEET — At the school ballfield on Saturday, voters showed they’re committed to dealing with two of the biggest issues facing the town: affordable housing and water sustainability.
They elected to go ahead with plans for a wastewater treatment facility at the 95 Lawrence Road affordable housing site. The advanced system will connect future housing units, Wellfleet Elementary School, and the police and fire stations, yielding better water quality even with the additional residents at 95 Lawrence. Select board member Ryan Curley called the vote one of the “most critical” on the warrant. Curley said he hoped the site would become a “backbone” for wastewater management in that part of town.
Kevin and Marla Rice, who live near the proposed site, expressed support for the project. Progress on wastewater has stagnated for too long, Kevin believes. “Let’s change things now,” he said.
Voters also passed a septic upgrade pilot program with the long-term goal of reducing the nitrates that seep into the harbor. The program will provide home owners needing to replace their septic systems with $12,500 grants.
Later in the meeting, voters unanimously passed an article permitting residents to establish accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their properties. Select board chair Mike DeVasto urged voters to pass the bylaw change, saying that the town “can’t wait any longer” to move on solutions to the housing crisis. He characterized the ADU bylaw as a way to bolster the town’s stock of year-round housing without using taxpayer funds. Vigorous cheers and applause followed the vote.
Voters also passed a home-rule petition on the so-called mansion tax, which would tack a 2-percent fee onto real estate transactions exceeding 120 percent of the median house price. The proposal will now go to the state legislature, where it recently failed on the floor.
In a separate vote, the town passed a home-rule petition to tax year-round rentals at the residential rate; they are currently taxed as seasonal rentals.
The town supported the passage of a right-to-farm bylaw, but opted not to establish an agricultural commission. In the debate over the farming board, David Mead-Fox said the number of vacancies on existing committees was already too high to justify another. Finance committee member Ira Wood attempted to assuage concerns about the “right to farm,” arguing “if you’re a small gardener, you may be a bad farmer. But if you’re a good gardener, you may be a small farmer.”
Voters narrowly rejected a proposal to transfer a parcel of land near the bike path to the care of the select board. The article’s passage would have opened a path for its proponents, Jim Nowack and Kate Clemens-Nowack, to buy the land from the town and then redraw and split their current property. The Nowacks planned to sell the newly created lot to their daughter. Helen Miranda Wilson, who favored the proposal, argued that the town needs all the money it can get. John Cumbler said he was concerned with selling the land before knowing how the town may want to use it in the future.
Articles granting Richard Blakeley an easement and allowing him to access his property via the parking lot on Lecount Hollow Road passed unanimously and without debate. The vote elicited a brief cheer from the outfield fence where Mr. Blakeley was seated.
Near the end of the meeting, voters beefed up the town’s animal control ordinance. Going forward, dogs must be leashed unless on the owner’s property. In addition, police will have the power to write tickets for excessive barking and dog waste violations.
“We’re not trying to go out and give tickets to people,” said Animal Control Officer Desmond Keogh. “We just need the tool.”