PROVINCETOWN — Voters at annual town meeting on April 4 may feel like they’re at the civic version of a double feature. The main attractions will be the police station proposal in Article 6 followed by 10 different measures to address the housing crisis in articles 15 through 24.
Article 6 asks for authorization to borrow $8.5 million — to be added to the $8.6 million approved in 2017 — to build the station at Shank Painter Road and Route 6. A similar measure asking for $3.9 million failed in 2019 in two very close votes.
The 10 housing articles mostly fall into two categories: studying town-owned parcels for future housing and allocating new revenue streams. There is also a proposal to allow four-story residential construction along Shank Painter Road and a measure to purchase a 1.7-acre parcel at 288A Bradford St. for development.
A Difficult History
Provincetown’s recent history with police station planning has been difficult. The police dept. has been operating from a former funeral home at 26 Shank Painter Road since 1986. Town Manager Alex Morse and Police Chief Jim Golden have made a video about its conditions, online at provincetown-ma.gov/1111/Police-Station. Features include overworked electrical panels, outdated dispatch equipment, and a basement that becomes soaked with sludge on rainy days.
A 2017 town meeting vote approved $8.6 million for construction of a new station at 16 Jerome Smith Road, a town-owned parcel at Shank Painter and Route 6. That article passed easily, 206 to 35.
The cost estimate turned out to be invalid, however. A 13-page question-and-answer sheet prepared by the building committee and currently posted on the town website lists several reasons. “The estimate was inaccurate and misleading, was based on depressed 2016 estimates, and did not include a premium for working on the Outer Cape,” it says. “The architects who prepared the estimate themselves declined to bid.”
When town officials asked the 2019 annual town meeting for an additional $3.9 million, opinion splintered. Objections were raised to the design, the location, the cost, and the method of financing, which was split between a debt exclusion (raising the money from taxes beyond the 2.5-percent limit on increases) and free cash. The vote was 202 yes and 123 no — 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for a debt exclusion.
According to this year’s Article 6, “This is the same project that was brought to town meeting in April 2019. The only difference is that … this funding will be paid entirely through a 2½ debt exclusion,” rather than using free cash for part of the cost.
After the 2019 vote, the building committee commissioned a more traditional “Cape Cod vernacular” alternative design. The original, more contemporary design got more than 80 percent of the nearly 1800 votes in an online poll. Both designs and interior floor plans are on the police station website.
The building committee estimates a “hard construction” cost of $13.5 million and $3.1 million in “soft costs,” which include architectural and engineering work, computers, equipment, and furnishings. Article 6, in combination with the earlier allocation, would authorize $17.1 million total debt for the project.
Provincetown’s select board, community housing council, and Year-Round Market-Rate Rental Housing Trust have been working on articles for town meeting since October.
Two articles focus on town-owned land under and near the southern lanes of Route 6 between Conwell Street and Shank Painter Road. Article 19 is a nonbinding resolution on the potential removal of the two southern lanes in that stretch; Article 20 asks for $60,000 to pay a planning consultant.
Article 21 asks for $150,000 to study potential reuse of the Veterans Memorial Community Center, now home to the DPW, Council on Aging, and other town departments. Select board members Leslie Sandberg and Louise Venden favor turning the one-story structure into a two- or three-story building, with town offices on the ground floor and housing above.
Articles 22 and 23 ask for funds to study two smaller properties: 30 Creek Road and 189 Commercial St. Article 24 would allow inclusionary projects — that is, market-rate developments where at least one of every six units are deed-restricted to be affordable — to get a potential fourth story if they are in the town’s General Commercial zone.
Articles 15, 16, and 17 would each dedicate other funds for housing. Article 15 would impose a community impact fee of 3 percent of bookings on short-term rentals that are “professionally managed.” Article 16 would direct 30 percent of the town’s rooms tax revenues from hotels and short-term rentals to the town’s two housing funds. Article 17 would raise the “in-lieu” fees that developers pay to the affordable housing trust fund when they build multiple units of market-rate housing and don’t include affordable units.
Article 18 was apparently added just before the warrant closed. It would authorize a $1,575,000 debt exclusion to purchase a 1.7-acre parcel at 288A Bradford St. for “open space land and affordable/community housing.” The parcel belongs to Shaun Pfeiffer, and has been in his family since at least 1943, according to town records. A separate petitioned article from Jonathan Sinaiko of 292 Bradford St. asks the town to buy the parcel for the same purposes.
The only other petitioned article would change the way the finance committee is appointed. At present, the committee is a “standing committee of town meeting,” appointed by the town moderator. Article 25, submitted by Laura Rood, would have the moderator appoint three members and the select board and school committee each appoint two members and an alternate.
Current finance committee members would remain until their appointments expire.
Article 34, from the select board, would change the appointment of visitor services board members to eliminate nominations from various town organizations. The select board would instead simply appoint all the members.
Article 8, a $1.8-million debt exclusion, would fund the development of Cannery Wharf Park, previously known as East End Waterfront Park. The land was purchased from Elena Hall in 2019.
Article 12 asks for $115,000 to resurface the tennis courts at Motta Field and stripe two of the three courts for pickleball.
Article 14B seeks $450,000 to design and construct a barrier dune at Ryder Street beach. The Jan. 4, 2018 nor’easter sent seawater across this beach and down Gosnold Street into a giant pool at the Bas Relief Park. Dozens of homes and businesses were flooded. The dune would run from Ryder Street to the edge of the Crown and Anchor property to close the flood pathway.