WELLFLEET — The select board has proposed two articles for the June 11 annual town meeting aimed at addressing the town’s lack of both affordable and year-round housing.
One would allow deed-restricted affordable houses to be constructed on lots that are currently classified as unbuildable. The other would allow cottage colonies to be occupied year-round instead of just seasonally.
The proposed bylaw change for currently unbuildable lots would add two categories. The first, labeled “Affordable Lot,” would allow a single-family home to be built by right — that is, without a special permit — on a lot with at least 10,000 square feet of upland. The second category, “Affordable Undersized Lot,” would allow a single-family dwelling to be built on a lot with under 10,000 square feet of upland but only by a special permit from the zoning board of appeals.
Houses in both categories would carry deed restrictions and be allowed in all districts except the National Seashore Park District. The parcels would also have to satisfy all board of health requirements and conservation commission regulations.
Before the board’s vote to sponsor this article, member Helen Miranda Wilson said she wanted it to be reviewed by town counsel before puting it on the warrant. Chair Ryan Curley, who wrote the proposal, said town counsel reviews only articles the board wants to include on the warrant.
Member Janet Reinhart said the town’s various boards should get to offer their opinions first. “I love what you’re doing, but this is a huge subject,” Reinhart said.
Curley responded that he had presented the article to the town’s housing organizations and “they supported it in concept.” However, he continued, “I presented it to the planning board, and they basically refused to take it up.”
After member Michael DeVasto said he was concerned about the proposed setbacks of 10 feet from lot lines, the distance was increased to 15 feet. If houses are built within 25 feet of an adjacent dwelling, a six-foot stockade fence would be required.
The select board voted to sponsor the proposal, with Reinhart casting the sole vote in opposition.
In the summary of the bylaw, Curley wrote that there are 18 lots that have a high probability of being developed in this way and 26 others where the bylaw may be applicable.
“About 10 percent of our housing stock is now restricted to seasonal use,” said Curley before the board’s vote to sponsor the proposed change in the cottage colony bylaw to make them year-round. “We need to create as many opportunities as we can to bring housing stock back into the year-round housing market,” he said.
Converting cottage colonies from seasonal to year-round use has been under discussion for several years. In 2015, the planning board asked the Cape Cod Commission to study a possible bylaw change that would allow cottages to be occupied year-round provided they were owned by or rented to qualified low- to moderate-income tenants. The study noted that several cottage colonies had been converted from rentals to individually owned condos. The commission found 346 seasonal-restricted units in town.
Cottages in the National Seashore Park District are excluded from the proposed change.
The current proposal for year-round occupancy doesn’t include a requirement for affordability. It simply removes a sentence in the bylaw limiting occupancy.
Wilson called the proposed change “a long time coming.”
Curley said it would result in “housing that’s affordable by design rather than restriction,” considering the size of the existing units, which can be no smaller than 550 square feet and no larger than 768 square feet, according to the bylaw.
Cottage colonies are allowed only by special permit.
In the bylaw summary, Curley wrote, “Wellfleet badly needs a more balanced blend of housing options.” The housing crisis, he wrote, “is already affecting the town’s quality of life and economic sustainability.”
The planning board must hold public hearings on any proposed bylaw changes that are set to come before town meeting. Chair Gerald Parent said a date has not yet been set for hearings on these select board proposals.