EASTHAM — Voters at this year’s annual town meeting on May 2 will be asked to approve an ambitious set of appropriations and zoning changes focused on increasing the town’s stock of affordable housing.
Also included in the draft warrant now being prepared are articles dealing with outdoor dining, fire prevention, and the proposed dredging of the Nauset Estuary.
A proposed change in the Eastham zoning bylaw would require developers to add deed-restricted affordable housing to any project creating four or more year-round housing units. The affordable units created under this so-called inclusionary bylaw could be either onsite or in a separate location.
Income restrictions would apply: at least half of the units would be reserved for households earning less than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). The remaining units “shall be affordable to those earning no more than 120 percent AMI,” according to the draft article. Seventy percent of the units created under this amendment would be reserved for Eastham residents, town employees, or teachers in the Nauset regional district, which includes Wellfleet, Orleans, and Brewster as well as Eastham.
Developers would have the option of donating to the affordable housing trust fund rather than building affordable units. The payments would be based on a formula ensuring the fee is equivalent to the value to the units that would otherwise have been created.
A seasonal housing conversion bylaw would allow motels, hotels, and cottage colonies to be converted to year-round housing by right. The proposed change would eliminate the current requirement for a special permit.
Another proposed change to the zoning bylaw would allow duplexes to be built on parcels of 40,000 square feet in the residential and residential/limited commercial districts. Since 1988, new duplexes have required 80,000-square-foot lots. The change would also require that any new duplexes built in these districts be owner-occupied or used for year-round rentals.
Voters will be asked to approve the purchase of the former Beach Plum Motor Lodge at 2555 Route 6. The town plans to rent the main house to year-round tenants, according to the draft warrant. The seasonal motel units would be converted to year-round units, then rented. The purchase would be financed with workforce housing funds previously approved in 2019.
Another warrant article asks to purchase 580 Massasoit Road, site of the Friends of the Council on Aging Thrift Store, for $450,000, using Community Preservation Act funds. The thrift store would remain and the friends of the COA would pay rent. The second floor, currently a two-bedroom apartment, would be rented as affordable housing.
At the March 9 finance committee meeting, Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe said that the third floor of the building could “conceivably” be made into a studio apartment, netting an additional unit of housing. That would require converting the second-floor apartment into a one-bedroom, due to septic limitations.
In another article, $900,000 in free cash is set to be allocated to the community housing plan.
The state’s emergency authorization for outdoor dining expired in April. In response, the planning board and select board are proposing town regulations permitting restaurants to continue serving diners outside.
A new ordinance would empower the fire dept. and building inspector to issue fines for uncorrected fire and building code violations of up to $100 per violation per day. At present, the town’s only enforcement tool had been to close the business.
“This would have really helped us with some businesses like Willy’s Gym,” Beebe said. In December 2019, the town ordered gym owner Barbara Niggel to close down until serious fire and safety code violations were corrected.
A petitioned article submitted by Nauset Estuary Stakeholder Group member Jon Granlund asks that Eastham “not take actions that will have the effect of preventing Orleans” from pursuing permits for the Nauset dredging project. The dredging would take place in the waters off Eastham, Orleans, and the Cape Cod National Seashore and would require approval from Eastham regulatory boards, among many others.
In December, the select board terminated its participation in the dredging due to misgivings about the project. The board feared that dredging would erode the barrier beach and marsh and make homes in that area more vulnerable.
“This is not a binding vote,” Beebe said at the Feb. 28 select board meeting.
“But if it passes and we say no, is that an issue?” asked select board chair Art Autorino.
“If you’re asking my opinion, yes,” replied Beebe. The board then discussed a plan to explain its objections to dredging the estuary to voters. “And if it passes despite that, I don’t know what we do,” said Beebe. “In this project, we’ve been in an odd place many times. We’re just there again.”