TRURO — A longtime cottage colony may soon be vanishing from Truro’s back shore.
The property’s new owner, who paid $5 million for the seven-acre former Hi-Land View Cottages at 17 Coast Guard Road, has submitted a request to demolish five of the six late-1950s cottages, construct a one-story home and outdoor pool in their place, and convert the remaining cottage into a pool house with a bar.
Boston attorney Rachel Kalin, as trustee of Outer Shore Nominee Trust, is listed in the Barnstable Registry of Deeds as having bought the property last August. During an attempt to speak to her by phone, the person answering said Kalin had “no plans to disclose any information,” including whether she is the property’s owner or if there is another beneficiary of the trust. The internal structure of trusts is not public information.
Kalin has applied for site plan approval and two special permits. The planning board was scheduled to take up the site plan review on Wednesday, April 20, and the zoning board of appeals will consider the special permit requests on Monday, April 25. Both meetings were to be held remotely.
The first special permit would allow for the demolition of the cottages, conversion of the remaining cottage into a pool house, and construction of a single-family home. The second would be for exceeding the gross floor-area limit in the National Seashore District. The house is about 5,100 square feet, and the pool house about 126.
The project description calls the design “a simple, modern beach house.” It will include two long wings: one for the living area and the other for bedrooms. “The proposed design is at a low, human scale and is consistent with nearby ocean-front homes and public buildings and will complement this area of Truro in a manner the current block cottages do not,” says the application.
The building dept. forwarded the demolition request to the Truro Historical Commission, but chair Matthew Kiefer said the cottages, built between 1955 and 1960, didn’t meet the 75-year-old threshold for commission review and a possible demolition delay order.
Other considerations that might trigger a historical commission review include some demonstrated historic or architectural significance. “We did our best to find any evidence of history or historic surveys, but didn’t find any,” said Kiefer, who said the request for demolition is perhaps unique. “I think this is the first one that’s come before us for a total demolition,” he said. “Usually, it’s for an individual cottage.”
Clusters of small cottages rented by families during the summer are emblematic of a particular period of Truro history, Kiefer said. “It’s a period we are now documenting in a survey,” he said. The commission currently has a consultant working to inventory buildings constructed during the early 20th century up until the late 1970s.
Helen McNeil-Ashton, vice president of collections at the Truro Historical Society’s Highland House Museum, said cottage colonies were popular in the postwar period, “when families had enough money and vacation time to enjoy the simple life on Cape Cod.”
A survey done for the town in 2011 calls the period from the 1890s to 1960 the “Tourism Boom Years.” The cottage colonies, the survey said, “are all associated with Truro’s development into a resort town that began with small vacation complexes and cottage colonies.”
Preservation consultant Eric Dray, who worked on the 2011 inventory, said the straightening and expanding of Route 6, completed in 1952, resulted in several cottage colonies springing up. But as smaller houses are replaced by larger ones across the Cape, “the cottage colonies, the smallest and most fragile, would be susceptible to that,” he said.
A few months before the purchase of 17 Coast Guard Road, the Outer Shore Nominee Trust, with Kalin as trustee, purchased 3.5 acres at 23 Coast Guard Road for $2.9 million. A house there is undergoing major renovation, according to the Truro Building Dept.
A property owned by the Cape Cod National Seashore, also with several small cottages on it, separates 17 and 23 Coast Guard Road.