EASTHAM — In a show of support for the select board and town administration, more than 300 voters at Monday night’s annual town meeting passed all 13 nonpetitioned warrant articles.
The purchase of 580 Massasoit Road, which houses a thrift shop, with $450,000 in Community Preservation Act funds was approved by a 288-17 vote. The store will remain in operation, run by the Friends of the Council on Aging; the town plans to use the second-floor apartment for housing.
A second purchase, of the former Beach Plum Motor Lodge at 2555 State Highway, won with a similar level of support. It will be acquired with $760,000 set aside in 2019 from the Family Support Package. The house will likely be converted to a two-bedroom apartment, select board chair Art Autorino told voters.
Resident Julie Douglas asked if new housing would be reserved for locals.Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe replied, “We’re looking for it to be workforce housing for the town’s needs.” Workforce housing is defined as serving households earning between 80 and 150 percent of area median income (AMI).
Resident Keith Burritt questioned the wisdom of the purchase. “As an investor, I would like to know what it’s going to cost me bottom-line rather than buying it and saying, ‘Oops,’ ” Burritt said. “Doesn’t seem like a smart investment to me.”
“I don’t think that Cape Cod real estate will ever do you wrong,” Beebe replied, to applause. The article passed 275-36.
Voters approved an inclusionary zoning bylaw requiring developers of more than four units to include affordable units or contribute to an affordable housing fund. The amount of the contribution would equal the cost of producing one unit of affordable housing. A separate “cluster” bylaw, which also passed, requires portions of future developments to become permanent open space while allowing dwellings to be placed in clusters.
Voters also passed a bylaw allowing motels, hotels, and cottage colonies to be converted to year-round housing by right. The lot size required to build a duplex in certain districts was also halved, from 80,000 to 40,000 square feet. The bylaw requires such duplexes to be owner-occupied or used for year-round housing.
Voters approved a petition to the General Court asking that Community Preservation Act funds can be spent on housing for those earning up to 200 percent of AMI.
The $35 million town budget and a $500,000 budget override passed, meaning a property tax bill of roughly $4,280 for properties of median value — $524,000. That represents a tax increase of 1.18 percent from last year.
The budget includes a new community risk reduction worker in the fire dept. and a social worker for fire, police, and community services. The formerly part-time conservation agent and I.T. director positions will become full-time.
The $1,934,374 capital budget also passed, $350,000 of which will be spent on planning for a potential sewer project near Salt Pond and Town Cove. Another $100,000 will be allocated to designing and engineering the T-Time and Town Center Plaza developments.
Voters approved a $750,000 transfer from free cash to the stabilization fund, which the finance committee hopes will restore Eastham’s AAA bond rating, which slipped because of the municipal water project. Another $41,250 in free cash will be spent on a veterans memorial to be erected outside the Schoolhouse Museum, and $900,000 will help fund the community housing plan.
Voters approved a new fire prevention bylaw requiring certain households and businesses with home monitoring systems to purchase and install house key-holding lockboxes from the fire dept. The boxes cost $50. “I’ve broken down a lot of doors,” said Fire Chief Dan Keane, adding that lockboxes have been required for decades in many neighboring towns.
A petitioned article asking the town not to impede Orleans’s efforts to continue the Nauset Estuary dredging project failed. Select board member Aimee Eckman opposed the dredging, which would take place largely in Eastham waters, saying it could damage the barrier beach and estuary.
John Granlund, who brought the dredging article before town meeting, said, “Don’t make an enemy of Orleans. Let’s continue studying. To kill it before it’s fully studied is wrong.” The vote was 29-260. The project is not totally dead, but reviving it would require a difficult passage through Eastham’s regulatory committees.
Voters also rejected a petitioned article to create a conservation fund for acquiring undeveloped open space and purchasing conservation restrictions, among other things. Joanna Buffington, who introduced the article, said the fund would never have enough money to buy land on its own without working with the town. Buffington applauded the measures meant to support housing but said, “These alone won’t stop another clear cut of acres of land and building $700,000 one-bedroom luxury condos” — a reference to developer Tim Klink’s Cedar Banks Landing.
In response, select board member Jamie Demetri said that the town has never lost out on a parcel that the conservation commission wanted to purchase. Furthermore, she said, she disliked the idea of a volunteer committee having the power to purchase property without a town meeting vote. The only group in town with that ability is the Affordable Housing Trust, Beebe said during the pre-town meeting, and they have never exercised it. The article failed, 42-207.
Voters also approved a bylaw permanently allowing outdoor dining. The state’s emergency authorization permitting outdoor dining expired last month.