BREWSTER — A special town meeting in Brewster on Sept. 25 may determine the fate of the former Cape Cod Sea Camps (CCSC) properties. At a virtual public forum on Aug. 17, the town made firm its intentions to acquire the properties through an eminent domain taking — that is, the town could expropriate the property for public use, paying fair-market compensation for it in the process.
The Sea Camps land comprises two parcels. Sixty-six acres are adjacent to Long Pond (at 500 W.H. Besse Cartway) and 54.7 acres are between Route 6A and Cape Cod Bay (at 3057 Main St.). The taking would allow the town a range of potential uses for the land, including but not limited to habitat protection, watershed protection, open space, conservation, passive or active recreation, and community housing.
The two properties appear as separate articles on the special town meeting warrant. A third article includes approving the transfer of $200,000 from free cash to pay for maintenance, security, operations, repair, and rehabilitation of the land. There is nothing else on the warrant.
The Sept. 25 meeting will be held outdoors at 10 a.m. at the Stony Brook Elementary School ballfield, where check-in will start at 9 a.m. Both the warrant and background on the proposed acquisitions are posted on the town’s website.
The town has secured pledges of $1.5 million from the Brewster Conservation Trust and $1 million from Mass Audubon, and the Brewster Water Commission has also approved an appropriation of $250,000 to help with acquisition costs of the Long Pond parcel.
For the parcel on the Cape Cod Bay side, the town has secured pledges of $1 million from Mass Audubon and $750,000 from an anonymous donor to assist with the acquisition costs. The YMCA of Cape Cod has also expressed interest as a potential partner, according to the town.
Meanwhile, the Brewster Flats Foundation (BFF), a nonprofit group of alumni and former staff of the Sea Camps, has separately been attempting to raise money to purchase the Cape Cod Bay property from the current owners, the Delahanty family, which has owned the Sea Camps since its founding in 1922.
The foundation’s goal is expressly to maintain the property as a summer camp. In July, the group partnered with Hale, a venerable camp in Westwood and Dover that offers recreational programs, to help it achieve that goal.
But if the eminent domain taking is approved, it would take precedence over the BFF effort. Even so, Jim Fay, the foundation’s president, said he is pleased with the move the town is proposing. He says he is still working in collaboration with the town to keep the properties as important community resources.
“We’re excited that there are other folks who are fighting and working to protect a really valuable resource,” he said.
A visible contingent in Brewster is working to persuade townspeople that the town’s effort to acquire the land for public use is a good thing. Signs calling for “Sea Camps for the Public” have been going up on lawns along Route 6A, and a rally in front of the old camp property is planned for Saturday, Sept. 18, according to Katie Miller Jacobus, one of the organizers.
Taxpayers must approve the eminent domain taking by a two-thirds majority vote at the special town meeting. Fair market value must then be established and paid to the Delahantys to complete the deal.
The acquisitions are also contingent on approval of a debt exclusion ballot measure at a special town election to be held on Oct. 5. The town needs a simple majority vote at that election.
If Brewster voters authorize the eminent domain acquisition of the former Sea Camps properties, it will be only the first step in what could be a long process.
The Brewster Select Board would first adopt an order of taking to be recorded by the Barnstable County Registrar of Deeds. Next, the town would calculate fair compensation for the former owners “based on carefully prepared appraisals and expert consultation,” according to the warrant.
The Delahantys would have three years to appeal the town’s action. If they appealed, a jury trial would be held, and if the jury awarded a higher amount than what was paid, Brewster voters would need to approve an appropriation of the difference.
The Delahantys announced last year that the camp would be closing for good. Soon afterwards, they auctioned off everything from picnic tables to trophies and other memorabilia. Keen-Summit Capital Partners, in conjunction with Phoenix Capital Resources, both based in New York City, have been retained by the Delahantys to sell the two Cape Cod waterfront properties, which are listed on Keen-Summit’s website.
Jim Fleet, a senior managing director at Phoenix Management Services in Boston, who represents the Delahantys, declined to comment on the town’s upcoming special town meeting.