BREWSTER — An overwhelming majority of the record 1,471 residents who turned out for last Sunday’s special town meeting at the Stony Brook Elementary School voted to have the town purchase two large parcels of the former Cape Cod Sea Camps (CCSC) property. The articles required two-thirds majorities to pass, but the vote was so one-sided that Moderator Charles Sumner (who is also Wellfleet’s interim town administrator) declared no count was needed.
Completing the purchase still requires a majority vote at a special town election on Oct. 5 to approve a debt exclusion from the provisions of Proposition 2½.
The fate of the CCSC land has been a hot topic in Brewster ever since the Delahanty family announced in November 2020 that the camps would be permanently closed after 99 years of operation.
Of the two parcels, the 54.7 acres between Route 6A and Cape Cod Bay were the main hub of Sea Camps activity. The Long Pond parcel, with 66 acres at 500 W.H. Besse Cartway, is the largest privately owned property in Brewster.
The total purchase price approved by the voters and agreed to by the sellers was $26 million: $20 million for the bay parcel and $6 million for the Long Pond parcel.
The Brewster Flats Foundation, a nonprofit group of CCSC alumni and former staff, quickly formed after the Delahantys’ announcement last year. The group attempted to raise enough money to purchase the bay parcel in hopes of keeping it running as a camp. The total raised was more than $1.6 million in July.
When the town’s plan to take the land by eminent domain became public, foundation president Jim Fay said he was pleased with the move.
Brewster residents Tom and Patricia Kennedy made a late push to head off the town’s purchase so that they could acquire the properties. The Kennedys are software entrepreneurs with successful start-ups including BackOffice Associates and Zudy. BackOffice Associates was based in Harwich before it was sold to investment giant Goldman Sachs; Zudy is now based in Harwich. The Kennedys also run SportsMoney, a financial management company for professional athletes.
Patricia Kennedy posted a statement on her Facebook page on Sept. 21 outlining their plans for the property. It said the Kennedys wanted to “preserve the Sea Camps parcel and return most of the property to the wild.”
The town meeting was scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 25, but bad weather postponed it to the following day. The Kennedys, who have strong ties to the New England Patriots, let the town know that “Trish” would not be able to attend the meeting because it conflicted with the Patriots’ game against the New Orleans Saints and plans for a retirement party for former wide receiver Julian Edelman. The message came by way of a video of Edelman explaining the conflict posted on Facebook.
“I hope you guys have a good Sunday,” Edelman said. “Good luck with it … and remember, go Pats.”
No one at town meeting spoke for the Kennedys. (The Patriots lost to the Saints, 28-13.)
Behind the Scenes
Town officials had been working behind the scenes with the Delahanty family to broker a deal to purchase the properties for nearly a year. The town had made an offer of $15 million in recent weeks but was informed that the family had received a $20 million no-contingency cash offer from a private bidder, according to select board member David Whitney.
Although the total price for both parcels is $26 million, available town funds and pledged contributions from the Brewster Conservation Trust, Mass Audubon, the Brewster Water Dept., and an anonymous private donor total $6 million. That leaves a balance of $20 million to be borrowed by the town.
The pledges and available town funds will go to purchase the pond parcel, said town officials, meaning that property tax bills would not be affected by that part of the deal.
“As proposed, this real estate purchase will have no impact on the resident property tax bills,” said select board member Ned Chatelain at Sunday’s meeting.
But the purchase of the bay parcel would increase the tax rate by 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Thus, taxes on a property assessed at $500,000 would increase by $125.
“It’s taken a lot of cooperation and dedication on the sellers’ part and the select board and town,” Brewster resident Katie Miller Jacobus, a member of the school committee, said last week. “The next step will be community engagement and a visioning process. Whatever discussions happen of what comes next, part-time residents are included in that equally.”
According to the Cape Cod Commission, 44 percent of the town’s housing units are occupied by seasonal residents.
No Decisions Yet
Town officials have repeatedly made the point that all residents will be part of deciding what happens to the Sea Camps properties. No decisions have been made yet.
Select board member Mary Chafee reiterated that at town meeting. She mentioned building a new council on aging building, a community center, a swimming pool, a residents-only beach, and repurposing existing buildings on the bay parcel, which includes dozens of buildings, an outdoor Olympic-size pool, and tennis courts.
“It’s like being part of a country club at a very low rate,” Brewster resident Anne Moore, director of library services at Eddy Elementary School, said on Sunday.
Not everyone favored the purchase.
“Don’t take this personally, but I don’t trust the town,” resident Lisa Doyle said at the meeting. “You guys have made some major mistakes in the 30 years that I’ve lived here, and I think this is too precious a piece of property to make more mistakes.”
James McGinnis, an 82-year-old part-time resident (his primary residence is in Florida), was also against the purchase. McGinnis could be seen sitting beside Route 6A in front of the Sea Camps parcel all week with a sign that read “Vote No! Sea Camps. Money Pit!”
McGinnis said the property’s condition is not good and maintenance costs associated will be more than people are expecting.
“The Brewster voters are not being given the full picture,” he said. “The $26 million is the tip of the iceberg.”
McGinnis added that he doesn’t think Brewster residents need an Olympic-size swimming pool and that a private developer purchasing the property and building multimillion-dollar homes isn’t such a bad idea.
“Development is better compared to the burden on the taxpayers,” he said.