The ocean defines the Outer Cape, but by some reckonings, swimming pools are beginning to come in a close second. That would be an exaggeration, but whether it’s for fear of sharks or of crowds, or a change in portfolio sizes or views on what makes a good investment, there is some evidence that a pool-building trend is underway here.
Andrew Everleigh, vice president of Environmental Pools, said he’s seen an increase in business across the Cape, including on the Outer Cape, in the last two years. Although Everleigh’s company is based in Chelmsford, he said they installed 84 pools on Cape Cod in the last year.
But in our outermost towns? “Yes, the numbers are up,” said Steve Simon of Oceanside Pools in Harwich. “We’re doing more work in the Outer Cape area.” His company specializes in pool and spa maintenance and he says it services about 100 Outer Cape hot tubs or pools every week.
Speaking from a work site at an Orleans residence, Simon said, “There’s just plain more pools going in.”
Town records show that in 2019 a total of 11 residential pool permits were issued in Eastham, 10 in Truro, and five in Provincetown, plus a few permits there for remodels of existing pools.
Wellfleet Building Inspector Justin Post did not provide permit numbers for Wellfleet, but said he doesn’t think pool building is rising so steeply.
“I’ve been here three years and I’d say the pace hasn’t changed,” Post said. “I worked in Chatham for five years and they build a lot of pools there, even when they have the ocean right there. But here, people just don’t do pools as much.”
Tim Klink, who runs Coastal Construction in Eastham, said his Island Pools division was contracted to install two pools on the Outer Cape in 2017, three in 2018, four in 2019, and six so far in 2020. While he attributes the growth partly to fear of sharks, he thinks this year’s numbers will reflect the impact of the coronavirus.
“People are saying, ‘I’m not traveling,’ ” Klink said. Pools are a better long-term investment now, he said, because the materials — whether the pricier free-form gunite pool (which can run $50,000 to $100,000) or preformed fiberglass — are better than they used to be.
Both Klink and Everleigh said they think pools are not necessarily a second-home owner phenomenon. Building permit records appear to be incomplete, but Eastham’s show that, out of 14 swimming pool permits issued from 2019 through February 2020, half were for homes listed as primary residences.
If there is an upswing in pool building, environmental concern about water use and chlorine contamination is a mitigating factor on the Outer Cape. Provincetown has its own set of water regulations that prohibit the filling of swimming pools from June 1 through October.
The pool builders say some customers are opting for saltwater pools, which, although more expensive than traditional freshwater pools with chlorine treatment systems, are less harmful to the environment.
The Provincetown Conservation Commission requires that pools located in the town’s flood plain be saltwater, according to Conservation Agent Tim Famulare.
“So that, if there is a flood, the chlorine chemicals won’t wash around the area,” Famulare said.
Pools outside the flood plain but still in the buffer zone for beaches and wetlands can be chlorinated, but the water has to be drained into a tank and may not be directed through a storm drain.
Wellfleet has no regulations concerning pool filling or chlorine use; inquiries sent to Eastham and Truro were not answered before this week’s deadline.