Preservation of historic homes on Harwich warrant – News –

HARWICH — As with many towns, COVID-19 precautions resulted in town meeting voters gathering at an unaccustomed date and time in an equally unaccustomed setting. The Monomoy Regional High School football field will host this year’s annual town meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday after pandemic concerns this spring forced a postponement.

It’s a pared-down warrant that will include just 44 articles including town operating and capital budget appropriations, school funding, a handful of departmental requests, some Community Preservation Act funding authorizations and a few citizen petition articles.

Duncan Berry was happy to see on the warrant a zoning bylaw amendment that he and a group of residents championed that asks voters to approve measures to preserve a collection of two dozen historic homes along a milelong section of Route 28 between the Herring River and the Dennis town line.

“We’ve been working for years to help people understand that, not only is this a unique stretch of Route 28 — one of the few areas that looks like (Route) 6A — but we have an incredible legacy of sea captains, entrepreneurs and national politics (in the district),” Berry said. “It’s interesting from historical, cultural and aesthetic criteria.”

The homes date from 1750 to 1914 and feature architectural styles that include Cape, Georgian, Second Empire, Greek Revival, Queen Anne and Italianate. Research showed that as many as 17 sea captains once lived in the area. One of the more famous residents, Berry said, was Job Chase Sr., a Revolutionary War veteran who built schooners from lumber cut on his property on the Herring River. He allowed access to the river for other merchants and the area flourished with the marine trades. His grandson co-founded the Chase & Sanborn coffee company.

Last year, Barnstable County Commissioners approved the selectmen’s nomination of the area as a District of Critical Planning Concern. That came with a yearlong moratorium on building permits as the Cape Cod Commission worked with the town to craft protective regulations that are included in the warrant article. They define permitted uses of property and buildings within the district and set up a special permit process for other endeavors in nonhistoric buildings. Site plan approval is required for all new construction, limit building height and footprint dimensions and parking area design.

A two-thirds vote at town meeting is required for approval and the article was unanimously supported by selectmen and the Finance Committee.

Some other articles on the warrant include:

• A town operating budget of $39.1 million, an increase of less than 0.2% over the previous year’s budget. Voters must also approve using over $574,000 from the town stabilization fund to help close the revenue shortfall caused by an economic slowdown brought on by the response to COVID-19. The Monomoy Regional School District also was able to trim the budget it proposed in January by nearly $500,000 to $41.5 million, with Harwich assessed $26.9 million of that amount, which represented a 1.19% increase over last year.

• Community Preservation Act articles include $200,000 transferred into the Harwich Affordable Housing Trust and $50,000 to pay for a part-time housing coordinator with another $200,000 placed into a rental assistance program to help families earning 80% or less of the average median income.

Voter approval is being sought to replace the lights at Whitehouse Field at a cost of over $380,000, an additional $72,657 for fencing at the Brooks Park baseball field, and $500,000 to build a playground at Harwich Elementary School.

Petition articles include:

• A bylaw banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in town except during a declared emergency.

• A climate change bylaw that requires the town to adopt a policy of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by humans within the town to net zero. It does not set a timeline but stipulates that it be as soon as practicable.

Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter:@dougfrasercct.

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