ORLEANS — The town of Chatham is willing to patrol its section of Nauset Beach, but it wants to share costs and revenues in a new arrangement with the town of Orleans.
“We can't just ask our taxpayers to pay that cost,” Chatham Selectman Shareen Davis said at a meeting of the two boards Sept. 13. “We're trying to find the best-case scenario to offset costs.”
Following the 2007 break in the barrier beach, Chatham's share of Nauset (North) Beach was down to about half a mile. Chatham relinquished its beach patrol, which was taken over by Orleans in exchange for keeping out-of-town sticker revenue as well as resident sticker fees. Chatham retains fees from its residents and property owners. The result is much more revenue for Orleans.
Recently, however, Chatham's North beach has grown and become more attractive to over-sand vehicle operators, while Nauset Beach in Orleans has narrowed significantly. In February, Orleans proposed that Chatham resume patrols of its section of North Beach. In April, the towns agreed to continue the existing agreement for a year to let Chatham prepare for the transition.
Meeting last week as park commissioners, the Orleans selectmen hosted their Chatham colleagues, who brought a proposal that included assumption of North Beach patrols but proposed significant changes to revenue distribution. Under the Sept. 13 draft, revenue subject to distribution would include stickers sold to Orleans residents (at this time, the town does not charge residents a general beach fee), all non-resident stickers sold by Orleans, and resident stickers sold by Chatham.
At the end of the over-sand vehicle season (April 30), each town would provide an accounting of its endangered shorebird monitoring program and over-sand program receipts and expenses. “Only expenses related to operation of the respective towns' endangered species monitoring and OSV program south of the Nauset Beach parking lot shall be included in the accounting,” the Chatham draft notes. Revenue would then be divided in proportion to ORV and endangered species expenses. Revenues from fines would remain with the towns imposing them.
“We don't know what we're splitting until we see what you're spending,” Orleans Park Commission Chairman Alan McClennen said. “We don't have an expense report with us,” said Chatham Selectman Amanda Love, who with Selectman Shareen Davis and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson developed the new draft.
“To operate our (section of the) beach, we're probably close to $100,000,” Duncanson said. “We probably spent $40,000 to $50,000 this year. We added part-time staff that would go full-time next year.”
“I don't see any reason why HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan) expenses should be shared,” Orleans Selectman Jon Fuller said. “You have your HCP, we'll have ours.” The plans imposes protective measures for shorebirds while keeping ORV access open.
“There has been discussion about the two towns working together under one HCP permit,” Duncanson said, adding later, “Probably at some point the two towns ought to suggest a joint permit for the area south of the parking lot. It really is one beach with the exception of a town line on a piece of paper.”
Orleans Selectman David Currier, who was part of an informal group that worked to secure better over-sand access to the beach in both towns, suggested forming another. “I could only support a working group if they adhere to the open meeting law and take minutes...and report to us regularly,” Fuller said. By meeting's end, both town seemed ready to appoint a committee of two members of each board to hammer out a compromise.