$33M Community Center Proposed For Sea Camps Property; Final Forum On Plans Feb. 15

by Rich Eldred

BREWSTER – The community center is in — at an estimated cost of nearly $33 million — at the Sea Camps bay property. Affordable Housing is slated for the 66-acre pond property but on the back burner for the bay property.

Roads, trails, parking, nature centers, seasonal housing and offices are all set to be phased in according to the penultimate master plans from Brewster’s consultants at Reed Hilderbrand.

What do Brewsterites think? The last chance to weigh in before the plans go before town meeting in May will be Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. during the fourth and final virtual forum on the two Sea Camps properties. The forum will include a lot more financial and funding detail and will begin with a 90-minute presentation.

The select board and the two planning committees for the $26 million, 121-acre Cape Cod Sea Camps properties met jointly Tuesday, Jan. 23, to review Reed Hilderbrand’s recommendation and make final decisions on the community center and housing.

The consultants had sifted through the results of the previous three forums, feedback from the select board and other interested parties such as Mass Audubon and the Brewster Conservation Trust to formulate the plans and break the construction into two-year phases.

The general plan is organized with permitting, studies and design first, site preparation and infrastructure next, followed by community use and recreation, housing and ecology.

Phase one of the work is scheduled for 2025-27. At the bay property it’ll mostly be funding approvals and permitting, including a feasibility study for a community center, building demolitions, roadwork, trails and a fitness loop, along with renovating the outdoor pavilion, renovating some buildings for seasonal housing, constructing a pollinator meadow and tree planting.

“The goal is to open up as much of the property to the community as soon as possible,” Madeleine Aronson of Reed Hilderbrand said.

With that in mind the summer recreation program would relocate to the bay property during the first phase.

Phase two (2027-29) includes more building demolition, designing a community center, parking for a nature center to be built and run by Mass Audubon on 10 acres around the small pond picnic areas, and tennis courts.

“Phase two is to continue access with tennis courts, picnic areas and to get Mass Audubon and parking done.” Aronson said,

During phase three (2029-31), plans for the community center would be finalized, the dining hall will be torn down, community gardens will be installed, the boathouse will be renovated for events and the property will get a playground.

During phase four (2031-33), a plan for other municipal uses would be formalized, the administration building would be renovated, cabins that are retained would be renovated for community use, and parking and more woodland work and tree planting would be done. Community center plans would be approved.

Phase 5 (2033-35) is when the community center would be built once all permits and funding are approved.

During the last undetermined phase the current beach parking could be removed and the dunes restored and the town could begin considering affordable housing on 10 acres at the Southeast corner of the property where maintenance buildings are currently located.

“This is our first take on the phasing plan. It is still a work in progress,” Town Manager Peter Lombardi said. “The initial phase one was an unmanageable amount of projects. That’s why the community gardens were moved to a latter phase.”

Much less work is scheduled for the pond property, where 10 acres would be set aside for affordable housing and a wastewater treatment facility that would also treat waste from neighboring properties. The remaining 56 acres would be reserved for conservation and recreation and perhaps a well. Mass Audubon would construct a small nature center and run programs at the pond for kayaking, pond exploration and such, and walking trails would be built.

On this property housing would happen first with the housing feasibility study in phase one. The road would be improved with stormwater work. Trails would be designed along with beach facilities.

“Phase one is to enable site access with roadways and trails, beach access and parking,” Aronson said.

Housing and the wastewater facility would be designed and permitted in phase 2 (2027-29). Affordable housing of 44 or so units would be built by the developer during phase three (2029-31) along with the wastewater plant. The wastewater plant would be connected to nearby residences in phase four.

“We realize what a challenge it is to fit all this work into the off season,” Lombardi said. “This was all shared with Mass Audubon.”

The decisions the committees needed to make were whether to build a single-building community center or save cash by utilizing existing facilities such as the dinning hall and building a smaller senior center elsewhere.

Reed Hilderbrand said all the desired uses for a community center could not be accommodated within 17,000 square feet of renovated existing buildings with a campus design. A new community center could be 34,000 square feet, similar to Harwich’s 32,000-square-foot center but with an indoor pool as well. The administration building and arts center would be retained.

Renovating and reusing buildings would cost about $9,568,000, according to the consultants, not including a separate senior center. A new community center for all ages would cost $32,965,600. That cost would not include an indoor pool.

The select board and bay property planning committee voted unanimously for the community center over the campus approach.

Housing on the bay property could occupy 7.5 acres of the 10-acre set aside and could include 32 units. The pond property could hold 44 units with 88 beds within 10 acres along Route 137.

The pond property planning committee voted 7-3 to support housing on the land and the select board was in favor unanimously.

“I think the pond property is the favored site and should be the only site,” select board member Mary Chaffee said.

The committee and select board reserved 10 acres for municipal use on the Bay property, or possibly housing in the future.