Brewster Passes Sea Camps Plans; Funding Will Come Later

by Rich Eldred
The former Cape Cod Sea Camps Pond property. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO The former Cape Cod Sea Camps Pond property. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

BREWSTER – Despite long debates, every article was approved at Saturday’s town meeting, except for the two short-term rental citizens petitions, which were postponed, just as two similar petitions were postponed at last fall’s town meeting.

The plans for the bay and pond properties comprising the former Cape Cod Sea Camps were approved. No funding was attached to the two sea camp plans.

“Funding for the pond property plans will commence with fall town meeting this year,” pond property planning committee chair Doug Wilcock said. “Eighty five percent of the property, 56 acres, has been designated for conservation. Nature trails will be constructed.”

Two parking lots for a total of 24 cars will be built. Fifteen percent, or 10 acres, will be used for affordable housing and a small wastewater plant. This will all take six to eight years.

There was a motion to indefinitely postpone the article over the affordable housing requirements.

“We need to vote on where we want high-density affordable housing to be built,” Ed Wanamaker said. “I don’t think we’re leaving ourselves enough of the land for the town.” The motion to postpone failed. There were concerns about building housing in an area of drinking water supply.

“The proposed plan is consistent with the housing production plan,” said Tim Hackert of the pond committee. “Built into the plan is a concern for water quality and a concern that anything we do on the pond property protects it and enhances its quality.”

The plan was strongly supported.

The 55-acre bay property would be used for outdoor recreation such as the beach, pool, tennis courts, trails and community gardens. Trees would be planted, dunes restored and 10 acres set for conservation.

“It currently has 92 structures and a landscape that goes from open fields to wooded areas all the way down to First Light Beach,” bay property committee chair Amanda Bebrin said. “What we heard from residents was the desire for this special property to be a place where people could do a variety of activities that make the most of the natural resources and the existing buildings.”

Twenty-four buildings would be reused including the administration building. A community center could be built. Mass Audubon will present nature programming and construct a nature center.

“The partnership with Mass. Audubon will be a community asset,” Bebrin said.

Eight acres near Route 6A would be set aside for municipal use. Implementing the plan would take up to 10 years.

There was concern affordable housing wasn’t planned on those eight acres. A woman argued that the cabins should be used for seasonal housing.

The plans were approved, and a new committee will eventually be formed to begin working on implementation, with many funding votes to come.

The elementary school budget of $12,477,164 will require an Proposition 2½ override of $758,091 as it is up 12.6 percent, mostly driven by increases in special education costs.

“We basically tried to provide level services,” school committee chair Katie Miller Jacobus said. “And we couldn’t get there. Cuts have been made and some needs continue to go unfunded, No new positions. No fancy new programming.

“The [state] funding formula that was supposed to address inflation has fallen far short. We’ve reached the end of emergency funding that was COVID related and kids are showing up with greater needs than ever,” she added. “The increase in special ed costs at our schools is 30 percent and it is state mandated.”

Thirty percent of Brewster students have an individual education plan.

“We’ve always supported education in this town,” noted Steve Leibowitz. “Great towns have great schools. We’ve done that consistently. We’ve supported our schools consistently.”

The budget was approved easily. The override was then debated.

“The concern I had with this warrant article was the trajectory the school budgets have taken,” said Ned Chatelain of the select board, who did not support the override. “This is the second year that we’ve needed an operating override. And at this time there is not a financial forecast in place to help us understand what the coming years will look like.”

“I voted against this because I do not believe it is sustainable. We can not keep doing this year after year,” added board member Cindy Bingham, who also did not support the override.

Nancy Ortiz pointed out that whereas the Stony Brook School once had 775 students, both elementary schools now house 435 kids.

“The cost of operating two schools is close to double,” she said, suggesting the schools should be combined.

A woman pointed out affordable housing could boost the school population.

“When you vote for children you win every time,” another woman said.

After lengthy debate, the override passed. It will still need to be approved at the May 28 election.

The Nauset Regional School District assessment of $17,019,204 was approved, although the finance committee disapproved by a 1-7 vote. Committee member Pete Dahl pointed out that approximately $940,000 of interest gains on unspent bonds was used to keep increases down, and that is not sustainable.

The Cape Tech assessment of $1,467,474 was passed unanimously.

The citizen’s petitions to create a registration system for short-term rentals and limit how many may be operated by an owner were both tabled for a future meeting.

“Requiring registration for short-term rentals would mean that the town would have a way to track them and make sure they are in compliance with local rules and regulations,” proponent Matilda Delano said. “Creating a registration system is a straightforward process. I drafted these articles because I was tired of inaction by the town.”

“I support the article,” said Chris Powicki. “We have to start getting a handle on how many short-term rentals we have in town. There are new houses being built and they are immediately short-term rentals purely for monetary purposes.”

Tim Hackert moved to indefinitely postpone the articles.

“The select board has indicated they are going to work on this process,” he said, adding that a recent Nantucket zoning ruling regarding STRs (which found that they aren’t a legitimate primary use in residential zones) also needs to be addressed.

“If you don’t agree with [my petitions] you can vote no,” Delano argued. “I think that pushing this issue further and further down the road is irresponsible and we should be voting on this today.”

Nonetheless residents voted to postpone both articles by a 183-94 margin.

Brewster’s operating budget for fiscal 2025 was approved at $26,523,727, an increase of 5.3 percent. The water department budget of just over $2.9 was passed unanimously. The golf course budget of $4.6 was approved by a majority, as was $1.6 million in Community Preservation Act allocations. That included $230,000 for a conservation restriction on the Washington Chase bog on Route 6A. The capital projects expenditure of $1,436,211 also passed.