CHATHAM — Saying they need additional time to consider a revised North (Nauset) beach management agreement with Orleans, Chatham selectmen last week said they will ask their counterparts in Orleans to extend the current agreement for another year.
The two boards are set to meet jointly on April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Chatham Town Offices Annex on George Ryder Road to discuss the management of the barrier beach, which is accessible by land only through Orleans, but which includes a portion in the town of Chatham.
Last month, Orleans selectmen sent the Chatham board a draft revision of the agreement that proposes that each town resume patrolling its own stretch of the beach for the first time since 2008. The year before, a new inlet opposite Minister's Point left Chatham with only about a half-mile of Nauset beach connected to the mainland, prompting town officials to discontinue the beach patrol. In exchange for taking over the patrol, Orleans retained a much larger share of revenue from beach permit fees.
The Orleans proposal continues to allow that town to retain revenue from out-of-town sticker fees, but calls for Chatham to resume its own beach patrols. Meeting on March 21, several Chatham selectmen voiced concerns about the agreement, and the board appointed a subcommittee of members Seth Taylor and Amanda Love to review the document and make a recommendation to the full board. Doing so last week, Love said the proposal came too late in Chatham's annual budget cycle to allow the town to restore the beach patrol program and related expenses.
“So what we're suggesting is to meet again with the Orleans board of selectmen, discuss with them a joint meeting to propose what can go on for next year,” she said. The current beach agreement expires on April 30, and Love recommended that the board seek to have it extended for another year.
Taylor said one proposal might be for Chatham to add its own surcharge, “in essence an extra sticker, for that Orleans nonresident or non-taxpayer to use to come into Chatham.” Last year, Chatham provided Orleans with $16 from every resident permit it issued, helping cover the cost of the shorebird habitat conservation plan, which allows for limited off-road vehicle access during certain shorebird closures. Under a revised agreement, Chatham might retain that fee to pay to implement its own newly enacted habitat conservation plan for piping plovers. The town has already added more than $55,000 to the fiscal 2018 budget to pay for shorebird monitors and related expenses.
By selling stickers to motorists who live outside Chatham and Orleans, Orleans realizes almost $320,000 annually in beach sticker sales, while Chatham raises less than $20,000 selling permits to residents and nonresident taxpayers.
“Orleans is making a lot of money from the use of Chatham property,” Chatham Selectman Dean Nicastro said. While Orleans owns a much larger portion of the barrier beach, the portion that is most attractive to four-wheelers is in Chatham.
Taylor said he agrees there is a need for “a better and more equitable distribution” of beach revenues, but he said he is optimistic that a dialogue with Orleans will be fruitful.
“I think it looks good going forward,” he said.