Neighbors Register Concern About Wychmere Resort Improvements

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Development

A rendering of the proposed new Wychmere Harbor Beach Grill is now going through the planning board review process. 

HARWICH — The appeals board approved a revised special permit for improvements to facilities at the Wychmere Beach Resort last week, despite opposition from neighbors.

The board’s decision came one day after the planning board continued a hearing for the project in which applicant Wychmere Harbor Real Estate, LLC was seeking to amend the site plan special permit for a structure greater than 7,500 square feet. Residents in the neighborhood spoke out against the proposed improvements.

The improvements sought at the existing beach club facilities include replacing the existing restaurant/pool equipment building, two swimming pools, the pool decking and other site improvements with a new restaurant building, a small restroom and retail building, a pavilion expansion, two smaller swimming pools and a new concrete pool deck and various beach amenities.

But the proposal was not greeted warmly by a few of the neighbors who had concerns about traffic along Snow Inn Road and Davis Lane, noise from the music and the size of the proposed structures.

“The current owners of Wychmere have been good for the club and the improvements to the property they have made over the years have been tastefully done. However, my opinion is the proposed new structure is too large for the Merkel Beach area. In particular, a 50-foot tall structure is completely out of place on the beach. My recommendation is for the planning board to limit the size and especially the height of the new structure,” Snow Inn Road resident John Welch wrote in a letter.

Welch also took issue with heavy traffic on summer weekends, suggesting the new facilities could add considerably to traffic conditions. He also said vehicles go too fast, especially after weddings. He recommended the town add speed bumps.

There will be no change of use on the property and no change in the parking demand, attorney Andrew Singer, representing the applicant, told the planning board. He said building coverage will remain the same and there will be a decrease in the pre-existing non-conforming impervious site coverage as well as amenity coverage.

The 650 parking spaces located on the 15-acre parcel serving the various restaurants and accommodations there will not change, Singer said. During the more intense use of the facilities for eight weeks during the summer there will be detailed parking management, but given advance reservations for events the resort is able to accommodate the parking demands, he said.

Building coverage will remain conforming, a proposed 11.4 percent. Site coverage will remain non-conforming at 39.9 percent but will be decreased from the existing 40.1 percent. Amenity coverage will continue to be a nonconforming 28.5 percent, but will also be decreased from the 29.9 percent existing coverage.

Singer pointed out the maximum building height in the Residential High Density Three District is four stories and 50 feet. Elevation plans show the reconstruction of the restaurant building has been raised to conform to floodplain regulations. The building will be two stories with a height of 49 feet, 10 inches to the top of the cupola. The top of the roof bar will be 36 feet and a vast majority of the structure will be 27 feet. The height of the proposed pavilion, which will be relocated to the east side of the new pools, will be 35 feet.

Singer said the conservation commission approved the plans unanimously with some changes, and said the redevelopment plan provides better protection of the environment than what is there and complies with floodplain regulations, which is a significant improvement.

The commission emphasized the need for a reduction in fertilization and nitrogen application to protect coastal resources. Singer said the planned use of a synthetic turf product to serve as green space while achieving a major reduction in fertilization. The product would be new to the Cape. An agreement was struck to reduce the amount of area to be covered by the synthetic turf and to install two rectangles of the material allowing time to assess the benefits of the pervious surface. An Eco-friendly clover and turf lawn system will replace the proposed larger sections of the synthetic turf.

David Michniewicz of Coastal Engineering, Inc. said the sewage disposal system at the beach grill area will be connected to the wastewater treatment facility at Wychmere, and there will also be a better stormwater management system installed. It will be in compliance with the state Department of Environmental Protection groundwater discharge permit for the site.

Davis Lane property owners Tom and Lonnie Cosmer wrote in a letter that the Wychmere Beach Club has become “a quart in a pint container.”

“The latest expansion plans submitted by the applicant promise to create a further imbalance, to do further harm to any Harwich residents and visitors, especially as it relates to noise pollution, traffic woes, pedestrian safety and light pollution,” the Cosmers wrote.

Davis Lane resident Robert Nickerson also expressed concern about the visual impact from massive walls proposed along Merkel Beach, a public beach and conservation lands. He said people will not be able to see the water any more. Nickerson said he can hear noise from the resort at his house, which is farther away than the town’s noise bylaw limit of 150 feet. He also expressed concern for noise impacts on piping plovers that nest nearby in early summer.

Nickerson also questioned with four separate bars, who will be monitoring the 650 vehicle parking limit for the entire site. He said many people walk to Merkel Beach, there are no sidewalks and there have been a number of accidents there and at the Route 28 intersection.

Nickerson asked the board to require plans showing the height of the new structures superimposed on the existing buildings to better understand what is being proposed. Town Planner Charleen Greenhalgh said revised landscaping plans are needed. The planning board agreed to continue the hearing to Tuesday, Feb. 25.