Public Input Sought On West Chatham Neighborhood Center Plans

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Municipal Planning and Zoning , Zoning/land use

West Chatham. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – In 2016, town meeting passed zoning amendments setting up an overlay district that created the South Chatham Neighborhood Center. It was the first neighborhood center established based on recommendations in the town's 2003 comprehensive plan.

Since 2019, the planning board has been focusing on the next neighborhood center. The board has developed draft zoning changes that would bring the West Chatham village in line with the recommendations in the comprehensive plan.

On Dec. 13, the planning board will host an online community input session on the draft bylaw amendments. The session will be held at 5:30 p.m.; a link is available on the meeting agenda at www.chatham-ma.gov.

According to a press release, the session is designed to solicit input from residents, business owners and others to “inform the planning board of what the community wants to see in the West Chatham Neighborhood Center in the future” and to help develop changes to the zoning bylaw which will be considered at a future town meeting.

The comprehensive plan identified six neighborhood centers – downtown, North Chatham, the Cornfield, West Chatham and South Chatham – where it recommended there be a mix of residential and commercial uses to promote a pedestrian-friendly village setting. Commercial uses should be concentrated in the villages, the plan suggested, which led to a 2016 bylaw change that eliminated commercial zoning outside of the villages.

Between 2012 and 2014, the planning board worked with the Cape Cod Commission on the Route 28 visioning project, which looked at development patterns along the stretch from the Crowell Road intersection to the Harwich town line and recommended zoning and streetscape changes consistent with the comprehensive plan. The 2016 creation of the South Chatham Neighborhood Center relied heavily on those recommendations, which will also play a role in shaping the other five village centers. Through its district local technical assistance program, the commission continues to assist the planning board in developing draft zoning changes.

According to an analysis posted on the planning board's web page, draft zoning changes for the West Chatham Neighborhood Center developed thus far by the planning board breaks the current general business 3 zoning down into three zones: Zone A1, lots with frontage on Route 28 within 100 feet of the road right of way; Zone A2, the area beyond 100 feet of the road for lots with frontage on Route 28; and Zone A3, lots without frontage on Route 28. Each zone has different road, parking and abutter setbacks and maximum building footprints.

Currently the maximum residential density in the GB3 zone is four dwelling units (including apartments incidental to commercial use) per acre. Under the draft changes, maximum residential density in all three zones would increase to eight dwelling units per acre, with bonuses for inclusion of affordable housing.

To promote walkability and shared parking, the proposed zoning changes include both minimum and maximum parking requirements. The minimum requirements are mostly lower than existing regulations, while the maximum are close to existing parking requirements, according to the analysis. A concentrated mix of uses is designed to encourage shared parking. All parking is prohibit from the front of properties “to facilitate a more engaging and pedestrian-friendly streetscape,” according to the document.

Most current uses would continue to be allowed in the new neighborhood center district, with a few exceptions. Single-family homes would not be allowed, nor would dormitories. Both are currently allowed by special permit in the GB3 district. Multi-family dwellings like townhouses and duplexes are currently allowed by special permit, but under the new zoning would be prohibited in Zone A1 but allowed by special permit in the other two zones.

The proposal establishes a new use in the district, mixed-use developments – a building with a mix of permitted commercial uses and residential units – which would be allowed with special conditions set by the planning board. Home occupations, currently not allowed in the GB3 district, would be allowed in all three zones.

The draft bylaw amendments and other background material can found at www.chatham-ma.gov/376/West-Chatham-Neighborhood-Center-Zoning-.

Along with next week's online session, written comments on the proposed zoning changes will be accepted through Jan. 1 at asabatino@chatham-ma.gov.