Fostering Collaboration, HAC, APCC ‘Grow Smart’ Tool Maps Where Housing Density Makes Sense

By: Bronwen Walsh

Topics: Conservation , Zoning/land use

Brewster town seal.

BREWSTER – The Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) have developed an interactive mapping tool designed to identify shared resources and help Cape towns better plan for future financial decisions.

“You guys are really leaders in our region for adding housing,” HAC Executive Director Alisa Magnotta told the Brewster Select Board on Sept. 12.

HAC and the APCC usually are on opposite sides of the table as competitors for resources, zoning, and financial assistance, Magnota said, but the two groups decided to work together on “creating a map of shared resources,” particularly critical habitats, natural habitats and fresh-water drinking supplies.

Accessible at www.growsmartcapecod.org, the mapping project is “a planning tool for making decisions about financial resources,” she said. "An advisory committee first mapped environmental protection and natural resource layers.”

They next used a shared set of GIS data to chart potential housing density, focusing on wastewater infrastructure and “existing patterns of development or activity centers.”

Green color-coding indicates priority natural resource and conservation areas; purple denotes existing housing; and salmon shading highlights “potential housing development once a wastewater system is in place,” Magnotta said.

Users can turn layers on and off, allowing municipalities to “recommend changing zoning in areas where density makes sense” and setting policies toward a sustainable future, she said.

Although Brewster has no wastewater infrastructure, a pattern has developed over the years, Magnotta said. “The town has been protecting natural resource areas, and that speaks a lot for Brewster’s planning division. Brewster has been protecting the natural resources. The potential for housing investment is outside of those areas, near communities with infrastructure.

“I think we ended in a really good place” that’s consistent with Cape Cod Commission Regional Policy Plan land use recommendations, she said. The tool is designed “to try to get everybody on the same page.”

She added she hopes each town looks at the Grow Smart tool and asks, “What does that mean for (our) town?”