A letter to the Charter Review Committee

There continues to be to be a polarizing disconnection between the Cape Cod Commission and the development industry
The priorities of the mission of the Cape Cod Commission still need to be reordered

Charter Review Committee of Barnstable County
Barnstable Courthouse, Assembly Chambers
Barnstable, Massachusetts

Dear Charter Review Committee,

As part of its mandate, the Barnstable County Charter Review Committee possesses the discretionary authority to review, discuss and make recommendations upon any County Government and County Charter related issue that it deems worthy of such scrutiny. For all of the following reasons, it is our contention that the Cape Cod Commission, along with its respective duties and operations, are currently worthy of such a process of scrutiny, debate and review by the County Charter Review Committee.

There continues to be to be a polarizing disconnection between the CCC and the development industry. Additionally, the CCC continues to fail to be an agency that is clear, simple, prompt and open in its communications. In numerous instances, the CCC has already subtly appropriated, and continues to usurp planning, zoning, regulatory, governmental, as well as borderline political functions which are clearly supposed to be under municipal and not regional jurisdiction.

The priorities of the mission of the Cape Cod Commission still need to be reordered, such that the primary priority would be offering technical assistance and planning to the towns, with a subsidiary role in the area of land use regulation. This still has not truly taken place.

It is essential that an outside an objective, independent ombudsman to conduct post mortem analysis following approval of DRI permits, as well as DCPC designation. The ombudsman should also be charged with review of timing and cost of DRI review, as well as the efficacy of mitigation. We would recommend that the ombudsman be a person appointed directly by the County Commissioners and not be an employee within the structure of the Cape Cod Commission. The CCC continues to vehemently oppose this fair and equitable remedy to many of the problems that still plague it. The ongoing lack of consistency in application of standards, disparate treatment of different projects and types of applicants (i.e. residential vs. commercial/profit vs. non-for-profits), all continue to argue for careful and more comprehensive review of how the Commission does its regulatory business.

It is nothing less than political obfuscation by high ranking Commission officials and their County government political allies when they claim that this issue is only one of perception. Developers most assuredly do understand and do not choose to ignore [that the MPS] of the RPP are law, not merely a list of suggestions.

To this day, there continues to be clear and convincing evidence establishing exactly the opposite. As a point of fact, the vast majority of applicants and their consultants fully understand the “rules of the game”, but that the inconsistent application of standards in an ad hoc or subjective fashion has led to the creation of and continued existence of an adversarial atmosphere or “regulatory tension.” This continues to inherently be both a policy and management issue. Without any doubt, it is the fault of the Cape Cod Commission and those officials presently at its helm.

There is long term direct, irrefutable, concrete and fact-based evidence regarding disparate treatment of projects, inconsistencies in the application of standards and oversight review of management. Furthermore, the Commission has a real performance and image problem as evidenced by the fact that substantial numbers of citizens within several towns, seven in fact, continue to consider leaving the Commission. There exists a huge level of disconnect and a need for solutions or suggestions regarding the adversarial nature of the regulatory review process on the part of the Cape Cod Commission.

It is respectfully requested that the County Charter Review Committee consider recommending an amendment to the Barnstable County Home Rule Charter which would require that the County Commissioners retain an outside independent organization every five years to review the operation and management of the Cape Cod Commission. An organization of the size and nature of the Cape Cod Commission, utilizing taxpayers dollars to the extent paid in by each of the towns and with the tremendous responsibility imposed by the legislature via the Cape Cod Commission Act, could do nothing but benefit from such an outside independent objective review process every five years. Moreover, it is further believed that such an independent management review every five years would go a long way to help reduce the "regulatory tension” which still exists and continues to pervade the scope and process of the Commission. The Cape Cod Commission must then be obligated by the Home Rule Charter to immediately adopt the recommendations issued by the independent reviewing organization.

If the suggestions and recommendations stated above are not taken seriously by both the Charter Review Committee and the Cape Cod Commission, then numerous citizens who we have been in contact with will undoubtedly initiate the necessary political action for municipal secession from the Cape Cod Commission within the seven Cape towns that we presently know about.

Thank you for your consideration.

Truly yours,

Mark Gagnon
Paul Baker
Steven Kline
South Yarmouth, MA

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