TOWN COUNSEL SUPPORTS TRURO ZONING INITIATIVE AS LEGALLY SOUND

Efforts to prevent mega-mansions in Truro’s national seashore lands got a boost on December 5, 2016 when the town’s Planning Board received Town Counsel’s comments on the Board’s proposed Seashore District bylaw amendment.

At issue is the legality of limiting the size of future residential buildings in the District to conform with the National Park Service’s goal of preserving the open space and rural character of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  In her letter to town planner Carole Ridley, Town Counsel Katherine Laughman of KP-Law stated in referring to the amendment and its requirements that “it is my opinion that strong arguments could be made in defense of such restrictive standards.”

Truro’s proposed Seashore District Zoning Bylaw drew heavily upon a similar measure passed by the town of Chilmark in 2013 after residents rallied to oppose houses that were being built as big as hotels and threatened the rural character of the rural Martha’s Vineyard town.  A house that exceeded 20,000 square feet prompted Thomas Bena, a former carpenter and filmmaker, to produce a documentary called One Big Home, which is currently being screened across the country.

Ms. Laughman noted the Commonwealth’s Attorney General approved the Chilmark bylaw by citing the landmark 81 Spooner Road case, in which the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled house size can be controlled.  The case concluded that prohibition on the regulation of interior space does not apply to “incidental effects of reasonable dimensional, bulk, and density requirements.”  The Attorney General found that Chilmark’s formula for a sliding scale based on lot size “‘was similar enough’ to the Floor Area Ratio bylaw upheld by the Supreme Judicial Court” in Spooner.

The Planning Board has approved the detailed changes suggested by Ms. Laughman and produced a revised draft bylaw that will be presented for discussion at several hearings to be held by the Planning Board early in the New Year.  These hearings will allow townspeople to express their views on the draft before put on the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting in April.

It has taken us many months of hard work and numerous meetings to receive this great news.  Time and again both full and part-time residents have voiced their support to preserve the rural character of our National Seashore area.