SECTION 3 COMMUNITY SETTING

A. Regional Context

Located in the middle or “bicep” of Thoreau’s “bare and bended arm” of Cape Cod, Dennis is located 85 (road travel) miles from Boston and 260 miles from New York City. The town covers seven and a half miles north to south and ranges one and a half miles to four miles in width. The ninth largest-area town (of 15) on Cape Cod, Dennis encompasses 20.66 square miles of land area, or 13,645 acres, and is bounded on the north by Cape Cod Bay, on the east by the Towns of Brewster and Harwich, on the south by Nantucket Sound, and on the west by the Town of Yarmouth. Dennis is one of only three Cape towns (Barnstable and Yarmouth, the others) which retains its original “shore to shore” boundaries between Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound. The significance of this layout lies in the diversity offered by the two distinctly different marine ecosystems (and recreational attributes of the different shorelines.).

Dennis is engaged in the natural resource and planning issues of Cape Cod through participation in the Assembly of Delegates, Cape Cod Commission, Barnstable County Health Department, Shellfish Task Force, Cape Cod Pathways, Regional Transit Authority and other regional organizations. Cooperative ventures in protecting the Bass River and Chase Garden ecosystems require partnerships with the Town of Yarmouth; protecting the Quivet Creek/Bound Brook watershed has required a partnership with the Town of Brewster, the Dennis Conservation Trust, Brewster Conservation Trust and the Cape Cod Commission; and protecting the drinking water supply of the Town of Dennis has required a partnership between the Dennis Water District and the Town of Brewster. As with the entire Cape area, Dennis is served by a sole source aquifer, the Monomoy Lens. Because public wellfields in the eastern side of town draw ground water from Dennis, Harwich and Brewster, the town participates in the Monomoy Lens Groundwater Protection Project with its municipal neighbors through the Cape Cod Commission.

Potential regional and neighboring threats to the quality of resources and open space in Dennis include continued regional development, particularly given Dennis’ proximity to Hyannis, Cape Cod’s commercial core and transportation hub. This growth could impact regional resources, such as groundwater quality, coastal resources and wildlife migration, which exist in Dennis. Dennis’s planning districts are Dennis Village, Dennisport, East Dennis, South Dennis, and West Dennis.

B. History of the Community

Archæological studies in Dennis have uncovered finds rich in Native American artifacts along the Bass River in South Dennis. Among the artifacts are Mounds indicating the extensive use of shellfish and its importance for subsistence to the earliest inhabitants. Major Native trails followed the riverbanks north and south (on what is now Mayfair Road, the southern end of Old Bass River Road, Main Street through South Dennis) and east-west through town along what is now Route 6A and Setucket Road.1 The Quivet Neck/Crowe’s Pasture area has also been identified as an area of significant Native American cultural resources. A 1698 Survey by John Thacher references “Indian graves” as part of a survey of the boundaries of the land leading to Cole’s Pond in East Dennis. Over the years this area has had many Native relics uncovered by hikers and residents.

Dennis was colonized by Europeans in 1639 as a part of Yarmouth within Plymouth Colony. Incorporated as its own town in 1793, Dennis was named for the first pastor of its meetinghouse, the Reverend Josiah Dennis. Dennis had been first settled by English families seeking an escape from religious intolerance characteristic of seventeenth-century England.

“Settlement was usually strung out around the harbor and along the roads that led to it with only a moderate commercial and institutional core at the center.”1A This statement pertaining to Cape Cod in general certainly applied to colonial Dennis. In Dennis’ case, the harbor was actually the tidal creek landings along the Northside (Sesuit Creek, Chase Garden Creek at Bass Hole, and Quivett Creek). The road was the King’s Highway (now Route 6A) and small linear cores arose in Dennis Village and East Dennis.

regional-map

Along with Sandwich and Barnstable, Dennis (as part of Yarmouth) is one of the Cape’s oldest towns. The Old Kings Highway Regional Historic District and the South Dennis Historic District were two of the first approved on the Cape in the 1970s, indicating the affection Dennis citizens have for their gloried past.

Like the rest of early Cape Codders, Dennis settlers were farmers first and fishermen on the side. But as the population grew, and the soils became depleted by forest clearing and windborne erosion, more and more Dennis citizens looked to the sea for sustenance and profit. In the 1700s, Dennis men helped to develop the whale fishery, first alongshore and then far offshore. By 1795, commercial fishing became the dominant industry in town. “The fertile Atlantic and other waters have furnished broad maritime fields of labor in which Dennis has increased its wealth and importance more than in agriculture…”2 In the 1800s, a full scale, multi-faceted maritime economy developed in Dennis. Northside sailing packets communicated almost daily with Boston, ferrying Cape livestock and produce, and wharves were built along the Bass River and Sesuit Creek where boatbuilding commenced. Bass River, along with Hyannis and Chatham, were the major Southside ports of the Cape in the early 1800s period.3 Trading brigs sailed between the town and the British West Indies and Dennis sea captains were world-renowned:

Untouched through lack of water-power, by the industrial

revolution; neglected alike by foreign commerce and railroad;

producing but a fraction of its own food; Barnstable County

increased in population and in wealth solely by the skill of its

people in farming the sea.3A

By 1840, Massachusetts provided half of the fishery products of the United States4 and Dennis was part of that effort, particularly in the cod and mackerel fisheries. By 1863, however, changes in fishing technology favored large cities with packing plants and the last of the Bass River offshore fishing fleet had been sold.5 Except for an inshore fishery, Dennis retired from the sea, in league with other Cape Cod towns, whose economy and populations declined through the latter half of the nineteenth century. Downturns in coastal trade, collapse of the whaling industry, and post-Civil War recession were responsible for emigration. Dennis was not only a leader in Cape Cod salt-making (using evaporated sea water to manufacture glauber’s and epsom salts) in the 1800s, but had actually “invented” the business in East Dennis in 1776 by Capt. John Sears’ innovations.6 By century’s end, though, that business fell off when inland salt mines in Pennsylvania were developed.

1857 Town of Dennis North Side Settlemetn Patterns

1857 Town of Dennis North Side Settlemetn Patterns

1876 Town of Dennis South Side Settlement Patterns

1876 Town of Dennis South Side Settlement Patterns

1893 USGS Map Care of UNH Historic Map Library

1893 USGS Map Care of UNH Historic Map Library

Village of West Dennis 1910

Village of West Dennis 1910

Village of Dennisport 1910

Village of Dennisport 1910

Village of South Dennis 1910

Village of South Dennis 1910

Dennis turned back to the land for economic pursuits. Cranberrying was introduced at this time as a labor-intensive agricultural enterprise capable of employing sailors and civil war veterans. The 1850s and 1860s were a time of “Cranberry Fever” in Massachusetts and Dennis’ 50 acres of planted bogs in 1855 (more than any other Cape town) grew rapidly to as many as 359 acres planted by 1889.7 Throughout the nineteenth century, Dennis consistently placed in the top three of Cape towns in cranberry acreage and/or production. “Every known variety [of cranberry] is indigenous to the soil of the Cape, from which the fruit receives an excellence so peculiarly marked as to render the Cape Cod berries the most valuable in market,” said an 1890 historian.8 Cranberrying altered the environment in many ways: cedar swamps and other wetlands were displaced to make working bogs, dikes were used to impound streams, adjacent banks were mined for sand, and isolated ponds were given artificial outlets and their water levels manipulated with flumes. Very few cranberry bogs remain in Dennis today, compared with its neighbors in Yarmouth and Harwich.

By 1858, the Southside of town had a larger population and more business than the Northside. Numerous wharves appeared on the Nantucket Sound shore at Dennisport (then called Crocker’s Neck). The railroad extended to Yarmouth by 1854 and ten years later, on through town to Orleans, supplanting sailing as the primary means of transport regionally. Significantly, the railroad, which ran primarily through the Northside of the towns of Sandwich, Barnstable and Yarmouth, arched south through Dennis, perhaps reflecting the commercial importance of the Southside in the latter town by this time.

For fifty years after the Civil War, Dennis, like the rest of Cape Cod, experienced an economic collapse. Fishing and whaling continued their decline, midwestern farms dominated the national markets and net migration of the population was off-Cape. The permanent population of Cape Cod dropped 20 percent between 1885 and 1895.9

The advent of the automobile brought about subtle, but inevitable change. By 1920, Dennis’ population began its rebound from nineteenth century decline, as the idea of Cape Cod as a summer resort, which was only a germ of a vision to that point, took firm hold:

Fifty years ago only a comparatively small number of persons

seeking rest and recreation had discovered the attractiveness of Cape Cod

for summer residence…It is only within a score of years, as a result of the

introduction of the automobile, the summer population has become so great

as to render “the entertainment of summer visitors” an important industry of the Cape.10

Men found jobs building homes in developments along the southern coastal areas, and the foundation of the tourist economy took shape. By the 1950s, spurred by the post-World War II boom, Dennis’ character as a seaside resort was entrenched. Beachfront motels and cottage colonies blanketed the Southside, where warm waters and sandy shores provided excellent swimming and sunning conditions. Route 28 firmly supplanted Route 6A as the town’s new linear commercial core, since there was more room for businesses to grow there and it was proximate to the resorts.

Over the past 40 years, many of the former summer tourists have purchased homes and retired to Dennis, producing the largest user group of the Cape’s service economy.11 This large and still growing retirement community has produced a greater awareness about “quality of life” issues in Dennis and on the Cape.

C. Population Characteristics

Dennis hosts about seven percent of the county’s population (2006 Census Estimates) on five percent of the land in the county. Growth in Dennis, as on the rest of Cape Cod, has been dramatic in the past 45 years. However, using US Census Estimates, the beginning of the 21st century saw a period of stagnant growth in the town. This can largely be attributed to the national economic downturn of this time period and the higher than normal housing costs on Cape Cod due to the large second home market located here.

At the turn of the 20th century, Dennis was home to 2,333 souls and fewer than that in 1920 as the off-Cape migration, associated with diminished Cape economic opportunities, continued. As Dennis reputation as a summer resort since 1920 grew, so did its population. Though the town’s year round population exploded between 1950 and 1990 (2,499 to 13,864), most of that growth was during the ’60s and ’70s, not the 1980s when most of the Cape experienced its most recent rapid development boom. In the 1960s and in the 1970s, Dennis grew at a rate almost double that of the Cape as a whole. In the 1980s, Dennis grew at a rate only half that of the rest of the Cape. To some degree, Dennis land boom before 1980 left little land left to develop in the 1980s. Regardless, diminishing private open space and a simultaneous increased demand for year-round outdoor recreation continues to challenge Dennis. In the 1990’s, the town’s population growth rate once again jumped up to being nearly equivalent to the rest of the Cape. The increase in the 1990’s was 15.1% compared to 19% for all of Barnstable County. In real numbers, Dennis exceeded the population growth experienced in both Harwich and Brewster during the 1990’s. Much of this growth resulted from the conversion of seasonal housing to year-round homes. This is illustrated in the Census Data for Dennis which illustrates that the total number of housing units actually decreased between 1990 and 2000 (by about 400 units) while year-round occupied housing units increased by about 1,300 units.

In absolute numbers, Dennis summer population swells more than most other Cape towns; the increase is more than four times the year-round population (15,691 to an estimated 62,900).12 The neighboring town of Yarmouth, for example, grows in summer only two and a half times its winter size. Except for towns within the Cape Cod National Seashore, Dennis experiences the greatest rate of change between winter and summer populations of any town on Cape Cod. Meeting the outdoor needs of that large summer population is perhaps even more important in Dennis then, than elsewhere on the Cape.

Dennis year-round population (from which the remaining comparisons are drawn)13 is predominantly middle-aged, its median age growing significantly between 1990 and 2000 (rising from 44.5 to 49.4 years old). This median age is also older relative to the rest of the Cape’s median (44.6 years) and the Commonwealth’s (36.5 years). The fastest growing segments of the Dennis population, for growth rates, for the period 1970-2000 are between the 35-44 and 45-54 age brackets. These age groups grew by over 200% in that thirty year period. However, the 65+ age bracket is the fastest growing segment of the population in real numbers, having increased by more than 3,000 people over the last thirty years. Children make up a smaller portion of the overall population than in the past. The implications of this aged population factor for open space and recreational services are, all else being equal, the town should perhaps emphasize more leisure activities oriented towards older citizens, such as developing pocket parks in the individual Dennis Villages, walking paths, sidewalks, benches, and, handicapped access.

In addition to having an older population than other Cape towns, Dennis continues to be poorer. Household income in 2000 was $41,598 for Dennis, the fourth lowest of the 15 towns on Cape Cod. In 2007, 12.6% of Dennis families lived below the poverty level compared to 12.8% in Barnstable County. However, (in 1999 since 2007 estimates are not available) 11.4% of all Dennis residents under age 18 lived in poverty. And, 16.6% of those age 5 and under are living in poverty. Implications of the town’s demographics include the need to provide recreational opportunities that are affordable for most people, to look to the needs of the very young and to provide for the expanding elderly population.

Looking at these numbers in a different way, in 2007 39.8% of the households living in the town of Dennis are considered as either low or very low income households. These households would qualify for subsidized housing under MGL Chapter 40B. In comparison on the county wide basis 38.2% of the households are so classified.

These characteristics of the population seem to indicate that while recreational facilities of most types should expand to serve all residents, much of that recreation should perhaps emphasize inexpensive opportunities, conveniently located. Walking trails, scenic lookouts and sidewalks may be appropriate supplements to active recreation facilities (such as tennis or basketball) or private health clubs. In general, then, passive recreation should be emphasized along with active recreation to serve the needs of Dennis.

Planning for the outdoor needs of elders need not be complicated or expensive. Items as simple as a bench to stop and catch one’s breath along a hiking trail would be useful. While the town is obligated to provide some safe and convenient outdoor enjoyment for disabled people, many of whom may be elderly, the majority of senior citizens’ only infirmity may be a tendency to tire easily. Benches, firm footing, safe parking access should be easy, yet important, design considerations.

The economy of Dennis is still largely dependent upon the tourist trade and servicing retirees. In 2006, the town had 594 businesses, with annual total wages of $151,008,940, annual employment of 4,760 people and an average weekly wage of $610. Nearly 42% of those employed in Dennis in 2006 were employed in either retail trade or the accommodations and food services industry. Reflecting the nature of the local economy, health care and social assistance ranked as the third largest employment industry. Stop and Shop continues to be the largest employer in Dennis, the second largest being the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, followed by Dennisport Culinary, Eagle Pond Rehabilitation Center, Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Dennis/Yarmouth School System.16

In the past the town has not supported its tourist trade, especially as it relates to its expansion. However, there is growing sentiment that the lack of attention to the needs of the tourist industry is hurting local businesses. This has led to revived interest in determining actions that the town could take to, at least, stabilize the local tourist economy. These actions include looking at ways to modernize the existing tourist accommodations, and to determine whether increase tourist activities can be accommodated without denigrating the natural environment that is held so dear. This conclusion is supported by the recent Open Space and Recreation Survey conducted by the Town of Dennis Planning Department which showed that 59% of the respondents supported new camping facilities in the town.

People are attracted to Dennis because of its proximity to the water, the views that this proximity provides and recreational opportunities that are incorporated by the town into the scheme of natural resources and man-made facilities. While the town beaches accommodate a great number of tourists and are a strong attraction, many visitors nowadays seek quieter enjoyment, a theme reflected in a new campaign by some Cape commerce leaders and resort owners called “green tourism.” For the town to continue to please the economy’s lifeblood (tourists and retirees), a wider variety of outdoor offerings besides beach-going and miniature golf seems desirable. More open space and good maps of natural areas with walking and picnicking facilities would encourage this more low-key type of tourism. “Green tourism” could be extended to the waterfront and preservation of marine water quality should be made one of Dennis’ paramount goals. Areas which naturally suit certain activities should be identified, such as space for additional moorings, locations for wind surfing, etc. to avoid conflicts between different uses of the water. A Harbor Management Plan that addresses coastal use and conservation should be pursued. Management of coastal resources and how they are used is critical to all quality of life issues including recreation.

D. Growth and Development Patterns

“You can’t kill Cape Cod, and it may be that henceforth we

are to see a growth in enterprise and population which will

astonish us.”

– – George A. Marden, Treasurer, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 188917

Dennis colonists originally divided their settlement into common property and private farming lands. The salt marshes were originally commons used for grazing cattle. Private land typically ran in north-south strips (called “long lots”) from the beach back to the moraine ridges. This pattern enabled each colonist to have a slice of different habitat for various land uses: meadows for English hay in the richer soil near the shore, homes and yard gardens along the King’s Highway, then pastures and woodlots in the poorer soils and rugged terrain south of the highway.18 This north-south strip pattern is still relict today in some areas along the Northside (See Figure 3. D. 1). Its significance lies in its frequent ability to frustrate land assemblage for some large-scale developments (or, conversely, for large conservation blocks).

Year-round, Dennis is a densely developed town, with 766 permanent residents per square mile. In high season, however, Dennis is far and away the most densely populated town on the Cape, as the motels, cottage colonies and second-homes, particularly on the Southside, fill up with “summer folk,” guests and tourists. In summer, Dennis “boasts” over 3,000 souls per
settlement-patterssquare mile, while its nearest competitor (Yarmouth) hosts less than 2,400.19a Owing to municipal foresight, there are large areas of protected undeveloped land, more so than enjoyed in most Cape Cod towns. About thirty percent (4,065 acres) of the town’s land mass has been set aside as protected open space for wellfields, conservation land and beaches.20 The town continues to vigorously pursue opportunities to purchase open land, since the adoption of the 2003 Open Space and Recreation Plan the town has acquired an additional 121.89 acres of open space through private donations, Community Preservation Funds, and State Self Help and Urban Self Help funds. Dennis made Cape Cod conservation history in 1967 by getting the first townwide land acquisition program approved overwhelmingly by town voters.

The Town of Dennis has worked aggressively to protect its small town atmosphere while recognizing the need for economic growth. The town has undertaken a number of zoning initiatives to promote a balanced growth that addresses protecting natural, historic and cultural resources, while recognizing the need for job, housing and tax base growth. Examples of these initiatives include the significant down-zoning that occurred within the Crowe’s Pasture area as part of the town’s District of Critical Planning Concern effort, down-zoning a portion of the West Dennis Village Center waterfront area to protect the area for recreational and water oriented land uses, the creation of two mixed use village development districts and restrictions on formula businesses to protect community cultural characteristics over national standardization.

The town has had cluster zoning in place for many years. However, there are very few significantly sized tracts of land remaining where this type of zoning will be successful. It is unlikely that open space set-asides will grow apace with development despite the cluster zoning. Significant new acquisitions of open space must be made, through purchase or other protection means. The preservation of some of the remaining open space may be an important way to manage growth, in addition to preserving resources and providing recreation. Despite its density, Dennis still has a “small town” atmosphere appreciated by its citizens. The rural seaside charm is still extant in views of historic homes and glimpses of ponds, bogs and marshes.

In terms of existing infrastructure, there is no sewer service in Dennis. While the town is in the process of developing its Comprehensive Waste Water Management Plan, the timing of this effort makes it unlikely that any sewer services will be in place during the five-year scope of this plan. All septage is pumped and transported to the treatment facility built in Yarmouth in 1992. The Dennis town landfill has been closed. This land mass sits as open land that may meet future town recreation needs as a golf course or similar type of use. A solid waste transfer station continues to operate, sending trash to the SEMASS waste-to-energy plant in Rochester, Mass.

Town roads connect most areas and their long-established pattern leaves few areas of Dennis far from public roadways, so there are very few “landlocked” parcels. Dennis cannot rely on inadequate roads to prevent growth; and the roads will only suffer more traffic.

Town water service extends throughout town and all but a small portion of the homes in town are served by public water lines. Since Dennis relies on ground water for all of its drinking water supply, there is anxiety about this issue in the town. Expanding the quantity of the water supply is not as much a problem in Dennis as is assuring the continued high quality of the water. Rising nitrogen levels have been found in some wells, indicating that overdevelopment of some parts of town has caused water quality to deteriorate.21 The town could use a nitrogen loading formula to determine development impacts on receiving waters, but no moratorium or cap on building permits has ever been implemented. At present, strong local Board of Health and Conservation Commission regulations are in place to help address water quality issues but these regulations are dependent upon state technology approvals for nitrogen treatment. The town is in the environmental permitting process of developing a water treatment facility.

Most of the town is zoned for residential use with a minimum lot size of 40,000 square feet (a “builder’s acre”) except for long-settled areas, such as along the Dennisport shore, where many smaller lots are still buildable owing to the zoning protection known as “grandfathering” (Map 3-1). Two-thirds of the land north of Route 6A is zoned for larger lots (60,000 square-feet minimum), reflecting the still-rural flavor of the area and its historic integrity. At the start of 2008 there were about 14,549 housing units in Dennis (2000 census figure plus new dwelling units added less demolitions permitted by the Building Department). If the town were to fully build-out by zoning standards, Dennis could have 14,882 units.21a (Other towns in the Monomoy Lens study area are only 65 to 75 percent “built-out,” while Dennis has already achieved 97 percent or more of its residential development potential.)

The industrial zone, which includes the town landfill, extends south of Route 6, east of Route 134 and north of Great Western Road. This location removes it from residential areas, but, intrudes into the virgin woodlands around Eagle Pond. Much of the recharge area to Public Supply Well #13 by Swan Pond is overlain by the industrial zone and the landfill and this well has been abandoned, eliminating the last public water supply source south of Route 6 in Dennis. The Dennis industrial district contains a variety of uses, including mining, solid waste disposal, resource reclamation, contractor’s businesses, warehousing and intensive recreational uses. In the past the Open Space and Recreation Plan has noted that the town had an inordinately large capability to accommodate more industrial development relative to other towns in the Monomoy Lens study area (Dennis to Orleans). The plan noted that only ten percent of its three million square feet of industrial build-out potential had been used so far.21b However, this statistic is misleading. A significant land mass is inaccessible, between the Town of Dennis Land Fill and Route 6, and much of the land fronting on Great Western Road is used at it maximum intensity, albeit in a non-structural fashion. The land use map illustrates that in fact nearly half of the non-town owned land in the Dennis Industrial Zone is used for commercial purposes, and nearly 80% of the industrial land with roadway frontage is so used.

zoning-2007
2008-land-use-map

watershedsBusiness and commercial zones follow Route 28, parts of Route 6A and Hokum Rock Road, and portions of Route 134. As of 2008, approximately 665 acres of land are developed for commercial or industrial land uses and 6,091 acres are developed for residential uses. These 665 acres of commercial and industrial land contain, according to the Dennis Tax Assessor’s Office, about 2.1 million sf of floor space, about 200,000 sf of this developed over the past 10 years. At full build-out of the commercial zones there could be 5.5 million square feet.21c

There are few places immune to development in Dennis, except wetlands, and even here emerging septic technologies may threaten them. The town must assume, therefore, that development will continue to consume open spaces throughout town. Since physical impediments no longer remain as a limiting factor, community planning and strong community actions must be used to manage growth.

One result of development’s spread throughout town is that at least everyone is aware of it. People feel more threatened by the foundation being poured next door than the twenty units hidden in the woods over on the far side of town. Fueled by the anxiety over open space loss in the last two decades, Dennis voters have approved many town purchases of open space and has adopted, first, the Cape Cod Land Bank and now the Community Preservation Act to fund the acquisition of priority open areas.

The town recognizes the need for neighborhood open space and recreational opportunities, as the town’s 2008 open space survey also highlights the importance of this type of need. A conservation/ recreation area within walking distance of every home in Dennis would be a fine objective, particularly since there is a general aversion to more traffic and parking lots in town. Opportunities to add natural areas, through linkages or inholdings, should be examined.

In addition to town-wide growth patterns, it is useful to analyze village development trends because Dennis is a large town in area and facilities that may serve the needs of one village may simply be too distant to be readily available to use by residents of other villages. Dennisport, except for one large tract that had been used for a private recreational facility, has few tracts remaining for development and can be considered essentially “built-out” relative to the rest of town. This particular parcel, known as Sea View Park, was recently acquired by the town. As the last major piece of open space in Dennisport, this parcel became a priority to the town for protection. West Dennis likewise has few remaining large tracts except for undevelopable Weir Creek wetland parcels; some Grand Cove estates could be broken up into smaller building lots. Both Southside villages, developed into tiny lots during the first wave of growth between 1950 and 1970, nevertheless have pockets of historic homes and whole streets exhibit a quiet ambiance during the winter when many homes are empty.

Heavily developed along its western perimeter, South Dennis contains the greatest potential for more large subdivisions, as soon as title and access problems are clarified to the interior woodlands east of Route 134. Land protection for the woodland backdrop to the historic homes

dennis-village-protected-lands-revised

east-dennis-village-protected-lands-revisedsouth-dennis-village-protected-lands-revisedwest-dennis-village-protected-lands-reviseddennisport-village-protected-lands-revised

along the streets in the South Dennis Village Historic District should be a priority. In this regard, the Dennis Conservation Trust purchased two wooded commercial lots in 1995, which were visible from Liberty Hall.

The Northside villages (Dennis and East Dennis) exhibit both some of the most rural patterns of development (large estates on Sesuit and Quivett Necks) and some of the most suburban patterns (acre-lot, grid subdivisions popular in the 1970s, such as near Black Ball Hill and Scargo Heights). The fate of the Northside depends on the retention of enough large estates to retain the rural character of the area.

The population in the five planning districts should, eventually, tend to be more equivalent, as the Northside continues to grow and West Dennis finishes up in its development, though Dennisport will probably always lead in density.

Table 3.1 Housing, 1990 – 2000, by Village 22

1990 2000
Dennisport 3,773 4,103
West Dennis 2,634 2,510
South Dennis 2,423 2,626
Dennis 2,247 2,457
East Dennis 2,007 2,409

Beyond the spatial considerations of development in Dennis, there is also a temporal component. The fact is that in each decade since 1960, housing units in Dennis are becoming increasingly used year-round. Factors accounting for this use expansion have not been documented, though anecdotally it would appear that more people are now retiring year-round to what was their Dennis summer home. Also, more people are able to support themselves year-round on the Cape as the economy becomes more year-round. And, finally, online services and their companion advances in communications technology enable some people to “telecommute” year-round from what was their summer home.

Whatever the cause(s), summer-only occupied housing units in Dennis have declined from 79 percent in 1960 to 48 percent in 1990, and 42.7% in 2000, even as the raw number of units has grown steadily. Since Dennis is mostly “built-out” now, the more crucial impacts on water demand, water quality, open space demand, traffic and other issues are as likely to come from seasonal to year-round conversion of existing housing stock as from more development in general. Currently, the town regulates the conversion of cottage colonies (three or more seasonally occupied units) by requiring they be supported by 40,000 sf per unit before conversion to year round housing is allowed. These cottage colonies represent only a fraction of the seasonal housing in Dennis. The conversion of existing seasonal homes on individual parcels could double the population of town, without any increase in land consumption. However, this population change would dramatically increase the demand for town services, without generating any increased tax revenue.


1 Massachusetts Historical Commission, town map files, Contact Period overlay.

1A Massachusetts Historical Commission, Historic and Archaeological Resources of Cape Cod and the Islands, 1987, p. 90.

2 Simeon L. Deyo, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1890, p. 515.

3 Massachusetts Historical Commission, Historic and Archaeological Resources of Cape Cod and the Islands, 1987, p. 96.

3A Samuel Eliot Morison, The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860, (1921, 1979), p. 300.

4 Simeon L. Deyo, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1890, p. 138.

5 Frederick Freeman, The History of Cape Cod, 1862, Vol. II, p. 179.

6 Deyo, 1890, p. 145 and Freeman, 1862, p. 695.

7 Joseph D. Thomas, Editor, Cranberry Harvest: A History of Cranberry Growing in Massachusetts, (Spinner Publications, New Bedford MA, 1990); and, Simeon L. Deyo, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1890, p. 152.

8 Simeon L. Deyo, History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1890, p. 149.

9 Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources, The Outdoor Recreational Resources of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1963, p. 15.

10 Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources, The Outdoor Recreational Resources of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1963, p. 15.

11 Cape Cod Commission, “CapeTrends: Demographic and Economic Characteristics and Trends, Barnstable County – Cape Cod, 2nd Ed.,” 1996, p. 8.

12 Cape Cod Commission, “CapeTrends: Demographic and Economic Characteristics and Trends, Barnstable County – Cape Cod, 2nd Ed.,” 1996, p. 19.

13 Cape Cod Commission, “CapeTrends,” 1996, p. 30.

16 Massachusetts Executive Office Labor and Workforce Development 2006.

17 quoted in “The Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Founding of Old Yarmouth, Massachusetts, September 1889” (Yarmouth, 1889).

18 Samuel D. Hannah, The Proprietary Lands of Plymouth Colony and Cape Cod, (Hyannis MA, 1980), p. 64.

19a Cape Cod Commission, “CapeTrends: Demographic and Economic Characteristics and Trends, Barnstable County – Cape Cod, 3rd Ed.,” 1996, p. 42 & 19.

20 Analysis for this report by The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Inc.; see Section 5 for inventory

21 Cape Cod Commission, Monomoy Capacity Study: Summary Report, July 1996, p. 52.

21a Cape Cod Commission, Monomoy Capacity Study: Summary Report, July 1996, Fig. III-4.

21b Cape Cod Commission, Monomoy Capacity Study: Summary Report, July 1996, Fig. III-4.

21c Cape Cod Commission, Monomoy Capacity Study: Summary Report, July 1996, Fig. III-4.

22 Cape Cod Commission, “CapeTrends: Demographic and Economic Characteristics and Trends, Barnstable County – Cape Cod, 3rd Ed.,” 1996, p. 42. (The census tracts used for this table do not perfectly coincide with the village boundaries used by the Town of Dennis, but the differences are statistically insignificant.)

Edited May 11, 2009

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