Eastham voters OK $35.2 million budget, multiple changes to address housing needs

EASTHAM — There were no close votes during the two-hour town meeting on Monday night. Voters showed overwhelming support for the $35,223,583 operating budget, as well as a slew of articles meant to give the town resources to address housing needs.

The budget will require passage of a Proposition 2 ½ override at the town election to be held May 17. If approved, the override would result in an increase in property taxes of 1.18%, or about $50 for the owner of a median-valued property, according to town officials.

Voters approved the $760,000 purchase of the Beach Plum Motel, which includes a single-family house and four seasonal rental units.

Eastham Town Hall
Eastham Town Hall

Eastham's housing needs

They also approved five zoning bylaw changes that would:

• Open up possibilities for duplexes and two-family dwellings in certain zones.

• Allow conversions of motels, hotels and cottage colonies to year-round housing units with special permits and site plan approval.

• Require a certain number of affordable or workforce housing units to be included in any development of five units or more.

• Expand the use of the open space residential subdivision bylaw, which allows for cluster development while maintaining a certain amount of open space.

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Voters also approved the establishment of one housing trust for both affordable (at or below 100% of area median income) and attainable housing (at or below 200% area median income). The Eastham Affordable Housing Trust would become the Eastham Housing Trust, pending special legislation.

In addition, voters approved, again by an overwhelming majority, an article seeking a home-rule petition to use Community Preservation Act funds for both affordable and attainable housing.

State and Eastham housing goals

In Barnstable County, the income limit for a family of two at 100% AMI is $87,000, according to updated figures from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For a family of four, that limit is $108,700.

With the recent huge spike in home prices, housing has become out of reach for many in Eastham, including those making 200% AMI.

The state has set a goal for every municipality to have 10% of its housing stock be affordable units. Eastham is far from that goal, which is in part what the articles were designed to address. Town Administrator Jacqueline Beebe said it would take every tool in the toolbox to get to the 10% goal. The town hopes to add over 200 affordable and attainable housing units in the next five years, she said.

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Petition articles

Only one of three petition articles passed, with voters asking Holtec Pilgrim LLC to withdraw plans to discharge radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay. A petition article to establish a conservation fund was defeated 42-207.

Voting delay

There was a glitch with the voting tabulators at the beginning of town meeting. The 230-voter quorum was reached at 7:06 p.m. and Moderator Scott Kerry began the proceedings. But shortly into the meeting, officials stopped because some tabulators weren’t working correctly. A line of about 10 people stood at a help desk that had been set up at the rear of the gym.

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The first three articles had been voted on, including the operating and capital budgets. All of them required majority votes to pass. The vote tallies were 185-6, 192-13, and 188-11 for articles 1 through 3.

The technical glitches changed nothing because the votes weren't close, according to Town Clerk Cindy Nicholson. Options Technology, the company that provided the tabulators, fixed the problem when it was brought to their attention, she said. “We were standing by with our yes/no ballot slips if needed.”

Contact Denise Coffey at dcoffey@capecodonline.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Eastham town meeting voters approve budget, housing-related articles