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Timing is critical if the Cape wants to help landowners fend off development, camp owner says

The waterfront at Camp Wingate*Kirkland
Camp Wingate*Kirkland website virtual tour
The waterfront at Camp Wingate*Kirkland

A working group organized by the Cape Cod Commission to examine strategies for dealing with development pressure heard competing points of view on Wednesday.

One came from Will Rubenstein, who with his wife owns Camp Wingate*Kirkland in Yarmouth Port. Time is of the essence when it comes to helping landowners make choices, he said.

“The pressure is high. And I would love to be a part of the solution, because I'm not necessarily — and nor is my wife Sandy — we are not the people that want to be known as the people that liquidated the camp,” he said.

A consultant to the group, Jack Wiggin, outlined several options used in community planning to help preserve open space in a residential area, including reduced density, overlay districts, transfer of development rights, and mandatory conservation of open space in subdivision design.

Rubenstein said if the commission or towns can make changes quickly, that could help. But if it takes years, “then I would say you might see some parcels go away. That's not a threat; it's just like a velocity point.”

But Housing advocates questioned why the Cape Cod Commission is addressing this issue outside of the Regional Policy Plan.

“I'm still really hard-pressed to find a reason to move outside of that process,” said Andrea Aldana, director of housing advocacy for the Community Development Partnership.

“The answer cannot be further increasing pressure by restricting use on any types of lands,” she said. “I think things need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

Alisa Magnotta, CEO of the Housing Assistance Corporation, said the discussion seemed one-sided.

“I am a little concerned with the tone and tenor of this conversation, that we're already starting negotiations,” she said. “There's economic impact; there's housing impact; there's a lot more to it than just one side.”

In response, Erin Perry, deputy director of the Cape Cod Commission, said the intent of the working group is to bring all of those perspectives together.

“That's certainly why we brought Jack Wiggin on board, to do a kind of a broad look at different strategies and ways to address open space protection, while we're certainly forwarding those pressing development needs,” she said.

The Cape Cod Commission convened the group after hearing concerns from local land trusts about development of recreational, agricultural, and institutional land.

Recent attention in Barnstable has focused on the Twin Brooks golf course, where a developer has proposed more than 300 apartments. But leaders of the working group said the group is not a forum to discuss specific parcels.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.