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Provincetown leaders, residents push for answers about dune shack leasing process

Mary Bergman

Provincetown leaders and residents used the latest Select Board meeting to push the Cape Cod National Seashore for answers about the leasing of dune shacks in their town, as well as in Truro.

The National Park Service’s new policy allows potential shack dwellers to bid competitively for a ten-year lease on eight of the shacks.

Some current shack occupants are expecting their shacks to be boarded up by the Park Service next month, after receiving 90-day notices they would have to vacate back in June.

During public comment of the August 28 Provincetown Select Board meeting, a number of people asked why the Seashore’s new policy allowed for higher rents to be offered.

“Why not recognize these as traditional cultural properties and not make them real estate?” said Charles “Stormy” Mayo with the Center for Coastal Studies.

Peter Clemons leases one of the shacks. He said there has been a lack of transparency with the Seashore and the Park Service.

"There has been no transparency in terms of how we've been treated. We've had open houses that we weren't even told were going to happen,” he said.

Clemons said hundreds of people came to look at the shacks during those open houses.

Some people in attendance interrupted Select Board Vice Chair John Golden’s remarks when he when he described earlier public comments as "entitled."

Golden also said the hundreds of people bidding on dune shacks had a right to be out there.

“We have to get a balance here. There has to be a balance, and we don’t have a balance right now," he said.

Select Board member Leslie Sandberg expressed concerns about the future of the area.

"By sending it to the highest bidder, what's going to happen to our beautiful park?" she said.

Sandberg said there was a lack of communication from the Seashore with the Town. She added that she felt the Park Service had been "disrespectful to the dune shack dwellers."

Seashore Superintendent Brian Carlstrom gave an update during the meeting.

Carlstrom wouldn't answer specific questions from the board about the leasing process.

"Going forward into the future, we don't know yet how those leases are going to be awarded, that is an ongoing process. The RFP [Request for Proposals] is complete, the evaluation is underway. And I'm going to be upfront, I cannot answer questions regarding that this evening," he said.

Board members asked about why the RFP puts in seasonal restrictions on the use of the dune shacks from June through September, with limited use for maintenance in the shoulder seasons.

“Much consideration was given in terms of the valuation for the leasing, and if you look at the time frames for when those valuations were based upon, that’s what drove much of the decision for the use period,” Carlstrom said.

Carlstrom then clarified he was referring to a three-month valuation versus a six-month valuation.

“The value of the leasing would be reduced if you had three months versus six. You have a higher rent rate,” Carlstrom said.

The select board recently sent a letter to the Seashore asking if it would be open to professional mediation.

At the meeting, Carlstrom said the Seashore received the letter and would get back to the board soon.

Sandberg asked Carlstrom to talk with his superiors about reimbursing dwellers for the costs of winterizing shacks, especially if they don’t end up being awarded a lease. Carlstrom agreed to that.

Brian Engles is an author, a Cape Cod local, and a producer for Morning Edition.