West Chatham Neighborhood Center Zoning Initiative

The Chatham Comprehensive Plan identifies the West Chatham neighborhood center location as between George Ryder Road and Barn Hill Road and describes this neighborhood center as the "second most important commercial area in Chatham after Downtown." The Town of Chatham has engaged the Cape Cod Commission to help develop new draft zoning for the West Chatham Neighborhood Center to implement the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan and encourage development in alignment with the desired character for the area.

Introduction & Background

The Chatham Comprehensive Plan, which establishes the community's vision for future growth, was adopted by Town Meeting on May 13, 2003. The following goal (accompanied by several policy directives) in the plan's Land Use section provides guidance on preserving and enhancing Chatham's neighborhood centers.

Goal 1.2 To preserve existing Neighborhood centers by limiting their boundaries based on the collective needs and desires of each specific neighborhood's residents. Maintain a concentration of commercial, residential and mixed-use in these neighborhoods, including affordable housing, beneficial retail and service uses as needed.

The Comprehensive Plan identifies South Chatham, West Chatham, the Cornfield, Crowell Road, Downtown, and North Chatham as the six "neighborhood centers," with a general directive to maintain a mixture of uses including residential, commercial, and offices in a compact, pedestrian-oriented center where people live and work. Affordable housing in neighborhood centers shall be encouraged. The Plan further describes specific criteria for each neighborhood center.

West Chatham

For the West Chatham Neighborhood Center, the Comprehensive Plan's policies direct the town to limit commercial development and redevelopment to the existing commercial areas, improve the strip development character of the area, and restrict the area zoned SB to residential uses.

While the Comprehensive Plan provides goals and policy directives for the Neighborhood Centers, it leaves the details and process of implementation to be determined by neighborhood center residents. In 2012 the Town of Chatham requested technical assistance from the Cape Cod Commission to conduct a land-use planning study of the Route 28 corridor from the Crowell Road intersection to the Harwich town line to help bring the Protective Zoning Bylaw into conformance with the town's Long-Range Comprehensive Plan. The scope of the study included "identification of potential opportunities to enhance or change development patterns along the corridor and other streetscape improvements consistent with the town's Comprehensive Plan" (Route 28 Visioning Project - Final Report, page 1). The Route 28 Visioning Project was completed in 2014 and outlined several recommendations intended as a framework for achieving the Comprehensive Plan vision.

From 2014 through 2015 the Planning Board and Town staff prioritized the recommendations from the Route 28 Visioning Project and held meetings for the West Chatham, Cornfield, Crowell Road and South Chatham neighborhood centers to understand the collective needs and desires of each neighborhood's residents (Comprehensive Plan Goal 1.2). In 2016, Town Meeting passed several articles based upon the recommendations of the Route 28 Visioning Project and the Comprehensive Plan including identifying neighborhood boundaries, creating an overlay district for the South Chatham Neighborhood Center, and rezoning the small business areas along Route 28 to R20 (residential) zoning.

After the successful 2016 Annual Town Meeting, the Planning Board chose to focus their Long-Range Planning initiatives on other zoning revisions and put the continuation of the Route 28 Visioning Project on hold. Now, however, the Planning Board resumed its work on the project, specifically for the West Chatham Neighborhood Center, in 2019. Additionally, at this time, the West Chatham Roadway Project is also underway, which will result in changes to the streetscape between George Ryder Road and Barn Hill Road. The changes will provide updated pedestrian and bicyclist accommodations, which could support improved walkability in the area.

Through the District Local Technical Assistance program, the Town asked the Cape Cod Commission for assistance in drafting zoning for the area that reflects the desired vision for the Neighborhood Center. As part of this project, community input will be incorporated into draft zoning for the area. Public review and feedback of the draft zoning will guide further refinements.