BCT supports innovative conservation bylaw

The Brewster Conservation Trust played an integral role in the passage of a landmark Brewster zoning bylaw that has made the town a model for innovative planning, resource protection and open space preservation. The bylaw, called Natural Resource Protection Design, or NRPD, applies to the areas of Brewster containing the town’s drinking water supply and Brewster’s portion of the Pleasant Bay watershed—two resources that are particularly vulnerable to growth-related impacts.

Working in partnership with the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and community leaders, BCT conducted an extensive public education and outreach effort to inform citizens about the need to safeguard the town’s sensitive water resources and to explain how the proposed NRPD bylaw was uniquely suited to protect those resources. The effort resulted in adoption of the bylaw at the October, 2009 town meeting by an overwhelming margin.

The bylaw rethinks how future growth will occur in the designated resource area, placing the primary emphasis on setting aside the most environmentally sensitive areas of a property first, and then clustering development on the land that remains. Up to 80 percent of a parcel will be permanently preserved as open space. The number houses allowed to be built on a given parcel are reduced significantly from the previous zoning, making Brewster one of the two most progressive towns in the state for reducing density. Extra houses can be added by the developer as incentive for utilizing additional water protection measures.

Successful adoption of the NRPD bylaw is not only a significant achievement for the town of Brewster; it also demonstrates BCT’s ability to be an effective educator and advocate on issues that help advance the organization’s ongoing work to preserve Brewster’s open spaces, habitats and other natural resources.

This illustration depicts a parcel of land with a field near the road, an existing trail crosses from the rear, steep slopes are located in the center, and a stream and wetlands area run through the lower right.

Under conventional zoning, a subdivision with excessive impervious surfaces sprawls across the parcel. Little open space is preserved, the trail is lost, the field developed, and houses encroach upon the wetland buffer area.

Natural Resource Protection Design lowers density and clusters development away from sensitive resources. Up to 80 percent of the parcel is preserved, the trail is maintained, the field is preserved, the stream and wetlands are protected, and impervious surfaces are minimized. Density bonuses for additional housing can be achieved by utilizing shared wastewater treatment and other water protection practices.

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