Coffee Break: Commercial development on the Cape

Filed Under: April 2017 Issue

By Barry R. Crimmins, Esquire
To almost anyone associated with Cape Cod – year-round resident, summer vacationer, weekday visitor – this
region is a special place.
Given this, it’s not surprising that more people are trying to make their livings on the Cape, in addition to just living on the Cape, many by opening new shops or new locations of existing shops or service facilities. Whether you are a
sole proprietor with a great idea and an interest in a Truro location, or a representative of a larger company looking to open a new location in Hyannis, or somewhere in between, you will enhance your chances for success by understanding the process involved with commercial development on Cape Cod.
Typically, Cape-related commercial development plans involve both town officials and the Cape Cod Commission, a governmental agency that guides land use planning, economic development, and the regulation of development
proposals throughout all of Barnstable County.
In addition, as you plan your project, become familiar with the key players and decision-makers in the community as well. Basic information can usually be found on a town’s website. It’s important to make sure you understand the
area’s specific zoning and planning bylaws too.
Your architect, engineer and/or attorney should be able to contribute information that will help with the navigation of these officials and departments.
When you’ve identified the key players, seek out meetings with them, perhaps in less formal settings. In this environment, you have a more relaxed opportunity to introduce yourself and your project, and ask for feedback
or suggestions regarding how you can make your plan more appealing to the town or Cape Cod Commission. This conversation will also hopefully prevent any surprises throughout the process.
As your plan progresses, make sure you know whether the proposed project conforms to existing bylaws. If it does not, understand whether a special permit is required and, if so, what the procedure is for acquiring that permit.
It’s also best to know what municipal boards, and in what order, need to review the necessary applications. Once these issues are clarified, you will be ready to submit your formal application (with supporting engineering or architectural plans).
After this, the next step will most likely be realized in the form of hearings, held before a number of boards and open to the public. At this point, having prepared and completed the due diligence on the application process, your
plan will hopefully be greeted with acceptance.
Still, even after obtaining the approval of the particular board or commission, you will need to wait until the appeal period has expired during which an abutter or other “aggrieved parties” may appeal the decision. The pace of this
process can be frustrating, but it is important to remember that the Commission and other officials have the best interests of everyone on the Cape at heart, and allowing the process to complete itself naturally, if slowly, should avoid any negative reception to your new business venture, and instead will be celebrated as another
example of Cape-inspired entrepreneurship.
This type of development, done appropriately, can have an incredibly positive impact on the local Cape economy, while preserving the unique environment of the Cape community.
By putting time into really understanding the permitting process of your prospective new business community, your efforts should be greeted with excitement, anticipation, and finally approval from your new neighbors.
Barry R. Crimmins is an attorney in Stoughton, with additional offices in Falmouth and Hyannis, who has specialized in zoning and land use regulations for over 30 years. For more information, visit his website at
This article was published in the April 2017 issue of Cape & Plymouth Business.