Informing and protecting Wellfleet homeowners in the National Seashore

Our Story

In 1976 a group of Seashore homeowners organized because they believed the Town had increased Seashore properties’ assessments by a revaluation that was “discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal”. The Selectmen had revalued only Seashore properties and a few others, resulting in higher and inequitable property taxes. The group of homeowners assisted each other in filing for tax abatements with over 100 forms filed.

They also appealed to other Seashore residents to form the Wellfleet National Seashore Taxpayers Association, “Our self interest as seasonal or year round residents and taxpayers will be considered, but our primary focus will be to insure that the beauty and ecology of the Cape will be protected. To this end we will endeavor to keep the members informed of important matters concerning the National Seashore in Wellfleet.”

In 1991, following unsuccessful attempts at Town Meeting to amend the zoning bylaws, the Association developed a proposal for a “sliding scale” of lot coverage limits for Seashore properties that would increase permitted coverage on lots smaller than 2 acres and reduce it for lots larger than 2 acres, as well as capping building footprint at 4,000 sq.ft.

In 2003 the Association changed its name from 'Taxpayers Association' to 'Homeowners Association', as 'Homeowners' was more representative of the broader range of interests for the Association. Also in 2003, the Association reviewed the Town’s Assessment revaluation and found that although property valuations seemed extremely high, recent sales bore out the valuations, and Massachusetts law requires full and fair property assessments, as reported to the Association’s membership in “National Seashore Property Assessments & Your Abatement Rights“.

In 2004 the Association was directly responsible for pressuring Cape Cod National Seashore management not to use our Certificates of Suspension of Condemnation as a lever for forcing Towns to enact more restrictive zoning bylaws. Even prior to the creation of the Seashore, a group of homeowners supported the establishment of the Seashore but called for preserving the private properties that would otherwise be taken to create the park. In a letter to the Editor of The New York Times on August 30, 1959, p. E 10, Wellfleet residents Francis Biddle, Marcel Breuer, Edwin O’Connor, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Herbert Wechsler, Edmund Wilson, and others wrote (excerpted):

There is the feeling everywhere that some reasonable control of the Cape’s growth is needed if this lovely land is not to be suburbanized.

Ideally, of course, such control would come from the towns affected. But town zoning has been non-existent or else has come too late to meet the flood of commercialization, and as a practical matter the the defense of the Cape will come through Federal action or not at all.

The signers of this letter are among those who are in sympathy with the purposes of various bills introduced in Congress to create such a park. [But…] There is the simple matter of people and their homes.

There are many charming old Cape Cod houses, and many modern homes built to harmonize with the old houses and the land; these are owned by people who have lived in them for generations, or by writers, artists, musicians and members of the learned professions who have been attracted by the beauty of the Cape.

There is no doubt that a national park plan which was sensitively worked out could save these homes, and at the same time conserve the natural beauties of the Cape for future generations. Such a plan — aimed at a genuine conservation rather than mere recreation — would recognize that while the wild life of the Cape is important, the human way of life is at least equally important.