Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Short Summary of Building in Wellfleet

Typical summer dwellings in Wellfleet used to be two or three-bedroom cottages. These cottages were well hidden in the woods. Since cottages were used less than four months a year, the buildings were not winterized. Then developers entered the picture in the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. They bought up woodland and built communities with windy two-lane paved roads. The general aspect of these communities reminds me of the suburbs of any American city. Wellfleet has several with attractive names such as Wellfleet Woods. The new houses were bigger than the cottages, but not out of proportion to their surroundings. You like them, or you don't. If you don't, you have the choice to stay away. It is possible to drive around town without entering any of the developments. Times have changed again and more property is up for sale, including some of the original summer cottages. The term "tear down" has crashed into our vocabulary, as has "McMansion." With the construction of these mega houses, Cape Cod will change forever. Tourists used to come here in search of something different, a reminder of what the simple life used to be. They stayed in small motel cabins or rented a cottage and enjoyed the quaint landscape, beaches and ponds. In 2008, summer tenants from the city have become even more demanding. While on vacation, they want air-conditioning and cable and an outdoor shower. They cannot live without wide-screen TV. It seems absurd to be able to impose such things but it is happening. Landlords can say no, but the tenants simply take their dollars to the next rental option. Once these folks have summered in Wellfleet for a couple years, they want to own property here, too. However, none of the existing housing will do, too small. These folks, with cash in hand, buy a house, tear it down, and rebuilt. Bigger. Much bigger. The change will destroy the very quality that attracts people from all over the world. The McMansion craze has reached such proportions that the town and the National Seashore are joining forces to oppose a house on a dune across from the Herring River Dike. The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on the subject will take place tonight. The McMansion in question is a large, sprawling edifice that will replace the torn down "Billboard House" and sully the incredible view of National Seashore wilderness, precious to Wellfleetians. I feel lucky to have our old Cape Codder, built in the 1700s. It is plenty big enough for me.