The Commission currently has a three-town pilot project with OpenCounter, an intuitive web-based zoning tool designed to make local regulations accessible to the public. OpenCounter reveals parcel-level zoning details, including existing uses, overlay and planned development districts. This helps applicants understand zoning challenges and opportunities for projects before engaging with municipal staff. The three towns in the pilot program are Mashpee, Barnstable and Yarmouth. These towns were chosen because they are contiguous, and each has a unique commercial base, population and unique geography. Next steps after a successful pilot would be to bring on more interested communities and create a single portal.
With real time data about business and land use interests, local governments and the Cape Cod Commission can help identify where changes in land use policies may be most effective in supporting market need and can guide development to appropriate locations.
The use code search allows applicants to enter natural language terms—such as “yoga”—and see a list of relevant land use codes. If they don’t see a relevant option in the results, they can browse the entire list of use codes and select the most appropriate option.
The zoning maps reveal where the project is permitted, conditionally permitted, and prohibited in the jurisdiction. These clearances take into account conditional considerations, such as whether a restaurant will serve alcohol, or offer drive-through service.
OpenCounter is a San Francisco-based software firm that combines Silicon Valley tech talent with public sector expertise. The company was incubated at Code for America in 2012, and was a winner of the Knight News Challenge in 2013. Its goal is to build modern tools that help cities streamline service delivery, and promote economic development.