The Cape Cod Commission is charged with recommending the designation of Districts of Critical Planning Concern, or DCPCs. A DCPC is a powerful planning tool that allows a town or a group of towns to impose a moratorium — a "time out" — on certain types of development or activities in a specified area to plan for and adopt special rules and regulations that will protect natural, coastal, scientific, cultural, architectural, archaeological, historic, economic, or recreational resources or values of regional, statewide, or national significance.
Districts of Critical Planning Concern are generally nominated by a town or several towns, although they may also be nominated by the Cape Cod Commission itself and by two bodies of Barnstable County regional government: the Barnstable County Commissioners (the executive branch) and the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates (the legislative branch).
Once nominated, a moratorium on certain development or types of activities may go into effect in the specified area. If accepted for consideration, the proposal undergoes an extensive public hearing process conducted by the Cape Cod Commission.
Upon consideration of the nomination materials and all public testimony, the Cape Cod Commission then decides whether to recommend a nominated district for DCPC designation by the Assembly of Delegates and the County Commissioners. If a district is ultimately approved by these bodies, the rules — known as "implementing regulations" — that the nominating communities create to promote the purposes for which the DCPC was designated then govern development in the designated DCPC area.
To date, Barnstable County has designated 12 Districts of Critical Planning Concern that were nominated by their respective towns, the County Commissioners, or the Cape Cod Commission.
- Black Beach/Great Sippewissett Marsh DCPC (Falmouth)—Designated in January 1996 to prevent flood damage and protect the habitat of 340 acres of barrier beach and salt marsh in West Falmouth.The purposes of this District are to maintain the integrity of the Black Beach/Great Sippewissett Marsh barrier beach system, to preserve the habitat value of the marsh/beach area, and to improve/upgrade septic systems and stormwater discharges and employ other means to alleviate shellfish bed closures and improve the water quality of the marsh.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 96-1
- Bournedale DCPC (Bourne)—Designated in December 1998 to protect drinking water, assure safe transportation, and preserve the historic and natural resources of nearly 2,000 acres in northeastern Bourne.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 98-25
- Three Ponds DCPC (Sandwich)—Designated in February 2000 to protect water quality, preserve open space, and maintain the character of nearly 700 acres of land and more than 300 acres of water in southeastern Sandwich.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 00-04
- Six Ponds DCPC (Harwich)—Designated in May 2000 to protect the water and natural resources and to manage growth over more than 1,200 acres of land and 110 acres of water in northeastern Harwich.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 00-11
- Barnstable (Town-wide) DCPC—Designated in September 2001 to manage residential growth and encourage affordable housing over nearly 60 square miles.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 01-19
See also the May 2004 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court supporting the Barnstable DCPC (SJC 9171 - 441 Mass. 724 - 2004).
- Quivet Neck/Crowe's Pasture DCPC (Dennis)—Designated in March 2002 to protect natural, historic, water, and coastal resources and to manage residential growth on nearly 250 acres in East Dennis.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 02-04
- Pond Village DCPC (Barnstable)—Designated in January 2006 to protect the water quality of a freshwater pond and a portion of Barnstable Harbor and the historic and scenic character of a 115-acre area north of Route 6A near Barnstable village. The Barnstable Town Council voted to approve a zoning change for the district rather than adopt special implementing regulations.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 06-01
- Brewster Water Protection DCPC—Designated in July 2008 to protect "zones of contribution" (or watersheds) to public drinking water wells on 6,538 acres in two areas of Brewster. The DCPC has two purposes: a water resources district and a major public investment district. The Cape Cod Commission approved the town's proposed implementing regulations on October 1, 2009.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 08-08
- Centerville Village Center/Craigville Beach DCPC—Designated in May 2008 to protect 380 acres of land in two separate areas, Centerville Village Center and the Craigville Beach area, from inappropriate development that threatened historic and scenic character as well as flood hazard protections and water quality concerns. The Centerville Village Center DCPC was designated to support the small-scale economy of the village center and protect its historic resources. The Craigville Beach DCPC was designated to enhance flood hazard protections along the barrier beach, protect views to Nantucket Sound, and moderate the scale of new development to preserve historic resources and limit water quality impacts to the Centerville River and nearby ponds. Implementing Regulations were adopted by the Cape Cod Commission and the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, and were added to the town’s zoning regulations in July 2009 (Centerville Village District) and January 2011 (Craigville Beach District).
Ordinance establishing the Centerville Village Center DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 08-06
Ordinance re-establishing the Craigville Beach DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 09-12
- Ocean Management Planning DCPC (Cape-wide)—Designated in April 2010 in an effort to plan for development in Cape Cod's ocean water, this was the first Cape-wide DCPC. The County Commissioners made the nomination in December 2009 in anticipation of the final Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan on December 31, 2009. The designated DCPC included all the ocean waters and land below and air above within Barnstable County, starting from a line drawn 0.3 nautical miles seaward from Mean High Water (MHW) around Barnstable County and extending to 3 nautical miles from MHW, or the state jurisdictional boundary.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 10-03
- Fertilizer Management DCPC (Cape-wide)—Designated in 2013 to protect water quality and educate residents on Best Management Practices for fertilizer application. This second Cape-wide DCPC was the first one nominated by the Cape Cod Commission itself. The Commission proposed the Cape-wide DCPC in response to state legislation that would remove the ability of individual communities to regulate fertilizers. The Cape Cod Commission subsequently worked with towns and stakeholders to develop the DCPC "implementing regulations."
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 13-07
- Eastham DCPC—Designated in 2017 to guide economic development in the town's commercial areas, encourage mixed use development, and improve safety along the Route 6 corridor. The Town of Eastham Board of Selectmen nominated approximately 280 acres in North Eastham, which includes all commercially zoned areas. The designation was sought and approved under three separate provisions of the DCPC regulations: Economic or Development Resource District, Affordable Housing Resource District and a Transportation Management District.
Ordinance establishing the DCPC: Barnstable County Ordinance 17-12