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Please note: This information is intended to provide a basic overview of the Development Agreement process. The material located on this page is for informational purposes only, is general in nature, and is not intended to be and should not be relied upon or construed as a legal opinion or legal advice regarding any specific project, factual circumstance, or determination of Commission jurisdictionAdditional details about Development Agreements may be found in Chapter D of the Cape Cod Commission Regulations.

What kinds of projects qualify for Cape Cod Commission review?  

Through the Cape Cod Commission (Commission) Act, the Commission has the authority to review developments that are likely to present development issues to more than one municipality in Barnstable County. The Cape Cod Commission has adopted thresholds, standards and criteria specifying the types of development that are presumed to meet this definition.  These are contained in Chapter A of the Cape Cod Commission Regulations.

  • A development is defined as any of the following:
  • any building, construction, renovation, mining, extraction, dredging, filling, excavation, or drilling activity or operation;
  • any material change in the use or appearance of any structure or in the land itself; the division of land into parcels;
  • any change in the intensity of use of land, such as an increase in the number of dwelling units in a structure or a change to a commercial or industrial use from a less intensive use;
  • any activity which alters a shore, beach, seacoast, river, stream, lake, pond, canal, marsh, dune area, woodland, wetland, endangered species habitat, aquifer, or other resource area, including coastal construction or other activity in Barnstable County within the jurisdictional limits of Barnstable County;
  • demolition of a structure;
  • the clearing of land as an adjunct of construction;
  • or the deposit of refuse, solid or liquid waste or fill on a parcel of land or in any water area.

Information about the Commission's regulatory authority and regulations is available online:  

What is a Development Agreement?

A development agreement is a voluntary, negotiated contract under which the applicant agrees to provide certain benefits which contribute to one or more of the following: infrastructure; public capital facilities; land dedication or preservation; fair, affordable housing either on-site or off-site; employment opportunities; community facilities; recreational uses; or other benefits to serve the proposed development, municipality, and county, including site design standards to ensure preservation of community character.  It establishes the permitted uses, densities, and all other aspects of a development to limit off-site impacts attributable to it, the duration of the agreement, and any other terms or conditions mutually agreed upon between the applicant and all other parties to the agreement. Municipalities and state agencies may participate in the development agreement process.  

What is the purpose of a Development Agreement?

Development agreements have several purposes. For developers, they can assure that applicable development review regulations will not change during construction. For the public, a development agreement encourages developers to plan comprehensive projects and provide major infrastructure and public benefits earlier. 

Development agreements provide an opportunity for those involved to collaborate on the design, permitting, and construction of projects to ensure such things as consistency with the Cape Cod Commission’s Regional Policy Plan, furthering the growth of activity centers, and addressing key regional challenges.

What type of projects are eligible for a Development Agreement?

Projects eligible for a development agreement exceed one or more of the Commission’s mandatory thresholds and typically include a large area of development, and/or multiple uses, and/or structures which are anticipated to be built in phases over a period of seven years or more, with future undefined expansions.

What is the process for reviewing a Development Agreement?
  • An applicant first files a Notice of Intent to file a Development Agreement application.
  • At a public meeting, the Cape Cod Commission Committee on Planning and Regulation will review and make a recommendation to the full Cape Cod Commission whether the proposed development is suitable and qualifies for the Development Agreement.
  • The full Cape Cod Commission then holds a public hearing and votes to determine whether the proposed development is suitable for consideration as a development agreement.
  • Once the Commission determines that a project is suitable to be the subject of a development agreement, the applicant may proceed with preparing and submitting a Development Agreement Application. Should the Commission deny the Notice of Intent, an applicant may still proceed with Commission review of a project as a Development of Regional Impact.
  • The applicant meets with Commission staff to review the Development Agreement application and its materials to ensure completeness, and then will submit the application.
  • The Commission Chair appoints a subcommittee to represent the Commission in negotiating a Development Agreement. The subcommittee and participating parties conduct public hearings to review relevant information and receive public testimony. The subcommittee may request that a draft development agreement be drafted by Commission staff for their review and discussion in a public meeting. Once the terms of the agreement have been drafted, the subcommittee votes to make a recommendation to the full Commission whether it should authorize signature of the Development Agreement.
  • The qualified applicant signs the draft Development Agreement recommended by the subcommittee to indicate their agreement to enter into the contract.
  • The full Commission conducts a public hearing to consider the draft development agreement and may vote whether to authorize entrance into the contract. It may also, among other things, remand the negotiation back to the subcommittee. There are no required timeframes for negotiating a development agreement and the negotiation requires continued participation by all parties to the Development Agreement. 
  • If the Commission approves its entrance into the development agreement, that agreement is presented to each participating party for its consideration of approval. If a municipality is involved, the municipality may approve the agreement by a majority vote of its Board of Selectmen (in the case of the Town of Barnstable, by signature of its Town Manager).


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