Documentation of steps taken to assure that the Local Comprehensive Plan represents the opinions and desires of the community is required for certification of the plan by the Cape Cod Commission. Three key actions taken to gather community input – the SWOT exercise, the planning workshop, and the community survey, along with a brief history of Bourne – are summarized separately. Here are the rest of the background pieces.


Bourne’s original Local Comprehensive Plan addressed fourteen issue areas ranging from growth management to economic development. This revised plan adds a few more issue areas to address new concerns such as education, energy, and the threat of increasing storm frequency and intensity. As before, the revised plan evolved out of concerns and visions of the people who are working most closely with each of the issue areas.

This revision separates the former Environmental Protection section into two sections: Wildlife and Plant Habitant and Wetland Resources, in order to be more consistent with the Cape Cod Commission’s revised Regional Policy Plan. Similarly, the former Economic Development section is now covered by two sections: Economy and Energy.

The earlier section on Growth Management has been dropped, reflecting changes in the Regional Policy Plan and recognition that the growth spurt experienced by Bourne and other Cape towns between 1970 and 1990 has abated and that growth has been relatively flat in recent decades. A statement of Growth Policy and a Buildout Analysis are included in this plan, however.

Bourne’s plan includes sections on Human Services and Education, although these subjects are not required by the Cape Cod Commission and not included in the Regional Policy Plan. Bourne is the only Cape Cod town with a four-year college, and one of only two Cape towns with a Technical High School, so education is an important part of Bourne’s economy and its social structure.

Both the original Bourne plan and this revision include Recreation as a separate section. The regional plan addresses recreation only as a sub-category of open space, even though the multitude of recreational opportunities enjoyed on Cape Cod sustain the regional economy and may be the primary reason why most people choose to live here.

The revised plan is more closely aligned with the Regional Policy Plan than was the original Bourne plan. At that time the regional plan was heavily oriented toward growth control and environmental protection, while Bourne was more concerned with encouraging growth in downtown Buzzards Bay and expanding infrastructure to accommodate that growth. The regional plan is now more balanced between economic development and environmental protection, and the Commission has strongly supported Bourne’s plans in recent years.

Both this plan and the latest regional plan address the same issue areas and group the issues into three major categories: Natural Systems, Built Systems, and Community Systems. This format will make it easier for users of the plan to quickly find the information they seek, and to focus on their specific areas of interest.

And finally, this revision includes in its Appendix a table listing the action items from all of the issue areas showing what agencies or persons are responsible for carrying them out, anticipated time lines for completion, and estimated costs. This appendix is an update and revision of a table created by Town Planner Coreen Moore in 2013 for the original plan.


Throughout the process of revising Bourne’s Local Comprehensive Plan, the Town’s planning staff and consultant have worked closely with the Cape Cod Commission staff to assure that the revised plan remains consistent with the Commission’s Regional Policy Plan, as well as with its more specialized studies and plans. The Commission staff has been most helpful in providing background studies and data to support Bourne’s plan. They have also actively participated in Bourne’s planning workshop and other public outreach efforts.

The planning staff and consultant also met with planners in each of the four towns abutting Bourne: Falmouth, Sandwich, Plymouth, and Wareham. Three common issues that affect all five towns are water quality, traffic, and coastal resiliency. These meetings also proved productive in strengthening the working relationships between the planning offices. This was especially important with Plymouth and Wareham which are in Plymouth County and in a different regional planning district from Bourne.

Problems associated with Steamship Authority freight traffic through Woods Hole were discussed at the Falmouth meeting. Most of the trucks carrying goods to Martha’s Vineyard come through New Bedford and travel through both Bourne and Falmouth. New Bedford has ample facilities to serve freight vessels from the State Pier but the Authority has been reluctant to operate through New Bedford. Falmouth and Bourne might work together to pressure the Authority to run freight ferry service between New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard.

Falmouth planners also agreed that connecting the Shining Sea Trail to the canal service road was an excellent idea that would be a significant economic and recreational benefit to both communities, as well as improving traffic safety and providing a pedestrian and bicycle connection between villages. Falmouth would like to have the trail running alongside the railroad with commuter rail service extended to North Falmouth.

Community issues shared by Bourne and Sandwich include traffic, especially the canal bridges, coastal erosion, and wastewater treatment. Although Bourne’s common border with Sandwich is the longest of any towns on Cape Cod, most of it falls within the military reservation, which isolates the two towns from each other.

Sandwich planners agreed that the most effective thing the state could do to ease the bottleneck at the canal would be to replace the Bourne Bridge rotary with an interchange similar to the replacement of the Sagamore rotary. Construction of a third bridge, or replacement of the existing bridges, would not alleviate the seasonal congestion on local roads or Route 6.

The wastewater treatment facility on the base is currently operated by the Air National Guard, and has a substantial amount of unused capacity that might be utilized by surrounding towns. Although Bourne lies outside of the Sandwich watershed, it could potentially use access to the base treatment facility to serve densely developed areas of Pocasset.

Sandwich supports the efforts to extend the Shining Sea Bike Trail to the canal. It is also looking for ways to connect the canal service road to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, possibly using the gas line route along Service Road. Steep elevation changes need to be overcome, however.

Although Plymouth and Bourne share a long border, much of it is area that is either protected from development or across Great Herring Pond. The Cedarville/Sagamore Beach border, though, is an area where spreading commercial development might require coordination between the towns. Traffic in the area is of particular concern, especially the intersection of State Road and Herring Pond Road.

The Buzzards Bay watershed extends well into Plymouth, and sits over a sole source aquifer that serves both towns and needs additional protection. Plymouth has adopted an Overlay District in its zoning bylaw that mandates 120,000 square foot land area per building lot, but encourages clustering development on much smaller lots, leaving the balance as permanent open space.

A South Plymouth neighborhood of 450 dwellings is located within the Buzzards Bay watershed between Route 25 and Head of the Bay Road and drains directly into Buttermilk Bay. This neighborhood was originally developed as a colony of summer cottages on small lots with cesspools, but many of the original cottages have been expanded or replaced with year-round dwellings using septic systems.

Plymouth and Bourne are working with Wareham and the Maritime Academy on the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s initiative to expand the capacity of the Wareham wastewater treatment facility and eventually sewer the South Plymouth neighborhood. Hideaway Village in Bourne, across Head of the Bay Road from the Plymouth neighborhood, is connected to the Wareham facility.

Common issues facing Bourne and Wareham are wastewater, traffic, and coastal resiliency. Of these, only wastewater is currently being discussed between both towns. Wareham treats up to 200,000 gallons per day of wastewater from downtown Buzzards Bay, but Bourne needs more capacity to cover all of the village.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is leading a plan to divert the Wareham plant’s treated effluent to the canal by running a discharge pipe along the railroad right of way to Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which currently has a canal discharge. The Towns of Bourne, Plymouth, and Marion, along with the Academy, have been cooperating in a feasibility study led by the Coalition.

Traffic is the second biggest concern shared by Wareham and Bourne. All traffic heading to the Cape and Islands on Routes 25, 28, and 6 passes through both towns. The Massachusetts DOT is about to award a four- to eight-year contract to widen and reconstruct a section of Routes 6 & 28 known as Cranberry Highway. New sidewalks, bike lanes, and median strips will be included.

This work will involve closing portions of the road for extensive periods of time. As a result, traffic from the west heading to destinations east of the work area will have to use Route 25 and backtrack through Buzzards Bay. Some of the businesses along Cranberry Highway may have to permanently close due to land takings for the road widening.

Both Wareham and Bourne are members of the MBTA and expect to eventually see commuter rail service extended at least to Buzzards Bay. The Wareham station is likely to be built near Wareham Crossing, while the Main Street station will be repurposed to other uses. Track and signal improvements have already been made, but Buzzards Bay still needs a new platform.


The environmental, economic, and community challenges that Bourne faces must be addressed comprehensively if their solutions are to be achievable and sustainable into the future. Planning where and how Bourne grows is critical for the Town’s ecological, financial, and social future.

The Growth Policy for the Town of Bourne, expressed throughout this Local Comprehensive Plan, is to guide growth toward areas that are adequately supported by infrastructure and away from areas that must be protected for ecological, historical, or other reasons.

During development of the first LCP it became clear that a plurality of Bourne residents wanted to focus new growth and development into its downtown along Main Street in the Village of Buzzards Bay, while protecting and enhancing the traditional neighborhood characteristics and uses of all of the Town’s other village centers.

The first plan envisioned Main Street as a center of what has become known as “smart growth”, with a planned mix of residential, commercial, recreational, and government uses. In short, a place where its residents could live, work, and play without having to drive anywhere else. In the years since adoption of that plan, Buzzards Bay has made substantial progress in that direction.

To encourage smart growth in Bourne’s downtown, the Cape Cod Commission designated the Main Street area as a Growth Incentive Zone, thereby easing the regulatory requirements of development and giving the Town more direct authority over its growth. The Town also took significant action, including revising its zoning to allow greater density, flexibility, and taller structures; making streetscape improvements; establishing a design review procedure; and encouraging building owners to upgrade their façades. The state provided grants for both the streetscape improvements and the façade upgrades. More recently, the Town invested more than two million dollars upgrading the park by the railroad station.

The biggest impediment to downtown growth, identified in the first LCP, was the shortage of wastewater treatment capacity. Town Meeting subsequently supported an effort to remedy that by approving and funding construction of a new treatment facility. It took more than five years to identify an appropriate site, conduct all the required hydro-geological studies, design a facility, and get all the environmental permits. The new facility is now under construction, financed primarily by state and federal grants, and supported entirely by user fees.

As a result, private developers have stepped up and are constructing the types of uses that fit the smart growth model. Keystone Place, an assisted living facility, led the way and has been highly successful. A new Hampton Inn has been constructed on an adjacent parcel, and an age 55+ apartment complex has received approvals on a site opposite the Town’s community center. A few derelict structures along Main Street have been razed, and other developers have been consolidating smaller parcels in preparation for new construction. Many businesses that have been located downtown for decades are enjoying new levels of prosperity.


With the notable exception of downtown Buzzards Bay, and the potential exception of Joint Base Cape Cod, Bourne appears to be close to practical buildout under current zoning. On the Cape side of the canal, only the former “Canal Commons” site at the Bourne Bridge Rotary remains in play for new development that could have a notable influence on the Town’s population growth. Three relatively large parcels on the mainland side of the canal will likely be developed within the next decade.

The greatest potential for growth is in downtown Buzzards Bay. This area was targeted for growth by the first Local Comprehensive Plan and encouraged by the Cape Cod Commission when it named the district a Growth Incentive Zone. The Commission prepared a buildout analysis for this area in its 2012 report Wastewater Management Planning for Bourne’s Downtown. That study found potential theoretical buildout of 1,803 residential units, but projected practical buildout at 541 units.

Since most of these units would not be occupied by families with young children, average occupancy rates would likely continue to be less than two persons per unit. (Current population per dwelling unit is 1.73:1 town-wide). They could still increase total population of the Town by 1,000 to 3,500 persons (5.0% to 17.5%)

Timing of downtown buildout is largely dependent on the arrival of commuter rail service to Buzzards Bay. That event will trigger substantial new residential development within one-half mile of the railroad station. With the construction of the new wastewater treatment facility in Buzzards Bay, the Town should have adequate infrastructure to accommodate downtown growth for the next decade. Ultimate buildout will require a major increase in wastewater treatment capacity, which is currently being pursued as a regional solution with the Towns of Wareham, Plymouth, and Marion, as well as the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Determining either the timing or the extent of buildout is obviously an inexact science that relies largely on educated guesses. While the Town had a growth spurt between 1970 and 2000, growth has been relatively flat in recent years. A 2012 analysis by the Cape Cod Commission projected ultimate buildout of 26% residential growth and 19% commercial square footage. In a 2015 analysis, the Donahue Institute of UMass Dartmouth projected flat population levels for Bourne through 2025. Previous studies have estimated Bourne’s ultimate buildout under current zoning at 25,000 persons. That number appears to remain a reasonable assumption. The following table lays out a likely scenario for future growth, assuming no major changes at Joint Base Cape Cod.

2019: 20,000 population; 11,500 dwelling units
2024: 21,000 population; 12,000 dwelling units; 5% increase over 2019
2029: 22,600 population; 13,000 dwelling units; 13% increase over 2019
Buildout: 25,200 population; 14,500 dwelling units: 26% increase over 2019


Water Quality is the highest priority issue facing the Town of Bourne in the opinion of Town residents, as reflected in both the planning workshop and the community survey conducted in preparation of this Local Comprehensive Plan. The key element of water quality protection is reduction of total nitrogen flowing into salt water wetlands, estuaries, and embayments; and phosphorus entering fresh water ponds, streams, and aquifers.

The primary source of nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways comes from cesspools and septic systems. It is essential, therefore, that Bourne continue to actively expand wastewater collection and treatment systems and other options, especially in densely developed coastal areas. The Queen Sewell area of Buzzards Bay Village, Gray Gables, Tahanto, Barlows Landing, Pocasset Heights, Patuisset, Cedar Point, and Picture Lake are all areas of critical concern. While a potential solution to expanding wastewater service in Buzzards Bay is underway, Bourne needs to work with Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich, and Joint Base Cape Cod to develop solutions to serving the densely developed areas south of the Canal.

Traffic and transportation issues also ranked high in the opinion of Bourne residents. The primary traffic and transportation issues are elimination of all rotaries and traffic circles; replacement of the two Canal bridges; expansion of both capacity and safety of Sandwich Road, MacArthur Boulevard, and Scenic Highway; and extension of commuter rail service to Buzzards Bay. While the most crucial of these issues lie beyond the authority of the Town to manage, Bourne officials need to diligently push state and federal authorities to act.

Color edit toon Bourne rotary(Thanks to Dave Granlund for permission to use this cartoon first published in The Cape Cod Times.)

The third issue of highest priority is extension of the Shining Sea Trail from North Falmouth to the Canal. While it may seem like a trivial concern, this project would benefit the Town in more ways than any other single action it might take. It would provide a significant boost to the local economy. It would provide off-road bicycle and pedestrian connections between all of Bourne’s villages. It would increase public safety by giving cyclists an alternative to pedaling on Shore and County Roads. And it would open some of the most scenic portions of the Town’s coastline to public access without need for expanded parking areas or roads.

20181104_114204_HDR[1](Photo of the Shining Sea Trail in Falmouth by Wesley Ewell)

The national non-profit organization Rails to Trails Conservancy has documented substantial financial benefits to local businesses and to public health costs where trails have been built. It has also shown that property abutting a recreational trail increases in value compared to similar properties elsewhere, which could add a considerable amount to Bourne’s property tax base.

Extending the trail through Bourne is also a key element in the regional effort to connect all of Cape Cod’s communities with a recreational trail system extending from Woods Hole to Provincetown. The Bourne segment would certainly be the most scenic and probably the most heavily used segment of such a regional trail system.

Finally, a major recommendation in the original Bourne Local Comprehensive Plan was the revitalization of Downtown Buzzards Bay. The Planning Workshop and Community Survey both showed that this remains a high priority to a large majority of Bourne residents from all of the Town’s villages and neighborhoods.

Main Street has changed dramatically in the decade since the first Local Comprehensive Plan was published. The Veterans Memorial Community Center, the National Marine Life Center, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and the rebuilt town park attract residents and visitors from all over to our Downtown. New shops and restaurants have opened as major new developments, including Keystone Place, the Hampton Inn, and apartments have been built.

While the momentum appears to be strong for continued revitalization by private investors and developers, it is crucial that the Town continue to invest in Main Street, and offer incentives to the private sector to assure that the work continues. The goal envisioned by the first LCP was creation of a vibrant town center where residents could live, work, shop, and play without having to drive somewhere else. That dream is now close to becoming reality.


Joint Base Cape Cod, formerly known as the Massachusetts Military Reservation, comprises about 40 percent of Bourne’s land area. Unlike most military facilities, the land is owned by the state and leased to the federal government. Most importantly, the Town of Bourne has little influence over any activities or major decisions regarding the use or the future of the land.

Established as Camp Edwards in 1933 for training National Guard troops from the Northeastern states, the base became a major military staging area when the United States entered World War II after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It has subsequently been an Air Force base, Air National Guard base, Coast Guard Air Station, internment camp, and national cemetery.

The airport has a full-service control tower and runways that can easily handle the largest planes. It was designated as an alternate landing strip for the space shuttle when that program was active. During the Cold War era a fleet of planes equipped with large radar antennas called this its home base while maintaining round the clock vigilance along the coast. More recently, the Massachusetts Air National Guard based a fleet of fighter planes there but has since moved them to Chicopee.

Although the Air Force continues to maintain a presence, it is now a cyber-security research and training center, with no regular flight operations. The Coast Guard maintains the airport facilities for its air patrols and its search and rescue missions. Other branches of the military occasionally use it for training. Air Force One and associated cargo planes have used it when Presidents Clinton and Obama vacationed on nearby Martha’s Vineyard.

Future use of the base is an issue that the Town should be seriously considering. What happens to the land when the federal government decides to abandon its lease and move some or all of its operations to other locations? The question is not if that will happen but when. Closure has been considered several times in the past, and the facility is clearly underutilized now.

Even if most of the base is declared surplus, the Coast Guard Air Station is likely to remain. The National Cemetery obviously will stay and might be expanded. Much of the open woodland is permanently protected and would probably revert to its previous state as part of Crowell State Park. But would the airport be abandoned? There is a distinct possibility that MassPort might repurpose it as an additional regional or international airport to supplement Logan.

Such an event would dramatically and quickly affect all aspects of life and planning in Bourne. It could easily double or triple the traffic crossing the canal, likely resulting in a third bridge being built somewhere between the existing bridges and connecting Routes 3 and 25 with the Mid-Cape Highway and the airfield. Secondary effects could include a major housing boom on the former base land, with its subsequent demand for municipal services.

Planning for such an event remains too speculative and complex to be included in this Local Comprehensive Plan. The Town should, however, consider engaging consultants with specific experience in situations of this nature to advise how to proceed. Without a contingency plan in place, Bourne might not have time to consider all possible options and make the wisest choices in response to federal and state actions.