DRAFT Bourne SWOT Exercise Summary
Bourne Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Workshop Thursday, November 16, 2017
The Town of Bourne formally signed the Community Compact with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on January 12, 2017 to support a town-wide assessment of the Town’s economic strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats facing the community.
Bourne Town Meeting appropriated $25,000 at the October 2016 Special Town Meeting to support the development of a community wide economic development vision and strategy that considers development potential that may be available as the town builds wastewater capacity.
The goal of these efforts is to update the economic development section of the Bourne Local Comprehensive Plan (LCP) and thus provide a roadmap for future economic development efforts and related investments.
The Town seeks to engage Bourne residents in the development of this vision and strategy. On November 16, 2017, two community workshops were held to initiate specific discussions with residents on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
About the SWOT Exercise
The intended goal of the Bourne SWOT exercise was to work with workshop participants to identify community and economic development priorities relative to the goals within the LCP. The input provided will be used to inform a strategic vision and action plan for the Town relative to community and economic development.
Following a brief presentation on the project and current LCP goals, workshop participants split into four groups for the SWOT exercise. Each group participated in four sessions, providing facilitated feedback with regards to their perceptions of various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to Bourne. The following summarizes participant feedback from both workshop sessions.
Strengths – Aspects of Bourne – people, places or things – that make Bourne a good place to live and have a business
The groups all agreed that the coastline is a strong strength for the town of Bourne. It’s length, beauty and opportunities for recreational use were all listed as qualities important to Bourne. There was some discussion and suggestions offered regarding how to best leverage this asset in connection with the Blue Economy and others noted their interest in seeing more events being held that capitalize on the asset. (It was noted in other groups that these events present various other threats and weaknesses with regards to traffic.)
Institutions like Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC) and Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) received mixed feedback by participants – both were listed as strengths and later discussed as presenting weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Participants largely agreed that the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is a strength for Bourne: it makes Bourne a “college town,” was called an underestimated asset, and the expansion of the school draws parents as visitors. “It’s a practical college. There are a lot of first generation college students who attend.” It was noted that it benefits local hotels and restaurants with parents visiting their kids, finds graduates high paying jobs, local Bourne students attend, and that it benefits the downtown area. It was suggested that the MMA pier offers the opportunity for a large sailing ship as a tourist attraction year- round. Ultimately, stakeholders would like to see greater community involvement from MMA; however, some had reservations regarding its expansion and the lack of tax contribution it would provide for prime real estate on Main Street.
Joint Base Cape Cod was similarly discussed as a strength to the town with some agreeing and others disagreeing. Stakeholders noted that it was more of an asset in the past. It was also discussed that it presents opportunities for recreational uses if it were ever decommissioned (though this was further discussed as very unlikely to happen).
The location of Bourne was cited as a strength – offering access to Boston, Providence, and Provincetown within an hour and even access to cities like New York. It is easy to get on and off Cape and proximity to the “mainland” reduces costs for various services. “People have access to us, we have access to other areas.”
There was some discussion among the groups about how to best take advantage of people passing through Bourne. This is further discussed in opportunities. Some did not agree with the desire to have tourists stop, noting that they wanted year-round jobs not tourism related positions.
The villages of Bourne were listed as strengths with much discussion regarding work that could be done to enhance the historic centers. “Each is community oriented, each contributes to the town overall and each is unique.” The community that they provide is important, especially because of the canal separation of the town. They are hampered by prescriptive zoning regulations that do not allow development for greater density. There was discussion of the need to change zoning to allow business development in the village center areas. More space is needed to expand commercial areas. Participants noted that Gray Gables is now walkable and that the opportunity exists in the other villages too. The individual village identity was also a strength.
Also noted as part of the village conversation was the benefit provided by active community associations, which “provide some identity for people to talk, agree, disagree – and be part of the community.”
Town government was listed as a strength including the town meeting structure (individual members of the town all have the opportunity to be heard). Stakeholders noted other factors as well: Bourne’s commitment to asset development, the Buzzards Bay sewer (and that more is coming to the area), infrastructure on Main Street (park, sewer, clock, new park sign, the façade project) and associated State funding for improvements, a balanced budget, good fiscal management (which presents an opportunity to leverage), and enterprise funds that are functioning well. It was noted by a later group that the town is playing catchup on infrastructure from years of inaction, but this coming investment in infrastructure was framed as a strength. Stakeholders also noted town employees as assets.
Schools in town were discussed as strengths. Participants thought that the town schools are good. The program teaching kids to fish in school and the overall small size of the school system were also seen as positive. Bourne is unique in that it also has the Upper Cape Regional Technical School and MMA.
Workshop participants resoundingly called town services strengths. They spoke highly of the DPW and especially snow removal as a particular source of pride – “the Pride of Barnstable County.” They all spoke of the dump and recycling program (blue barrels, which are free to residents) as major strengths. The also agreed that the value received for the amount paid in taxes was a strength of the town. Also noted was having great community volunteers. It was noted that there was great vision by Selectmen, at the time, to push for the dump and trash removal and that strong push got town support behind it. The availability of resources made a difference at the time. There is new energy again to push for improvements.
The canal was called out specifically as a strength (it was also discussed by the groups as a weakness and source of opportunity). Referred to by one participant as the “liquid highway.” It was stated that it is important for seasonal and year-round use, sees 2 million visitors yearly, and that the canal walking and biking paths provide recreation and are a draw for visitors. One person commented that they would like to capitalize on the canal and visitors with advertising, they mentioned “tasteful” billboards, roof signs, or other advertising that could provide revenue to the town. This was not largely agreed to but there was subsequent conversation regarding the need to better capitalize on the canal as an asset.
Current and coming development projects were discussed as strengths. Examples included: the new Hampton Inn hotel in Buzzards Bay, Keystone Place, and the Calamar apartment building project.
Buzzards Bay was called out for its current zoning of Buzzards Bay – has incentives and is attractive for development but other areas in town are more like your “typical Cape Cod zoning.”
Much discussion centered on Buzzards Bay as a strength and as presenting opportunities for the future. Stakeholders commented that the town should focus on Buzzards Bay as the real downtown with a walkable, boutique feeling. It was discussed that the town should see the area as a blank slate.
Participants cited the need for infrastructure and more wastewater capacity, mixed use development, and offered suggestions regarding height and the view at 5 or 6 stories high. There were suggestions for adding another college to the area and/or expanding MMA closer and onto Main Street. It was noted there is a need for entry level positions for the school graduates. Infrastructure or facades of downtown buildings were discussed as assets that are at risk. The town’s Design Review Committee is working to
improve this. The business owners are engaged in these efforts but not all property owners are engaged.
There are owners who are unwilling to make any investment. Tax incentives are big here, there are multi-levels that can be done.
Participants cited open land as a strength. Open land that is available for development – Bourne has the largest tract of developable land and also has a number of large lots that are still available for development including the Ingersoll property, Canalside property and Sorenti land. Open land for conservation – while this is a strength, it was also mentioned that the open lands lack any sort of connection and that the town feels separated.
Recreation opportunities were discussed as strengths with Bourne offering plenty of: walking trails, the Cape Cod Baseball League team, kayaking, water recreation, fishing, the Canal bike path, ability to “walk the canal,” marshes, and other ball fields.
The Route 28 corridor was discussed as a strength because of future potential (not necessarily as it exists now) – the group commented that there is, “more to Bourne than Rt. 28” but that most people who are not residents simply pass through on their way to another destination.
Market Basket was called out as a strength, citing job creation, that it improved the plaza where it is located, and that a grocery store was needed in town. The other small village stores were also seen as strengths – people appreciate the country feel of them.
Other specific strengths identified include: the National Marine Life Center, historic nature of the town and its historic significance, and the train bridge.
The sense of community was discussed as a very tangible strength. “Full-time people live here.” The canal offers a natural community gathering area. “Quiet, village based residential neighborhoods.”
Later discussions addressed housing. With one stakeholder commenting that, “generally, there’s been a lot of success in Bourne with private sector development [of housing/apartments].” Working on trying to get more housing repair programs on a town wide basis. Trying to work with developers – to work with them and assist them to do small amounts as affordable or market rate. Moderately priced family apartments in Buzzards Bay are needed. There is a need for greater density in some compact areas including Buzzards Bay, “depending on infrastructure and willingness – it’s all a matter of what people want – infrastructure and what it can be.”
Weaknesses – Aspects of Bourne that detract from living and doing business in Bourne
In addressing weaknesses, participants in both the morning and evening groups noted the separation of the town by the canal. One commented, “because of the disconnect, people instead do things in neighboring towns.” Speaking about the separated feel of town other comments noted the rural town feeling, that everything is spread out, and that there is no real town center instead there are many small centers/villages. More than one person referred to Bourne as the “pass through town.” This separation also creates issues for afterschool programs – the community center has programming, but kids that are on the other side of the bridge currently have no way to get over there.
These comments naturally shifted to address the lack of public transit and issues with traffic. The groups concurred that, with very limited public transit routes, you have to have a vehicle to get around and that this especially impacts the elderly and school children. Traffic and congestion concerns were also agreed upon, with such issues as: congestion that inhibits resident travel, traffic along the bridges (people avoid those areas because of known traffic issues), narrow roads where people speed heavily, and traffic apps/GPS devices that send travelers down residential roads to avoid traffic. One stakeholder added that they have a desire to prevent big trucks from frequenting County Road as a traffic go around.
The bridges were addressed as a weakness, “it all comes down to two roads -Route 6 and 28.” Aging infrastructure requires more frequent maintenance work that disrupts travel and creates additional traffic snarls.
More planning needed for MacArthur Boulevard was identified as a need and a current weakness. Participants discussed this area as posing opportunity for future improvement but that currently it has many weaknesses. There are restrictions related to a water resource area in the industrial park – “where we’re supposed to develop, but can’t.” A 9-lot commercial subdivision was approved for redevelopment
– but never came to be and expired.
Lack of town identity. There was much discussion in both sessions around this concept of town identity and a number of people identified Bourne as having an “inferiority complex” related to this lack of identity. “Are we a Cape town, are we not a Cape Town (criticism projected on Bourne from outside).” “People say you’re not really the Cape. You’re not far enough down.”
Comments about town identity moved into addressing another related weakness with regards to the marketing of Bourne. Participants commented that there is no branding of Bourne. Small things that help define a community, like lists of events and town happenings, or location of walking trails aren’t (easily) available. Lack of way-finding maps in downtown Buzzards Bay are also missing. It was addressed that people hold old perceptions about the town that have changed in recent years but that they have no way of knowing it on a surface level.
There was also discussion about a lack of vision for the town and the idea that the town is risk adverse. Participants noted that many residents in Bourne can be protective or resist change. “We are so lacking in forward thinking and protectionist in our thinking.” “There needs to be a 150% guarantee that it’s going to be a success, or we don’t do it.” Stakeholders further noted that the town needs to be able to express a vision related to development and have a sense of confidence for developers to understand what the town wants. Developers want to feel like they’re coming into a community that has a place for them.
The Cape Cod Commission was addressed as a weakness; however, the Growth Incentive Zone in Buzzards Bay was regarded as a strength. A stakeholder commented that Bourne is the only town that significantly borders non-Commission towns and that developers will choose to develop elsewhere so that they can avoid review and not pay an additional cost. There was some negative feedback regarding regulatory reviews dating back 20 years while others commented that the Commission needs to reach out and let people know they’re not the same as they were 20 years ago. There was also discussion about the offsets required by the Commission and the need for offset formulas to be reviewed.
One stakeholder saw residential offsets of the Growth Incentive Zone as an issue for housing development in Buzzards Bay.
The rail line was discussed as creating a weakness. One stakeholder mentioned that it runs through prime real estate in all major areas of town and prevents the town from developing the right of way. Others identified the railroad was also seen as an opportunity and a strength.
Participants discussed the lack of affordable and workforce housing as a weakness for the town.
The groups all commented on what was referred to as a “food desert.” There is a need for a grocery store in other areas of town, with one woman noting that the closest grocery store to her is 11 miles away in Falmouth. They further addressed the lack of shopping areas and low business activity, noting that people shop in Plymouth and Wareham where there are large recent developments. Even though there is interest in developing in the villages, there isn’t developable land or it has zoning restrictions.
Limited locations for business/industrial development. Just two major tracts of land that can be developed (former Canalside Commons and Ingersoll property between Route 25 and Scenic Highway). “That could be the place for the supermarket for this (main land) side of town.”
Joint Base Cape Cod. Bourne has more open space set aside than most towns, but much of that is tied up in the military reservation – “it’s 35 to 40% of available land,” stated one stakeholder. It limits the town geographically. But was noted that in doing so it also took away land that could be developed (this was seen generally as a positive).
Mass Maritime Academy. As in other groups, this was discussed as a weakness but also as a strength. There was a feeling that the school is encroaching on the community as it expands and makes more land tax free. “Every time the school takes on land it impacts our tax rate.” One participant commented that when families visit MMA the town can’t capitalize to the fullest extent because there are no hotels in town. This was further discussed that while there are hotels in town there aren’t any downtown (yet).“We are a college town, but we don’t identify as one.”
The apportionment of real estate tax was cited as a problem by one participant, with small property owners paying the same as large (no specific examples given, but seemed related to person’s property and researched. It was suggested this is an assessing issue, not actually an issue with the tax structure.).
The Buzzards Bay area was discussed at length in both sessions, with a number of identified weaknesses. Buzzard Bay being in a floodplain impacts development potential. There is a need for more wastewater treatment capacity. There is a need for a food store, even a small one, in the area. Current lack of walkability creates a disconnected feel.
Existing buildings can be a detriment with regards to blighted properties and vacancies. There was some discussion about things people would like to see on Main Street but that currently don’t exist or are not allowed: free outdoor movie nights, food trucks, farmers market/food co-op, Dunkin Donuts/coffee shop. With regards to large events, one person commented that the Main Street can’t host anything large because of parking and access issues.
Stakeholders also addressed the flow of traffic in the area, commenting that the traffic pattern needs to be improved – it’s a pass through.
There is a walkability issue in village centers. While the small village centers could be assets, their limited infrastructure, size, and distance from residential units to the village centers makes it difficult. Discontinuity of sidewalks in the villages and lack of bike lanes fosters feeling of separation
Zoning is an issue. Participants commented that a Village Business District would be helpful and that it needs to be approved by town meeting. There is a feeling that everything requires a special permit. The groups expressed a strong desire to change zoning and provide incentives for mixed use or density bonus for housing.
It was discussed in the evening group that while the coastline presents many opportunities, the way that residents prohibit access and offer limited beach access for non-residents should be viewed as a weakness.
Lack of an economic development department/director is a weakness for the town. Discussion focused on the need for someone to serve as a liaison to work with the Chamber of Commerce or someone who would work at attracting investors. Bourne hasn’t invested in economic development, but there is lack of town economic development department and limitations of staffing.
Need for Business Development – stakeholders talked about the need for a balance of wanting to see more tourists stopping on their way through town and wanting to see more year-round employment. Fixes could come through partnerships with institutions like WHOI to promote business activity.
The need for improved communication between the town and residents was discussed as a weakness but also as an opportunity. There is a need to better communicate with residents about happenings, meetings, and decisions being made. They need better use of technology: sharing information and meeting materials ahead of meetings. The town needs a friendlier website and to increase use of social media and other web communications. The town needs a communications plan for all town projects that includes a mix of media like print, signage on location, social media posts, newsletters, BOS meetings, etc. and needs to proactively communicate with accurate information. It was mentioned that “things are being done without people feeling like they have a say.”
Need for greater Community engagement. There is a need for festivals that engage the community, like Hyannis Open Streets and Harbor Your Arts, pop up galleries, outdoor movies, and anchor restaurants that draw people to the area. Needed throughout town but more so in Buzzards Bay. The town should look for more opportunities to partner with MMA.
There was some discussion regarding the role of the Chamber of Commerce with some stakeholders feeling like they need to be more actively involved with Bourne businesses and others commenting that they feel the Chamber does a good job with their available resources. The Chamber is “canal area” and not specific to Bourne, but it needs to be more actively engaged with new businesses (not just the existing base).
The group saw the loss of the Scallop Festival as a detriment but there was discussion about efforts underway to bring it back. A number of limiting factors were discussed about why it was removed including traffic and vulnerable populations in the Taylor’s Point area that were cut off by traffic.
Participants talked about how it is a weakness that town isn’t in control of so many large-scale infrastructure decisions like the commuter train, bridges, canal, base.
There was also some discussion about a perceived weakness regarding the quality of Bourne public schools. It was noted that while this issue exists in town, it tends to be personal or related to their child’s experience. It was suggested that school can engage with parents more.
Other weaknesses included in discussion: relationship with state and federal partners, lack of medical services in Buzzards Bay, risk adverse, need for greater involvement by younger residents in town processes, lack of nightlife/entertainment, and lack of municipal infrastructure on the south side of the bridge. It was also noted that there is a “Not in my back yard” mentality.
Opportunities – Trends happening outside of Bourne that could strengthen the community
Opportunities came up frequently in the other group discussions. Strengths were often discussed in relation to future opportunities and even discussions on weaknesses and threats came around to conversations regarding opportunities for improvement. As with the other sessions, there was overlap among stakeholders regarding topics that they considered opportunities/threats/weaknesses/strengths.
In addressing opportunities, participants noted the rise of commuting in town, and the opportunity for telecommuting (especially in light of the OpenCape infrastructure running down Main Street). Every car that comes on Cape has to pass through Bourne – there is an opportunity. The possibility of the commuter rail coming was discussed as an opportunity. Redevelopment of the bridges presents an opportunity for Bourne. One stakeholder suggested the collection of tolls from visitors.
Opportunities to market the natural resources, beaches, etc exist. Bourne has miles of shoreline and deep water access. There are opportunities to expand public beach parking and preserve conservation areas. There is a demand for rail trail type activities as nearby communities are becoming saturated and there are opportunities for eco-tourism.
There are opportunities in hydro-technology and in green technology development, engineering, robotics, research and development, and the blue economy movement, as well as opportunities to increase technology jobs with companies like Hydroid.
It was suggested to connect Route 25 to the scenic highway and develop the Bournedale parcel into a Tech Park.
Participants again addressed their favorable view of town services. They offered comments about low taxes, high quality and free trash service, and their DPW.
Stakeholders commented about the opportunity to better capitalize on the fact that Bourne is a college town. Opportunities for more communication with Mass Maritime Academy. They need more housing and more academic buildings. Opportunity to partner with the town to use recreational facilities/field exist.
Stakeholders felt that education is an asset and that there are opportunities to better capitalize on the high quality education offered through MMA, Upper Cape Tech and other schools in town.
There is an opportunity to market/position Buzzards Bay as a central hub to Boston, Providence, Provincetown. There is a potential for partnerships with many local hospitals and medical institutions, WHOI, JBCC, MMA, schools, etc.
Stakeholders commented that there is a pent up demand for development. They gave examples of the GIZ in Buzzards Bay, and the area north of Main Street as offering potential for development. Bourne offers a favorable location for business relocation, including opportunities with the academic communities in Boston/Providence, Boston hospitals, and new manufacturing. There are many opportunities for redevelopment potential throughout town. Large tracts of developable land still exist, such as the 170 acre Ingersoll family property. Route 28 is an underutilized commercial area – there are opportunities for development and re-development in this area.
There is a reasonable housing market compared to other locations – increase density (smaller lot sizes would create more affordable homes). There exist opportunities (and empty lots) for more residential development in Buzzards Bay. There is demand for housing coming from Boston and a pent up demand for workforce housing. The appetite for smart growth projects is growing. High demand for rentals and desire for walkability was identified several times. People having second careers and Bourne as a desirable retirement location also presents an opportunity.
There are opportunity to increase walkability. Younger people want walkable communities and there is an opportunity to align housing choices for millennials and baby boomers. The town can also look to attract the active retirement population.
Opportunities to expand wastewater treatment to foster more development where it is desired are at the forefront. Alternate ways of mitigating water pollution through aquaculture should be explored.
Ample coastline and the presence of academic institutions present an opportunity for collaboration.
Buzzards Bay – The floodplain issues in Buzzards Bay present future opportunities for re-development. Future investment may be attracted by the new hotel. Demand for housing in Buzzards Bay can drive economic development. Tall ships coming through the canal present an opportunity for festivals around the maritime atmosphere. Buzzards Bay Park/Canal Park should be better utilized. It was suggested that the town could buy land in Buzzards bay for a business incubator to drive business development.
Opportunity is there to brand and market Bourne in a way that addresses comments brought up in other sections of the workshop.
Establishing communications plan for external entities in order to maintain as much local control of processes impacting the community is important.
It was suggested that trimming the trees so that you can see the marina from the Buzzards Bay east end rotary would present an opportunity to increase awareness of the marina.
Other opportunities include: elder care, being proactive about accessibility to attract more people, water taxis/ferries to avoid bridge traffic, the future of JBCC, a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries/shops, popularity of craft beer brewing, maritime/working waterfronts, more medical facilities, market the Buzzards Bay pavilion for weddings.
Threats – Things from outside of Bourne that put the community at risk
The discussion started out by looking at external threats like those from limited incomes of the older community. The stock market is impacting investments and retirements. The town has no control over that, but the region relies heavily on an older population. The retirement age is becoming older.
The lack of housing choice available to the market presents a threat as the community ages and their needs and preferences change. There are not enough primary care doctors in town. Competition for housing by the second home market is a threat to service employees. Sustainable communities need “affordable housing for families.”
There is competition for supply and no stock. Too often young families make just too much income to qualify for “affordable housing” yet are out of range for market priced homes.
Increasing traffic, some of which is caused by phone apps and GPS directing traffic to residential areas, is impacting the entire community. Traffic congestion is not insignificant to the town, especially in the summer at peak traffic flow. Lack of public transportation presents a threat as does the lack of walkability. Traffic from events/bike/running races present a threat to disrupt business activity, but these types of events were also identified as opportunities that should be pursued.
We face a variety of environmental threats including global warming and the impact to houses on the shoreline. We could also be threatened by an environmental disaster such as an oil spill on the canal. Flooding- flood insurance, potential damages to infrastructure, damage to properties, flood zone changes – all impact the cost of living and risk to infrastructure. Floodplain issues preventing business development in Buzzard’s Bay.
The regulatory environment can also be a threat, specifically with regards to new regulations about stormwater, building codes, and development in the floodplain. Additionally, the town is bordered by other towns under different regulations. Businesses/employers develop in neighboring towns because it is considered easier. Local zoning is a hurdle. A significant threat to the development of downtown Buzzard’s Bay is that residents do not want change. They want to keep the area as it is and zoning changes require a Town Meeting vote.
Lack of control and outside entities. Army Corps controls the bridges and Bourne has little say in the upkeep etc. The Town lacks the ability to maintain infrastructure owned by outside sources (the bridges, main roads controlled by state and federal government, private roads, etc.). Regional infrastructure is weak, specifically gas lines and MBTA is in charge of the railroad.
The potential loss of service from the electrical grid (NSTAR) presents a threat outside control of the town. Mass Maritime Academy offering little community involvement and not contributing to the tax base. Potential for future lack of funding for the National Marine Wildlife Center could pose a threat to the downtown area.
JBCC. Development is restricted because the base controls a significant amount of land. The military does not financially contribute as much as they should or are required to by agreement. Superfund areas are a threat. Working with the base is difficult because of the many entities represented. Their ownership of a significant amount of land disconnects parts of town and makes travel difficult.
MassDevelopment might be a possible threat if they take development away from the town. The future use of JBCC was brought up as a potential threat.
Participants commented that the Town is a “food desert” and the fact that there is only one supermarket is a problem. Stakeholders noted that the downtown needs to be more inviting to attract small business.
Bourne is often considered a “pass through” community, not a destination. One stakeholder suggested that Bourne is bypassed because of perception of wealth.
Quality and duplicity of development at/around the bridges – . Another stakeholder noted that there could be a threat from too much development in town. The quality of properties in town – many are blighted and have absentee landlords
Residents are resistant to change – this presents a threat as the town looks to plan for the future.
Other threats identified include opioid use, failure to embrace density and continued preference for low building heights, the need for duplicative services because of the separation from the canal, threats to water quality, the lack of unity among the villages of the town, community preservation tax, limited beach parking, and the evacuation plan for the nuclear power plant in Plymouth.
Another SWOT workshop is now planned to finalize the report. Results of that exercise will be posted here when available.