Chilmark blazes trail for Truro


To the Editor:

At the April 25 annual town meeting, the citizens of Truro voted to protect their portion of the Cape Cod National Seashore from the onslaught of megamansions, and we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Chilmark for this. The voter-approved zoning bylaw was modeled after Chilmark’s pathbreaking bylaw, passed in 2013. Our voters were inspired and motivated by Thomas Bena’s landmark film, “One Big Home,” spreading the message of restraint to preserve town character.

Most people think of our National Seashore as miles of ocean beaches, wild land, and forest on the Outer Cape, which are indeed magnificent. However, it was John F. Kennedy, working with his colleagues across the aisle as a freshman U.S. senator, who championed the idea that the park should preserve the beauty of “Old Cape Cod” that had all but vanished from the Upper Cape. Unique at its time, this park encompasses more than 200 private properties in Truro and hundreds in neighboring towns, where the park remains a picture of man living in quiet harmony with a gentle landscape.

Despite the best efforts of the National Park Service, it became apparent over the years that nothing short of more restrictive town zoning would prevent old Capes, modest cottages, and cabins from being torn down and replaced by the aggressive intrusion of huge houses. House-size regulation in Massachusetts remains in its infancy, but is based on case law, as Chilmark attorney Jessica Roddy recognized in 2013. And by sheer coincidence, the late Dan Greenbaum’s daughter, Anne, who has a home in Truro, was channeling her father, which was a major force in our win. Filmmaker Thomas Bena, along with Chris Murphy, a member of the Chilmark zoning board of appeals, visited Truro twice to share with our audiences their knowledge and wisdom. The historic wins in Chilmark and Truro may augur the growth of local activism in our country, showing that a small group of concerned private citizens can make a difference. What could be a more wonderful way to celebrate the centennial of President John F. Kennedy!

John Marksbury, Chuck Steinman