Tribe weighs in on future of Mashpee Commons

MASHPEE — The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had the last word in a monthslong public process for the planned expansion of Mashpee Commons, marking the end of the project’s community vision phase.

Developers of the mixed-use shopping center met with tribal citizens and Mashpee residents at tribal headquarters on Monday to gather input before the project heads into the next phase, which is expected to begin at the end of winter or the beginning of spring.

Arnold “Buff” Chace, managing general partner at Mashpee Commons, said after input is gathered and analyzed, the team with engage the community through public forums and design charrettes to give direction to the ideas and themes raised throughout the workshop phase.

“We’ll actually take the ideas and we’ll have architects and designers draw them out,” Chace said.

The workshop sessions gave the community an opportunity to brainstorm the future of Mashpee Commons. During the first meeting in October, residents said they wanted to see more green space, affordable housing, parking and bike trails.

Mashpee Commons recently completed the construction of some 12,000 square feet of retail space for small businesses and 52 apartments. Its master plan calls for the creation of 382 housing units in accordance with the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing laws — a target Mashpee Commons officials recently suggested may not be economically feasible.

But there are ways they could achieve their desired mix of housing. They could pursue a commercial center special permit, which would allow them to build residential space, or an open space incentive development special permit, which is a residentially-focused bylaw that removes impediments to “cluster developments,” such as Mashpee Commons.

Alternatively, Chace said the team wants to propose a form-based code for the slated expansion, which would favor scale, mass and placement of buildings with respect to a new development area rather than separate uses.

“It’s the new, new thing in planning,” Chace said.

But not all tribe members are on board with the idea of more land development. Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman Jesse “Little Doe” Baird expressed concern about the town’s diminishing open space.

“The fact that Mashpee still has 40 percent of its undeveloped land as open space is something to be proud of,” Baird said.

Tribe members also raised the question of affordability, with one person saying that the existing shopping center does not cater to the needs of residents.

“It’s not very functional for the average Mashpee resident,” Latoya Green, said longtime Mashpee resident and tribe member.

Tony Simon, a spokesman for Mashpee Commons, said over the next few months the team will create a forum to re-engage the community, which would focus on “bigger themes and issues” after initial input is processed.

“The next couple of months we’re going to be collecting and analyzing the data we receive from the public,” he said.