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Let’s Celebrate Our County Government: Cape Cod Commission! 

It’s National County Government Month and that means it’s time to celebrate our county government and the services they offer. This spotlight is on Barnstable County’s Cape Cod Commission, so thank you for the amazing things you do for our county and our community. Learn more about the Cape Cod Commission below!

Some quick background:
The Cape Cod Commission is the regional land use planning, economic development, and regulatory agency created in 1990 to serve the citizens and 15 towns of Barnstable County, Massachusetts. An unprecedented growth boom on Cape Cod in the 1980s prompted the Massachusetts state legislature to pass the Cape Cod Commission Act in 1989. The Act was signed into law by the Governor in January 1990. Since 1990, the Cape Cod Commission has provided the public with opportunities to voice concerns and ideas on land use policies and issues; brought diverse decision makers together to share a regional viewpoint about significant resources; pursued a multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach to planning, environmental protection, and economic development; identified regional opportunities to improve infrastructure and make progress on economic challenges; built awareness of the community impacts of development of all kinds; provided the community with a wealth of data and research; and established strong partnerships with state and federal agencies and local communities.

Learn about what the Purchasing Department does from Sarah Colvin, the Communications Director at the Commission:

Q: What is the mission of your department?

A: The Cape Cod Commission’s mission is to protect the unique values and quality of life on Cape Cod by coordinating a balanced relationship between environmental protection and economic progress.

Q: How has your department contributed to the COVID-19 response over time? What has your department done for the community in response to COVID-19?

A: As the regional planning agency for Barnstable County, the Cape Cod Commission plays a large role in response and recovery to COVID-19, especially as it relates to our local economy.

Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Kristy Senatori is a member of the Cape Cod COVID-19 Task Force, a group comprised of dedicated community leaders that collaborate on issues related to the pandemic.

In March 2020, we developed a comprehensive list of COVID-19 resources for the community. The Commission worked closely with Cape Cod Healthcare and the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment to create a dynamic heatmap showing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases at a detailed geographic level within Barnstable County. This joint effort is designed to empower our community to make informed choices about public health safety precautions.

Cape Cod Commission staff created a COVID-19 Municipal Planning Strategies Toolkit that provides resources for municipal planners and staff related to COVID-19 and responding to community and business impacts.

We created the Cape Cod COVID-19 Data Dashboard, a site that provides demographic and economic data for Cape Cod towns, non-profit organizations, and businesses recovering from the economic impacts of COVID-19. The dashboards include regional and town data on population demographics, unemployment trends, rooms and meals tax revenues, employment, traffic, housing, and seasonality.

In June 2020, the Cape Cod Commission received a $400,000 CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support efforts to respond and recover from the devastating economic impacts caused by the pandemic and to develop strategies to improve resilience in the future. Using these grant funds, the Cape Cod Commission will work with a consultant to support business recovery planning efforts in the region. A Recovery and Resiliency workshop series designed for local business owners was launched in early 2021.

Working with the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, we developed a series of economic impact surveys issued to Cape Cod business owners over the course of the year. These surveys helped to better understand the economic impacts of COVID-19. Data collected through the surveys is being used to support economic recovery and can be leveraged by businesses, towns, and other organizations in grant applications and reports.

The Cape Cod Commission, on behalf of the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners and the Barnstable County Economic Development Council (BCEDC) awarded $136,347 in grant funds through the Barnstable County License Plate Grant Program to support a variety of COVID-19 recovery and resiliency projects.

Q: What challenges has your department had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic and how have you overcome those challenges?

A: Transitioning our Cape Cod Commission board meetings, along with the meetings of multiple boards and committees we support, presented an initial challenge. In addition, we had to rethink the ways in which we engage stakeholders and the broader community in planning processes. Many of the Cape Cod Commission’s plans, like our Regional Policy Plan, Regional Transportation Plan, and Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy are developed in collaboration with stakeholders and the public. Residents have the opportunity to engage with the Commission as plans are developed, and during public comment periods. Through development of the Cape Cod Climate Action Plan, we employed new strategies for engaging stakeholders in meaning discussions in the virtual environment. We are pleased with how quickly and efficiently our board and staff was able to transition to the virtual space. Cape Cod Commission staff continues to be productive working remotely

Q: What is one project/initiative your department completed in the past year that you are proud of?

A: In addition to the Cape Cod Commission’s COVID-19 response work, we have spent the past several months in an intense, community-based collaborative process to create Cape Cod’s first-ever Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan seeks to identify, study, and monitor the causes and consequences of climate change on Cape Cod as a basis to guide and develop science-based policies, strategies, and actions that governments, businesses, organizations, and individuals can pursue to improve the region’s resilience to climate hazards and mitigate climate change on Cape Cod through reducing net regional greenhouse gas emissions in support of the framework and targets established by the Commonwealth. The Cape Cod Climate Action Plan will be released to the public in late Spring 2021.