There was no question that the wastewater infrastructure of Yarmouth, Massachusetts was overdue to be replaced, but the local REALTORS took no chances when a major plan that was years in the making was put to a final vote. A campaign supported by an Issues Mobilization grant from the REALTOR Party reminded voters how important the new system was to the environment, the residents, and to the peninsula’s tourist economy.
Clean water is essential for a healthy environment and the prosperity of any community. On Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which has been under a federal Environmental Protection Order to clean up its waterways for about two decades, the town of Yarmouth is finally ready to begin overhauling its share of the peninsula’s wastewater infrastructure. An Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped promote the positive-yet-costly changes to voters, who recently supported three major articles authorizing the first phase of the massive project.
Ryan Castle, CEO of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS®, explains that while the Cape is home to 4% of the state’s population, it contains 20% of its septic systems, to the serious detriment of the area’s water quality. “The current system is actively harming the environment. The lack of a viable sewer system is standing in the way of any housing development, which is desperately needed, and enhancements to tourism, which is the foundation of our economy. We have vacant commercial properties that can’t be developed as restaurants, because they don’t have hot water to wash dishes!” Although waterways don’t recognize town lines, he says, the problems must be solved by many neighboring jurisdictions, so all the towns along the length of the Cape are working together to do so. “This is a top priority for the REALTORS®, who care about this issue for all the many urgent reasons, and care about the clean-up being done in a way that is sensitive to property rights.” Across the Cape, they have branded a “REALTORS® for Clean Water” campaign to call attention to the challenges.
In Yarmouth, after years of planning, three articles that would authorize the construction of a new sewer treatment facility and initiate the extensive retro-fitting of the many septic systems in town were up for a vote at a special Town Meeting last November. Though the town’s dilapidated commercial corridor is unfit for redevelopment because of the lack of appropriate sewer infrastructure, and some of its waterways have been deemed too unhealthy to fish, the new project still met with some resistance from those who found the price tag too steep. With a grant from the REALTOR® Party augmenting Issues Mobilization funds of its own, the Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS® mounted a persuasive campaign that included a mailer and targeted robo-calls and texts, as well as a week of digital advertising.
In communities where critical civic decisions are made at Town Meetings open to any registered voter, issues mobilization is key, notes Castle. 238 voters attended the meeting at Yarmouth’s middle school, and he is certain that the REALTORS®’ timely messaging helped to underscore the necessity of getting the public works effort underway. Working with the REALTOR® Party on a campaign is nothing to be intimidated by, he adds. “It’s really pretty easy. If you don’t have a background in political campaigns, or if you’re a small operation without the band-with for a big project, the REALTOR® Party staff will lay out the strategy, cost it all out for you, and connect you with vendors and consultants. They’ll also walk you through the application process every step of the way.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® have taken a leadership role in supporting a healthier wastewater system throughout Cape Cod, contact Ryan Castle, CEO of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS®, at email@example.com or 508.957.4300.