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The short answer is: because we have to. The longer answer is that we can't expect our taxpayers to be confident that their assessment reflects the true cash value of their property if the data for the property is wrong. For that reason, the Department of Revenue has mandated that the assessors (or an authorized representative) for all towns and cities in Massachusetts must physically inspect every parcel of real property, be it taxable or exempt, to ensure the quality and integrity of our property data. Certain events at your property will let the assessors know that we need to do an inspection at your property:
If none of those events happen at your property, we still have to inspect your property at least once every 10 years.
It's possible that we'll end up visiting your property more than once in that 10-year period. For instance, if you purchase your home in April, you should expect that the assessor will be dropping by sometime in early May for an inspection. At that point, if you do nothing else, you won't see the assessor again for quite a while. However, if you pull a building permit in June of that same year to add on a new deck, you should expect another visit from the assessor the following January to see the new work. Every visit resets the 10-year clock on your property.
Inspections are conducted Monday through Friday between 9 am and 3:30 pm. Fieldwork is a year-round enterprise for us and we've tried to instill a sense of regularity with our efforts. The annual fieldwork schedule looks something like this:
Your most recent inspection date can be found on your property's field card, which you can find by visiting our Online Assessment Database. If your property is due for a cyclical inspection, you'll find a notice from our office stuck in your front door 2 weeks before the scheduled date letting you know that we're coming. While we're able to guarantee the day we'll be there, we're unable to guarantee a specific time. If the day on your letter doesn't work for you, please give us a call and we'll try to find a date that works better for you.
Unless physically barred from entering your property, the Assessor will always approach your home from the street it fronts on and knock on your door or ring the bell. If you don't answer, the Assessor will proceed to the exterior portion of the inspection (new photos, measurements, etc.). If the assessor has reason to believe someone is home and not answering the door, he will try other doors he comes across as he makes his way around the property to give you every opportunity to answer. When this is completed, he will leave the property, and that's the end of the process.
If you're home and you answer the door, the Assessor will ask your permission to enter your home for a few minutes to do a very brief interior inspection. 99.9% of the time, he will not photograph the interior of your home at all; the only exceptions are if your home features some rare or unique feature such as a movie theater or wine cellar; in those cases, only that feature will be photographed. The only purpose of the interior inspection is to get a general feel for the interior's quality and its condition relative to the age of the house. Once this is done, the Assessor will exit your home and conduct the exterior inspection before leaving the property.
Whether you live in a cottage or a mansion, a property inspection should be completed no more than 15 minutes after the Assessor steps on your property.
There is no law in Massachusetts that requires you to let an assessor onto your property or into your home. We make every effort to be as courteous, professional and expeditious as we can with these inspections because we're keenly aware of how intrusive they are by nature. However, if you still feel uncomfortable with allowing us into your home, you are entirely within your rights to turn us away. That being said: property owners that refuse a property inspection at any point during the 10-year cycle and then subsequently appeal their assessment will often have their applications denied until such a time as they provide the assessor with access to the property.
In the majority of instances, no... but it can happen from time to time. It should be clarified that the assessor has nothing to do with how high or low your taxes are. The residents of Orleans are the body that decides how high the taxes will be when they vote for the town budget at the annual town meeting. All the assessor is doing on your property is verifying the property data. Ensuring that this data continues to be accurate is how you know that you're shouldering only the portion of the tax levy that is fair to you. The assessor showing up at your property does not mean "The town's looking to get more money out of me." That's just not at all how things work.
The only time your property's value is impacted by an inspection is if the physical data for your property has to be changed due to 1) unpermitted construction work you've done at your property since the last time we inspected or 2) past errors on our part that have not been corrected. So if you added or removed finished space in your basement, added or removed a shed or barn, or redid your kitchen without getting any building permits, the assessor will note the change at the time of the inspection and your value will be impacted. If you deny us entry or access in order to prevent the assessor from seeing updates you've made without permits, the assessor with make his best estimate as to the current quality and condition of the property based on what he is able to observe. We don't like estimating; estimates can be wrong and we don't like being wrong.
15 minutes of cooperation on your part once every 10 years to make sure everyone in town, including you, is being treated fairly is all we're asking for here.
Any questions at all about our mandatory fieldwork program should be directed to the Assessor at 508-240-3700, ext. 2430.
Many projects, even very small ones, require a building permit. All projects are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Call the building department with questions about your specific project.
The state building code and local zoning code and by-laws require permits to ensure that the code is being followed in each area. If you have a project that is not allowed under the existing by-laws or code, you can take your case to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which can grant relief in special circumstances.
Orleans zoning by-laws regulate the allowed uses in each of the town's zones and require a permit to indicate that your project will be in compliance with the by-laws. Likewise, Massachusetts State Building Code requires a permit to indicate that your building project has been designed to comply with safety standards outlined in the state building code.
Building Use Policy (PDF)
The department that requested the goods or services initially must approve your invoice for payment. If your payment is overdue, contact that department to see if your invoice has been approved and submitted for payment. If so, then contact the finance department to find out the status of your check.
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The person performing the marriage ceremony must complete and sign the original license (in black ink) and return it to the Town Clerk who issued the marriage license.
The clergyperson must obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth prior to the ceremony. This certificate, which is issued by the Public Records Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, is to be returned to the clerk of the city or town where the license was issued.
Yes, it is possible for a non-minister or non-justice of the peace (such as a relative or family friend) to obtain special permission to perform a marriage from the Governor.
An abatement is a reduction in your personal property’s assessment that you can apply for if you believe that assessment does not accurately reflect the property’s market value.
Orleans issues personal property tax bills to owners of non-domiciled homes situated in Orleans and to all businesses in town who are not expressly exempt from paying personal property tax by Mass. General Laws. You may have grounds to have this tax abated if:
3rd and 4th quarter actual tax bills with the newest certified assessments are issued in Orleans by December 31st. Once you receive that bill and if you think the assessed value is inaccurate, you must complete, sign and submit an application for abatement (along with all accompanying documents) with the Assessing office no later than February 1st. If the 3rd and 4th quarter actual tax bills are issued after January 1st, the application is due no more than 30 days from the date the bill is issued. If you are mailing your application to us, it must be postmarked no later than February 1st.
Any applications received or postmarked after February 1st, by law, must be denied.
You may pick up an application at the Assessing office or download one: Personal Property Abatement Application (PDF).
If you received a bill because the home you own in Orleans was not your domicile, you must submit proof with your application that you acquired domiciliary status prior to January 1st to have the tax abated. A current excise tax bill or vehicle registration, a copy of your voter registration or your town census return completed prior to January 1st will all serve as acceptable proof of this.
If you own a home in Orleans and rent it out unfurnished to a year-round tenant, please provide a copy of the tenant's lease or a notarized statement signed by the tenant testifying that they rent the property in an unfurnished state.
If you received a business personal property bill and...
The Board has 3 months from the date you submit your application to act on it.
If your application is granted, your property's taxable assessment will be adjusted accordingly and you will be mailed a certificate showing the adjustment to your assessment. If you choose to pay the 3rd quarter tax bill, any adjustment will be reflected on the balance that's due in the 4th quarter. If you choose to pay the 3rd and 4th quarters, any adjustment will be refunded to you via check by the Treasurer's office. Filing an abatement application does not stay the collection of your taxes. And remember, abatement applications are usually due on the same day as the 3rd quarter payment. If your plan is to wait until the Board of Assessors decides on your application before paying, you will end up incurring interest and late fees on your bill that must be paid even if an abatement is granted.
If your application is denied, no adjustment will be made to your assessment and you will be mailed a certificate stating the reason the Board denied your application.
If you don't agree with the disposition of your abatement application, you must file an appeal with the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board, the neutral third party that arbitrates assessment disputes. You can call them at 617-727-3100 or visit their website for more information.
7 copies of the Site Plan Review Committee application and all plans and descriptions are due in the Planning Department by noon on Wednesday the week before the review meeting.
You can view and print the documents from the Zoning Bylaws and Regulations page. Hard copies are available in the Planning Department for a fee.
Subdivision plan files are maintained in the Planning Department and can be viewed from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. You can view your property online via the GIS Mapping page.
Paper copies of the Federal Environmental Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Maps are located in the Planning Department at the Orleans Town Hall. They can also be seen on the Flood Mapping page.
The minimum lot size in the Residential District is 40,000 square feet, with a minimum road frontage of 150 square feet. The front, side and rear setbacks are 25 feet, and the maximum building height is 30 feet.
You can buy a copy of the Orleans Zoning By-Laws at the Town Hall in the Planning Department or at the Town Clerk's Office for a cost of $20, which includes an 8 1/2-inch by 11-inch copy of the Orleans Zoning Map. If you want to buy a large 34-inch by 44-inch sized zoning map, the cost is $20 and can be ordered through the Planning Department.
You can also find the information online at General Code Publishers. Search for Chapter 164 to find the appropriate section.
The Site Plan Review Committee meets on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month at 10 am in the Skaket Meeting Room at the Orleans Town Hall. In order to get on the Site Plan Review Committee agenda, you must bring 7 copies of your application and corresponding plans to the Planning Department by noon on the Wednesday before the Site Plan Review Committee meeting at which you wish to present your application.
The Planning Board meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month at 7 pm in the Nauset Meeting Room at the Orleans Town Hall. In order to get on the Planning Board agenda, you must have all of the required copies of the documents and plan for your project to the Planning Department by noon on the Wednesday before the Planning Board meeting at which you wish to present your application.
Copies of records can be obtained in person through the Chief's Administrative Assistant at the Orleans Police Department during normal business hours. Business hours are 8:15 am to 2:15 pm, Monday through Friday. The Records Bureau can be accessed through the front lobby of the Police Department at 90 South Orleans Road, Orleans, MA 02653. Records requests can also be made via mail. To request a copy of a record through the mail, a records requests form should be filled out and sent to the records office, along with payment by check (payable to Town of Orleans), and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. This will expedite your request. Please note that there is a nominal charge for all copies of records.
No, under state law certain records are not available. Examples of records that are not available include:
You may acquire a copy of your record from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Criminal History System's Board. Forms for such a request are available at the Orleans Police Department, or information may be obtained via the website.
Under Chapter 66 of Massachusetts General Law, the cost of a record is $0.50 for each side of a page. For requests which require more than 20 minutes to complete, a prorated hourly fee for search time and segregation time expenses, as defined by CMR 32.03, may be assessed.
If the record is a public record and it is in our files, you may usually pick it up the next business day. Unusually lengthy records or photographs may take longer.
Requests for photographs are made through the same means as copies of records. Please contact Greta Montgomery at the Records Office for a quote on the cost of photographs.
An abatement is a reduction in your property's assessment that you can apply for if you believe that assessment does not accurately reflect the property's market value.
You should seek an abatement if you believe one of the following applies to your property:
3rd and 4th quarter actual tax bills with the newest certified assessments are issued in Orleans by December 31st. If you receive those bills and if you think the assessed value is inaccurate, you must complete, sign and submit an application for abatement (along with all accompanying documents you wish to provide as evidence) with the Assessing office no later than February 1st. If the 3rd and 4th quarter actual tax bills are issued after January 1st, the application is due no more than 30 days from the date the bill is issued. If you are mailing your application to us, it must be postmarked no later than February 1st.
Any applications received or postmarked after February 1st must be denied. The Board of Assessors does not have the legal authority to consider any abatement applications that are submitted after that date.
You may pick up an application at the Assessing office or download one: Real Property Abatement Application (PDF).
As far as evidence goes, you should treat this like any other court proceeding and provide as much relevant evidence as possible. You're the plaintiff in this instance, so the burden of proof rests with you, not us. It's not enough to just say that your property's value is wrong; you have to prove it.
Here are some helpful tips for improving your chances of getting an abatement approved:
Here are some common pitfalls you'll want to avoid when filing for a real property abatement:
If you don't agree with the disposition of your abatement application, you must file an appeal with the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB), the neutral third party that arbitrates assessment disputes. You can call them at 617-727-3100 or visit their website for more information. While we certainly encourage any taxpayer who is aggrieved by an abatement denial to avail themselves of this option, the Orleans Assessing office will not provide appellants any assistance in gathering data or compiling records for an ATB hearing.
Books and magazines are loaned for 2 weeks.
DVDs are loaned for 1 week.
Audiobooks are loaned for 2 weeks.
Music CDs are loaned for 2 weeks.
Loan periods for Express items, or non-reservable copies of popular titles in fiction and non-fiction, are as follows:
Yes, the library offers 3 options for internet access:
The fee for printing materials from the library's computers or personal devices is 15 cents per page.
The Library Trustees set policy for the library. Management of the library is the responsibility of the Library Director. The Library Board of Trustees meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 2 pm in the Trustees Room of the library.
The Marion Craine Gallery may be booked by members of the public, non-profits and local organizations for the purpose of holding meetings, presenting lectures, concerts, readings and other programs. Artists may also apply to show their works in the gallery.
The Quiet Study Room may be used by individuals or small groups who need a private space in which to work or confer.
The Cape Cod Room may be used by book clubs and writing groups.
Use of the meeting rooms must comply with library policies, which may be found on the library website. Applications may be obtained at the circulation desk or online.
Snow Library leads a monthly book group, The First Tuesday Book Club, which meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 3 pm in the Cape Cod Room. Selections alternate between non-fiction and fiction, with the library director leading non-fiction discussions and the assistant director leading fiction.
The title of the following month's selection is announced at each meeting and posted on the announcement board in the front lobby, as well as on the website and the library's Facebook page. Recent fiction selections include classic titles such as "The Song of the Lark" by Willa Cather and "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf, and contemporary novels such as "Early Work" by Andrew Martin and "The Ensemble" by Aja Gabel. Recent non-fiction titles include "The Soul of an Octopus" by Sy Montgomery, "Galileo's Daughter" by Dava Sobel, and "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" by Steve Brusatte.
Bring your request to the Reference Desk and our reference librarians will be happy to search and request any item. The reference search will encompass much more than the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing (CLAMS) network.
The library owns 1 reader, which may be used for both microfilm and microfiche.
The reference librarians will be happy to assist in searching and placing a request for items that are not found in the Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing (CLAMS) network. The requested item will be delivered to Snow Library and you may be notified by phone or email.
Materials may be reserved by phone, in person and online.
Materials may be renewed over the phone, in person or online. Items that have been requested by other patrons may not be renewed.
Library membership is free to all residents of Massachusetts and non-resident taxpayers with a valid form of identification. Children of any age may receive their own card upon request of a parent or guardian. Individuals who do not reside in Massachusetts may apply for a library card with valid identification. An annual donation of $10.00 is requested of individuals not residing in Massachusetts who wish to obtain a card. Your Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing (CLAMS) library card may be used at over 26 libraries on Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
From the Sagamore Bridge, take the Mid-Cape Highway (Route 6 East) to Exit 12 (Orleans-Brewster exit). Take a right coming off the exit (Route 6A-East). Take a right at the second stoplight (Main Street). The library will be on your right immediately past a bank and the Friends Market. View a map.
The Chief Election Official supervises voter registration, oversees polling places, election officers, and the general conduct of all elections as well as directs the preparation of ballots, polling places, voting equipment, voting lists, administers campaign finance laws, certifies nomination papers and initiative petitions, and serves on the Board of Registrars. The Clerk conducts the annual town census and prepares the street list of residents.
The Recording Officer records and certifies all official actions of the Town, including Town Meeting legislation and appropriations, election results, Planning and Zoning Board decisions, signs all notes for borrowing, and the keeps of the town seal. The Town Clerk attests by signature and seal to bonds, contracts, bylaws, resolutions, and any other documents requiring town certification.
The Licensing Officer issues marriage licenses, business certificates, dog licenses, underground fuel storage registrations, and raffle permits.
The Registrar of Vital Statistics keeps all official records of births, deaths, and marriages, providing the basis for the Commonwealth's central vital registration system.
The Public Records Officer provides certified copies of vital records and is responsible for the maintenance, disposition, and preservation of municipal archival records and materials. The Town Clerk maintains the official town bulletin board and the calendar for the scheduling of meetings of any town board, commission, or committee (including subcommittees). Pursuant to MGL Chapter 39, Section 23B, such meetings are open to the public and must be held in a building accessible to the public. Board, Committee, and Commission meeting minutes are filed with the Town Clerk.
The Town Clerk administers the oath of office to all town officials, whether they are elected or appointed. The Town Clerk and the Assistant Town Clerk are Notaries Public and Commissioners to Qualify Public Officers.
Residents can receive email alerts when tax bills have been generated and be reminded via email that payment due dates are approaching. email the Tax Collector department to send us a note with your email address to sign up for these reminder notices.
If you need to change your mailing address for real estate, personal property tax and/or water bills, please fill out the change of address form and sent it to the assessing office. . They will notify other departments. If you need to change an address for motor vehicle and trailer excise tax bills, you must contact the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to make that change. The Town of Orleans cannot make any changes to your registration information.
The address on our Real Estate, Personal Property tax and Motor Vehicle Excise tax bill envelopes is for a lockbox processor in Reading, MA. The Town of Orleans, as many other Cape towns, has chosen to process the bulk of our tax payments through a bank lockbox service.
Reasons for this decision include recommendations by our audit firm during the annual evaluation process to reduce manual processing errors, as well as being more cost-effective for the Town.
Of course, we will always accept payments here at Town Hall in the Treasurer / Collector's Office, whether by mail, in person, or drop box in front of Town Hall.
To qualify for Tree City USA, a town or city must meet 4 standards established by The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. These standards were established to ensure that every qualifying community would have a viable tree management plan and program. It is important to note that they were also designed so that no community would be excluded because of size. The standards are:
Did you know that the Town has a tree management program? The Town has been a Tree City USA for a distinguished 10 years. The Town celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday in the month of April. Orleans celebrates Arbor Day every year.
Healthy street trees cannot be cut down - either at the request of residents or the Tree Warden - without a hearing. The date and time of this hearing is publicized on a placard affixed to the tree, in the legal notices section of the local Orleans newspaper, the Department of Public Works website, or Town Hall.
Anyone who objects to the removal must protest by writing to the Tree Warden or by appearing at the scheduled hearing. The removal request will be turned down if there are any objections. In this case, the resident who wants the tree cut down can file an appeal with the Board of Selectmen.
Residents who ask for removal of a healthy street tree are legally responsible for all costs associated with this process, including notification, conducting the hearing, removing the tree, and planting a replacement in a nearby location.
The Tree Warden identifies street trees for removal all throughout the year. The Tree Warden also keeps an eye out for hazardous dead limbs. Pruning and removal work takes place year-round, depending on weather conditions.
According to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 87: Section 3, the removal of a Town Tree is illegal without a Public Hearing or Tree Hearing or if the Tree Warden deems the tree a hazard to the public's safety.
Please call your Tree Warden and Certified Arborist, Dan Connolly at 508-240-3790 during the Highway Department business hours (7:30 am to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday) to report street trees that are dead or dying or dead limbs that pose a hazard to sidewalks, roadways, or privately owned structures.
Residents may submit a Tree Request directly to the Tree Warden.
According to Massachusetts General Laws (Chapter 87: Section 1. Public shade trees; definition):
"All trees within a public way or on the boundaries thereof, including trees planted in accordance with the provisions of section 7, shall be public shade trees; and when it appears in any proceeding in which the ownership of or rights in a tree are material to the issue, that, from length of time or otherwise, the boundaries of the highway cannot be made certain by records or monuments, and that for that reason it is doubtful whether the tree is within the highway, it shall be taken to be within the highway and to be public property until the contrary is shown."
In less legalese jargon, a pubic shade tree is a public tree is one that falls within the town's boundaries, is located within town property, or is a street tree that falls within a street or road's right-of-way (ROW).
What Do Tree Wardens Do? (PDF)
Nitrogen is a naturally-occurring element. It is:
Coastal waters have the ability to naturally assimilate some nitrogen load. When that capacity is exceeded, harmful algal blooms result that impairs eelgrass and bottom organisms and makes swimming and boating less desirable.
State-of-the-art scientific studies, developed by the Mass Estuaries Project, have determined that septic systems must be eliminated, as follows, to protect or restore coastal water quality:
No. That facility receives and treats "septage", the liquid sludge that accumulates in septic tanks.
The Wastewater Management Steering Committee has identified three promising wastewater plans:
The WMSC is conducting a detailed comparison of these three plans and invites your input on which is "best".
A large number of "evaluative factors" are being considered, including:
The WMSC seeks your input on which of these factors are most important.
Nitrogen loads will continue to increase and water quality problems will grow worse. Eventually, our coastal waters will be largely unfit for shellfishing and undesirable for swimming and boating. The tourist industry will suffer and property values will decline. If we do not meet the standards that are being set for nitrogen removal, we will be subject to state and federal regulatory enforcement actions, which would include mandated compliance schedules and fines.
Yes. For small towns like Orleans and its neighbors, it is usually cheaper for two or more towns to get together, provided that transport distances are not too great and suitable sites exist. The WMSC has received a grant from the Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative to look into the savings that could accrue to all towns. We are evaluating each of the candidate plans to see if they can be expanded to handle wastewater from Eastham and Brewster.
Preliminary estimates indicate that the 3 plans under consideration will cost the following:
How the facilities will be funded has not yet been determined. Capital facilities is expected to be through a combination of taxes and betterments. Access to the State Revolving Fund will help to reduce the cost to taxpayers.
Operational costs will be paid through user fees to those connected to the sewer.
Learning to read your water meter can help you discover water leaks, monitor your usage, and double-check your water bill.
Water meters are typically located in your basement. Call the water department office at 508-255-1200 for assistance in locating your water meter.
Once you have located your meter, you will notice a glass dial similar to a car's odometer (example below). The sweep hand measures each gallon of water up to 10 gallons. The first number on the right is called the "stationary zero." It represents one's place. There is no need for it to move because the sweep hand does its work. The movable dials on the left of the "stationary zero" represent the 10's, 100's, and 1,000's of gallons and so on.
Now that you know how to read your water meter, use this knowledge to locate leaks in your home:
To find out how much water (and money) is required to run your sprinkler system, dishwasher, shower, washing machine and so on:
If it is not an emergency, call the water department number 508-255-1200 and leave your message on the answering machine. If you have an emergency, contact the Orleans Police Department at 508-255-0117.
They will phone the on-call water department employee who will respond to your emergency as soon as possible.
The hardness of water is primarily due to the presence of calcium and magnesium in the water and is expressed as calcium carbonate (CACO3). Our average hardness is 16 milligrams per liter or 0.93 grains per gallon.
The average residential usage in Orleans is approximately 65 gallons per person per day.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection as an agent for the Environmental Protection Agency requires that the Orleans Water department test for certain contaminants. Each year results from these tests are published in our Water Quality Report copies.
The Orleans Water Department flushes its fire hydrants to improve water quality annually the last three weeks of April and into the first week of May.
Flushing is done to eliminate the natural iron that precipitates out of the water and accumulates on the bottom of the water mains. With the addition of the state-of-the-art Iron and Manganese Plant, our goal is to decrease the need to flush the mains in the future.
The Orleans Water Department is available to answer any questions about flushing. Please call 508-255-1200 between the hours of 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.