GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 15, 2013

Letter: Rockport straying from town residents' goals


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Michael Rauseo, the new owner of the Cape Ann Tool Company property, recently appeared before the Board of Selectmen, seeking support of his new proposals to develop the property.

Mr. Rauseo need not fear. While no town board can either overtly promote nor obstruct any legal development, all the evidence over the last two years suggests his current, or any other future proposals for that matter, will be a slam dunk in the current board’s eyes.

As he forges ahead with his plans, however, he may find others who are not quite as agreeable; not so much of him or his visions, really, but as a result of Board of Selectmen decisions which made his bargain basement acquisition of the property so possible.

Section 81D of the Massachusetts general laws states in part: “A Planning Board established in any city or town under Section 81A shall make a master plan of such city or town or such part or parts there of a said board may deem advisable and from time to time may extend or perfect such a plan. Such plan shall be a statement, through text, maps, illustrations or other forms of communications, that is designed to provide a basis of decision making regarding the long-term physical development of the municipality. The comprehensive plan shall be internally consistent with its policies, forecasts and standards, and shall include the following element:

“Goals and policies statement which identifies the goals and policies of the municipality for its future growth and development. Each community shall conduct an interactive public process, to determine community values and goals, and to identify patterns of development that will be consistent with these goals.”

Rockport’s latest undertaking to fulfill those requirements resulted in a downtown master plan prepared over the course of two years, 2010-2011, and released in 2011. The report’s executive summary states the intention of the Planning Board to continue the planning process by rolling other reports and the newly completed downtown master plan into a town-wide master plan.

Early in the report, on page 3, the Planning Board recognized, as its first vision, asset and goal that: “Rockport’s harbors and waterfronts are the defining assets of the community and central to its history, economy and image and quality of life. Increase and enhance access to the harbor for commercial and recreational purposes, protect the quality of the harbors’ resources and preserve the scenic and historical elements of the harbors and adjacent land...”

Page 86 of the 2011 Town of Rockport Annual report, tells us that the selectmen voted unanimously to adopt the plan at their meeting on Nov. 15, 2011.

I continue to be deeply disturbed by how those long-term goals were ignored and the slipshod manner in which four members of the Board of Selectmen, in that very same month and year, began a process to put short-range financial considerations above long-term benefit ... but a cornucopia of misleading and myth-perpetuating statements gleaned from town records and other shapers of public opinion is too much to address in one, or indeed, several letters to the editor. Since most of the issues involve land planning, I have taken to documenting my concerns in biweekly written submissions to the planning board, presented during the citizen inquiry session.

In the case of the Cape Ann Tool Company, I have asked the Planning Board to revise a statement on page 42 of the master plan. That statement, under section V, “Improve Economic Activity,” said that “finding available land or facilities in Rockport for business activities other than retail is a challenge.”

In light of selectmen’s decisions that promoted residential housing in towns only remaining general district, for example, I have asked the Planning Board to remove the word “challenge” and replace it with “impossible.” Likewise, actions of other town boards substantially negatively impacted “keeping commercial property in commercial uses as well as the ability to obtain land for industrial or large commercial facilities that need unobtrusive yet accessible sites.”

In the spirit of the interactive public process desired and required by general law, I have asked that my submissions be retained by the Planning Board as part of their official records. As such, they are available for public review at Town Hall Annex during normal Planning Board hours.

I will certainly be adding more at future scheduled Planning Board meetings.

ZENAS SEPPaLA

Granite Street, Rockport