, Gloucester, MA

September 19, 2013

Letter: Rockport must change course at Long Beach

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

What to do about the residents/lessees of Long Beach, Rockport? The solid coverage of the issue as it appears in the Times (Page 1, Wednesday, Sept. 18) tells it like it is.

Let me say that I do appreciate the views submitted in a letter to the editor as also published in the Wednesday issue of the Times. But the authors are a subject to the extreme — paying taxes for dual Rockport residences. That is luxury.

The properties on Long Beach are prime real estate. On a stand-alone basis, the property lots can command top prices in the current market.

It is specious to suggest the town should be concerned that some residents on fixed incomes can’t deal with rental increases; nor does the fact that some residents’ alternate life styles off season deserve rental consideration because the place on the beach is the one, true home.

We are senior citizens. We live in a decent neighborhood, and our taxes have doubled in the last ten years. Sure, there is a tax abatement policy, and some full-time residents need that assistance.

The point? Our taxes increase; we support an excellent school system, and the cost of living in Rockport will never slip downward. To paraphrase J.P. Morgan, if you have to be concerned about property values and taxes, you can’t afford to live here.

The current chair of our Finance Committee and his colleagues have reached a reasonable recommendation to be made to the selectmen; bridge the leases until we, the landlords, know the value of the real estate, and have a handle on the cost of upgrading the seawall.

The recommendation wouldn’t be mine, because I fully endorse the effort to divest the town of the real estate. Essex is in this process, and Manchester and Ipswich have sold ocean/beach front property, with the proceeds invested for the purpose of offsetting unforeseen overrides or debt exclusions and or other major expenses or costs.

Transparency and accountability are crucial to effective government. The Long Beach lease didn’t sneak up on us; strategy and planning ought to have been developed long ago, with community input such as that afforded a decision on the future of the Tool Company.

It’s late in the game to determine how the wall will be dealt with. And, to just now have a consultant work on the land evaluation demonstrates lack of leadership, or plain indifference.

The meeting to be held Saturday is a major decision point for the Board of Selectmen. Individual comments, votes, whatever, should be carefully studied. The town can’t afford to mortgage its financial future without additional revenue, and this is an opportunity.

Finally, when this current kerfuffle is resolved, I’d likely to open a discussion on the how, when and why residents of Long Beach may be registered to vote. Have we learned nothing from observing Essex work through this thing?

Shouldn’t — or couldn’t — our town counsel, also performing for Essex, given us a heads up? There is a book of recommendations dating to 1997, but actual policy is a local matter.

Where did our policy originate? With the town clerk, the Board of Selectmen, a town meeting?

That’s a fair question.