GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 23, 2013

Letter: Site Plan Review has role in Rockport process


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

I would like to both review statements made and clarify issues raised in the Times’ Oct. 17 editorial headlined “Rockport house plan saga shows broken permit system,” focusing on the Rockport Site Plan Review of the Roma III, Ltd. house project.

The editorial stated that the proposed house, as permitted, is built within the scope of town bylaws and zoning regulations. This is incorrect.

The building permit as issued by the Building Inspector called for a height eight inches lower that what will ultimately be built. This height had been agreed to by the Roma III, Ltd. officials in discussions with the Planning Board. The additional nonconforming building height was granted by the Rockport Board of Appeals by the granting of a special permit.

The Board of Appeals claimed there was a revision in the measurement method for building height. The Planning Board — and, quite separately, the building inspector — disagreed with this view.

This might seem trivial on the surface but, in fact, approximately 37 percent of the approximately 144-foot building frontage facing Granite Street will still be above 32 feet in height from the finished grade level.

One might disagree with the Rockport Site Plan Review process, but it is not badly broken. As I have previously reviewed with the editor, within the past year the Planning Board has reviewed four separate site plans without complaint. If one follows the procedure used for single family homes, which was agreed to at Town Meeting, the process goes smoothly.

The Roma III, Ltd. project is very controversial and the process does call for public input. However the “delays” involved in this review included a one-month delay, which the contractor sought because of sickness, by his designer not being able to prepare required documents, and an agreed-upon delay caused by the need to bring new Planning Board Members up to speed after the spring of 2013 town elections.

There were also several issues around completeness of documents which drew out meeting lengths and resulted in further delay of action.

Having said this, Roma III, Ltd. did agree to change the facing of portions of the structure facing Granite Street to granite instead of brick. They agreed to add an additional one foot side setback to the 129 Granite Street side setback. They recognized that property privacy could be achieved by planting evergreen trees – with mature heights of 65 feet, 25 feet back from the Granite Street property line instead of right at the line.

And they provided an overall planting plan that provided them with privacy, but which helped preserve public views along this very scenic portion of Granite Street. They also agreed to provide a pervious driveway surface to enhance the reduction of water runoff.

I believe none of the above changes, and others, would have occurred without Site Plan Review. We will have a Site Plan Review at our meeting on Nov. 1. I invite you and all others to come and see how our procedure works.

HENRY T. BETTS

Rockport

Chairman, Rockport Planning Board