To the editor:
I am writing in response to the story “Owner applies for Tool Company demolition permits (the Times, Monday, Jan. 28).”
As the article suggests, “neither town officials nor residents ever took any firm steps toward gaining control of the property before Rauseo bought it last fall.”
That statement is partly true — certainly town officials took no steps. But any resident input to those presently alluded “firm steps” was effectively quashed on April 3, 2012, by the selectmen’s refusal to support a townwide non-binding referendum asking residents whether the town should buy the property. I touched on that in a letter “Voter issue more offensive than Jacques’ remark” (the Times, April 30, 2012), expressing that it was the most woeful example of leadership and representative government that I ever hope to see.
The Jan. 28 Times article, quoting one of our selectmen, reports that “some town residents wanted the town to buy the land and have it developed as a park.” The Cape Ann Tool Company Task Force itself devoted pages to a financial analysis of that low return on investment option – although, as we have now seen, the purchase price of $2.5 million at the time was over-estimated by $1 million.
As documented in the Task Force report, other residents suggested a yacht club, swimming pool, fuel dock, boat ramps, light industrial park, firehouse, hotel, boatyard, conference center, artist studio, boat storage facility, fuel station/mini mart, banquet hall, museum and marine education center. Objective studies of existing data, by professional public and private urban studies institutes (University of Rhode Island) indicate that these types of marine/commercial uses generate municipal revenue about three times larger than the lowest performer, residential condominiums.
Actual figures derived from existing land uses in the city of Newport, R.I., showed commercial/marine uses contributed $135,023 per acre in municipal revenues to the city’s economy. Residential condominiums were lowest performer in the study, contributing $53,524 per acre — a figure, incidentally closely correlated by the task force estimate of $230,000 the town will get from real estate taxes here.
For a five-acre parcel such as the Tool Company, these figures would multiply to $675,115 vs. $267,710, a difference of $407,405 per year. Over a 20-year period, chosen because that is how the Planning Board envisions Rockport in the 2030s, the net difference would be $8.15 million.
A future selectman in 2032-2033 may well ask the same question posed by current Selectman Paul Murphy regarding a potential town purchase of the site: “Where would we even get the money?” he asked.
I hope those future selectmen don’t look back to 2012-2013 and judge too harshly where they lost it.
Granite Street, Rockport