GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 9, 2013

Letter: Rockport Site Plan Review has purpose


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor,

I am sincerely thankful that Times Editor Ray Lamont is not on the Rockport Planning Board.

The dismissive editorial (the Times, Friday, April 5) pretty much trashes our Site Plan Review, and the whole concept of public review.

In it, you state: “the fact is, Roma’s project clearly complies with town zoning bylaws and conservation mandates. And while there may be some benefit to letting neighbors and other town residents know what type of work is being done at the site, the truth is, Roma has every right to listen to their input, and say thanks but no thanks for their purported ‘help.’”

We have had Site Plan Review in place for over a decade, and in that time, we have reviewed, and approved some fairly large projects for our town. A project may comply with zoning, but Site Plan Review is intended for projects that are so large that they will have a large impact upon the town and its other residents.

Site Plan Review usually develops into a “conversation” between ladies and gentlemen who want to create a new structure, and the Planning Board, assisted by the public. The essence of Site Plan Review is to develop a project that fits the town and the particular place where the site is located.

When the Planning Board conducted Site Plan Review for the Shalin Liu Performance Center, the applicants appeared before the board in public hearings in a very respectful manner. They patiently listened to questions and criticisms by townspeople, and prepared polite and thorough answers.

There were people who thought that such a large project in the middle of our small town would be disastrous. The applicant, working with the Planning Board, made changes and adjustments to their plan to meet these concerns, where it was possible. They adjusted their work hours to permit flow of pedestrian traffic downtown. In every way, they worked to satisfy not only zoning requirements but the need to become a cooperative neighbor.

It was the same with the Granite Savings Bank, when they built their new building on upper Main Street. The Planning Board, the applicant and the public worked together in the same amicable way in the long process for Old Colony Maritime, on the site of the Cape Ann Tool Co. That project, nearly killed by a serial litigator, is now being brought to life in different form by a new applicant.

Mr. Roma showed his disdain for the public at last Thursday night’s public hearing. He stated that he could plant trees in his yard any way he wanted, and the people in the hearing room muttered comments. He then asked the Planning Board chairman if he would quiet the “peanut gallery.”

You end your editorial with: “The other bottom line is the need for the town to scrap “reviews” such as this that have no meaningful means to a resolution — or any real resolve.”

There will be a resolution. We just hope that the applicant in this case recognizes that it is a whole lot more fun to live in Rockport when you don’t storm into town acting like you already owned the place.

SAMUEL W. COULBOURN

Mill Lane, Rockport