ROCKPORT — A smokestack on the Cape Ann Tool Company building will be the focus of discussion at Rockport's Planning Board meeting Thursday.
Officials are expected to decide whether to OK the demolition of the smokestack, which is considered historical by some.
In the original construction plans, the property owner of the Granite Street building, Christopher Kaneb of Old Colony Maritime LLC, said he intended to leave the smokestack standing.
But an assessment of the long-term structural soundness of the smokestack, conducted by O'Connell Engineering Inc., concluded that the structure would require many expensive repairs over time, according to Planning Board Chairman Hank Betts.
"The smokestack is not, long term, in good shape," Betts said Tuesday. "That does not mean it's going to fall down tomorrow. It means that a professional engineer said it will continue to deteriorate unless work is done, and that it needs to be repaired and maintained or it should be torn down."
The board's approval will be the last permission Kaneb needs before applying for a permit to demolish the steel and concrete building that has long existed as a deserted eyesore to neighbors.
Marie Larsen of nearby Haven Avenue said, "Everybody is really concerned about it. I mean after 27 years, we just can't drive by it anymore."
Larsen said the site's neighbors are happy that the demolition could finally begin.
"We'll have a celebration when that happens, that's for sure. Even when the first part of it comes down," Larsen said.
The Zoning Board of Appeals already approved the demolition of the smokestack in May, and the Planning Board will be reviewing the decision at its Thursday meeting at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall Annex.
Opponents to the demolition say the smokestack is "historic," but it is not legally declared as such.
Building Inspector Paul M. Orlando said that, based on a visual inspection of the building, the building does not pose a "an immediate hazard or safety threat."
"It is primarily a steel- and concrete-framed structure, both materials with very long life spans," Orlando said. "While the building is visually offensive, it does not appear to pose any immediate threats to the public."
At its May meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals concluded that the engineering study of the smokestack is adequate evidence that the smokestack is, or will become, unsafe. The Planning Board will need to rule the same way in order to grant Kaneb permission to demolish the structure.
"We'll still get to look at it, and we'll make our own determination," Betts said.
Planning Board members will also determine Thursday whether the decision to allow Kaneb to tear down the smokestack is an insignificant change in plans, according to Betts. If the board does cite it as "insubstantial," the project can skip the process of a formal public hearing — hopefully allowing the owner to undertake work before the current permits run out in November, Betts said.
"We would hope it speeds things up," Betts said.
The Zoning Board of Appeals took a similar accelerated path in May, when it determined the smokestack demolition to be a minor change, angering some residents who wanted input.
The property owner is also slated to receive a permit extension from the town's Conservation Committee on Wednesday, according to Betts, who said he expects the process to move along smoothly.
"We want them to be successful," Betts said. "It would be good for everybody."
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or firstname.lastname@example.org.