, Gloucester, MA

August 7, 2013

Editorial: Rockport house plans must go forward after board's delays

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The absolute folly of Rockport’s “site plan review” process has once again reared its head over the plans by officials’ and a few residents’ committing to blocking a legitimate project being advanced by property owner Ron Roma.

And this time, Roma has filed notice with the town that he is going forward — as well he should.

That notice cites the fact that the town’s Planning Board took more than 60 days to go through its “site plan review” and render any recommendation — despite holding two public hearings, and seemingly ignoring the fact that Roma’s project had already met town guidelines, and had been granted clearance from Rockport’s Conservation Commission.

What’s left? While Building Inspector Paul Orlando issued the needed demolition permits, and Roma and his contractors have carried out much of that work, Orlando has not yet issued the building permits to go forward. Yet town bylaws indicate that Orlando can issue such permits if more than 60 days pass before the Planning Board makes a determination — and he should.

In fact, as we start to consider potential changes to these absurdly cumbersome bylaws, one should be this: if the Planning Board exceeds the 60-day period for making recommendations on a project, the building inspector should not only be “allowed” to grant the needed building permit; he should be required to do so, and the developer should have every right to go forward.

The simple fact is that Rockport’s building bylaws are geared toward just one goal — needlessly tying up and delaying development projects on private property that should go forward once zoning requirements are met. And that’s the case here.

The town’s site plan review bylaws may have been put in place with the best of intentions. And it’s not a terrible thing to keep neighbors of a development project in the loop regarding any building plans. But in this case, as in others, these guidelines can and have been used to throw up needless hurdles and create delays for projects and builders who have every right and reason to go forward. That has to change.

Let’s end this charade, and let the building, at long last, begin.