To the editor:
This is an open letter to the Rockport selectmen:
I am writing with regard to the Long Beach lease issue.
I have been involved in this issue for the past 20 years both professionally, personally and through my service as a selectman. The issues before you now are similar, yet distinct from, those we faced as a board ten years ago.
As in our sister community Essex, the Department of Environmental Protection started fining Rockport for the pollution of the groundwater and Saratoga Creek, with the only option the provision of a sanitary sewer system.
The politics of skewering the south end of town and preserving the fabric of the community both on the beach and off were emotional and on the verge of disintegrating into court actions where there would be no positive outcome.
The rents were doubled, tied to inflation, and the cottage owners assessed for the sewer work, and an agreement with Gloucester for treatment of the waste was crafted. This time it’s worse, as the environmental concerns are permanent, and ever changing, as are the political and financial realities that face our town.
It is clear to me now as it was not 10 years ago, Long Beach as it once was is no longer viable. One thing is clear, the families who live on Long Beach are a permanent part of our community.
For the most part, the cottage owners are taxpaying, community driven, environmentally conscientious, residents who care deeply about the beach and have been good stewards of the land leased to them. The beach community is an integral part of Rockport, and will have to adapt to what nature has in store, and the needs of the community.
As the Board of Selectmen, you are entrusted with the custodianship of our communities lands, and I would hope that you proceed deliberately, and plan for the next 100 years — a difficult thing in these times of instantaneous communication, public skepticism, and immediate financial needs.
You have read from the Finance Committee, the economic options; from the DPW commissioners, the environmental options; from the Long Beach residents, the community concerns; from Rockport’s families, the sheer enjoyment of the beach; and from other concerned citizens, their views.
I believe we need to move forward, and having our back against the wall by being at the end of a lease leads to snap decisions, gridlock and worse, uncertainty, which will result in expensive long lasting litigation. I believe the board should do two things:
Establish an Ad-hoc Long Beach Committee charged with developing a permanent solution, obtaining the necessary background information to inform, not divide our community.
Provide an adequate amount of time for the committee to accomplish a mutually beneficial result, by renewing the current lease, with rent and transfer fees adjusted for a period of 10 years, with the understanding that the town will be developing a permanent solution in that time.
The Ad-hoc Committee membership should be made up of members from the Finance Committee, the DPW Board of Commissioners, Long Beach lease holders, Rockport residents, and the conservation commission. I believe the committee should be expected to meet on a regular basis, make bi-monthly updates to the Board of Selectmen and have a clear charge of bringing results to the town within five years.
In this manner, all views can be heard, debated and researched in an open process that will yield certainty for the town on this issue in a finite time period.
I wish you well in your deliberations, and respectfully submit this unsolicited idea for your consideration.
Granite Street, Rockport