The legislative petition granting Christopher Kaneb and his Old Colony Maritime LLC a two-year extension on permits for redevelopment of their Rockport property housing the former Cape Ann Tool Company represents good news on some counts.
The extensions, after all, avoid looming November deadlines that Kaneb clearly could not meet now for advancing his mixed-use project even if his company made the condominium plan its top priority — which, he’s conceded, it’s not. And the town seems no closer to gauging a consensus on how it and its residents want to deal with the property than it was over a year ago, when the Tool Company’s future was a focal point of the September 2011 Fall Town Meeting.
But the idea of allowing this site to remain as is for up to another two years is not only unacceptable; it’s a slap in the face to the property’s Pigeon Cove neighbors, who have tried to work with town officials on bringing about demolition to clear the site, and now have confirmation that they’ve literally gotten nowhere in the past 14 months or more.
So while Kaneb wrestles with whether to sell the site or use the permits, which would allow development of a condo complex with small restaurant and retail components, it’s important that town officials renew their efforts to clear this monstrous eyesore from what should be one of the town’s most attractive and best tax-revenue generating properties.
Look, the structures on this site are not just a blight on the town’s aesthetics; anyone who’s walked the site or even driven past it can attest that it is a safety and health hazard, and why Rockport Building Inspector Paul Orlando has thus far failed to recognize that remains one of Rockport’s true mysteries.
Last fall, town officials — most notably, then-selectman Sandy Jacques — crafted a plan that seemed viable but never got off the Town Meeting floor. Under that proposal, the town would pay for and carry out the needed demolition – estimated at the time to be in the range of $115,000 to $125,000. Then town officials would slap a lien on the property for the demolition cost, to be paid by Kaneb when he finally sells or redevelops the site.
The result should address the safety and aesthetic needs of Rockport residents, while also giving Kaneb a more attractive property to sell or develop, if he continues to pursue that route.
it’s a proposal that seemed workable a year ago, and it should remain so now, especially if Kaneb is still looking to sell.
Rockport must be certain to keep this property on the tax rolls, and a redeveloped Tool Company site should hold immense potential for the town and its taxpayers. That’s worth waiting another two years.
But the first needed step remains the demolition of the blighted structures on the property, and that should no longer have to wait even two weeks or two months.
It’s time the town confirmed this site as the health and safety hazard it is, and gave it the attention that its Pigeon Cove neighbors deserve.