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April 5, 2013

Editorial: A 'review' with no resolve

The Rockport Planning Board hosted a “site plan review” hearing Thursday night regarding homeowner Ron Roma’s plans to build a second single-family home on his combined property at 129 Granite St.

That’s because, under a Rockport bylaw, a site plan review is required for any house covering more than 6,000 square feet, and Roma’s new projects calls for a house at 12,000 square feet. And neighbors, who have long decried Roma’s original brick house because, well, they just don’t like it – or that it took the place of an older home — raised a number of questions about the property.

But the fact is, Roma’s project clearly complies with town zoning bylaws and conservation mandates; he already has clearance from the town’s Conservation Commission. 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.”

That’s because the town’s site plan review format has no means of addressing neighbors’ concerns — and as long as a project complies with zoning and other bylaws, it shouldn’t. Like an almost laughable “demolition delay” bylaw Town Meeting attendees ultimately blew out of the water last year, it has no apparent goal, other than to make a property owner and developer squirm over a perfectly permissible project on his or her own land.

Roma makes some good points when he notes that he has largely hired local builders and other contractors to work at the site, now and in the past. And his project will boost the town’s tax intake on the property as well — because he is allowed and permitted to build on his land within town regulations, and that should be one bottom line.

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.

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