It’s easy to see the genesis of a series of articles that will face voters at Rockport’s Fall Town Meeting tonight.
Some type of so-called Site Plan Review proposals have really been stirring in some Rockporters’ minds and hearts at least since Ron Roma’s so-called “Brick House” took shape along Granite Street in the town’s Pigeon Cove community a few years back – and, in the minds of case of some residents, even prior to that.
But there are just too many real questions about any of these proposals to put any of them in place with a series of sweeping votes tonight. And the scope of the town’s dictation over what a property buyer can or cannot do with his or her property is only the beginning.
For one thing, there is a very good chance that Planning Board or other officials or residents will push for even more changes to these articles when they come before the Town Meeting tonight. While that is part of the so-called “charm” of any town meeting, the fact is, it suggests that even officials are scrambling with these proposals — and that’s not a good way to conduct town business.
Eventually, however, residents will essentially be asked to approve proposals that call for any home demolition projects for a house 100 years old or older — and, in the case of a citizens’ petition, based on a house’s square footage — to undergo review by the town.
That, of course, raises the age-old question of what right the town should have to determine what a homeowner can do with a property, as long as any such project fits within zoning bylaws regarding size and use. But there’s an added catch to all of the Site Plan Review articles on the bill tonight.
While all call for review — aimed at getting neighbors’ and town input regarding the demolition of an older home and changes to the property — none expressly calls for blocking any such project to be blocked if a property owner refuses to abide by any recommendations. And if any such bylaw—however well-intentioned — has no enforcement teeth, what’s the point?
Wally Hess, who chairs the town’s Finance Committee, justifiably raises other practical concerns. He fears the changes would pose new impediments to potential buyers looking to come into Rockport; it will also likely make it more difficult for owners of older homes to sell their properties, and that’s not fair either.
Town officials will no doubt look to answer voters’ questions about any and all of these proposals tonight. But, come decision time, voters should plan on providing just one answer.
It’s a resounding “No.”