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Opinion

January 23, 2013

Letter: Voters, not selectmen, should decide on Conomo

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to recent coverage of the Essex Conomo Point public planning presentations:

Lori Henderson’s question at the recent public forum about removing a few houses at Conomo Point is key: “Why stop there?”

From the beginning of the process now playing out from 25 years or so ago, residents at Town Meetings made clear that:

The town should get out of the business of being a landlord;

The property at Conomo Point should be held in common for the recreational and open space use of all townspeople, not just a few.

First, mixed residential and recreational usage is not an appealing or practical outcome for the long run. It will lead to the same sorts of conflicts we have seen for decades, and it significantly diminishes the value of the open space and recreational uses that do take place.

Second, the equity issues involved in leaving some homes there should be seen as insurmountable. Do Essex residents really want the town be in the business of creating more valuable waterfront residences for a chosen few while tearing down the homes of the rest? Does anyone else see more lawsuits coming with this approach?

Further, the specter of “business” use by the town — that is, the Board of Selectmen — is too awful to imagine. What Board of Selectmen (bar none, including the board I sat on in the 1990s) would you trust to decide which uses are acceptable?

Would they stop at rowboat or kayak rentals? How about making movies? The Selectmen thought they could approve that on their own at Centennial Grove. Can you imagine a peaceful Tuck’s Point-type scene co-existing both with homes and businesses interspersed, on the small acreage at the Point? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a relatively quiet space on the water, without a lot of lights at night to block the stars, with benches, play areas, areas to fish from, and nice walks, a landing float and dinghy docks?

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