The new owner of the Cape Ann Tool Company property in Rockport will have six months after he’s issued demolition permits for his waterfront site. So it’s hard to say that a new day for this long-vacant and derelict property is truly at hand.
Yet last week’s news that Michael Rauseo has taken out permits to carry out demolition on his waterfront Pigeon Cove gem is at least a good sign he’s prepared and preparing to go forward with clearing, then revitalizing what has become perhaps Cape Ann’s worst eyesore. Now, we hope town officials will do all they can to facilitate not only the expeditious granting of the demolition permits when returned, but to ease his route to making his new multi-use project a reality.
In purchasing the property through his Cape Ann Tool limited liability company last October, Rauseo, who also operates the Yankee Clipper Inn, indicated he would likely follow the same development proposal and still-valid permits for resurrecting the property as one housing condominiums with some retail on site as well. And we can only hope he will fare better than previous owner Christopher Kaneb, whose Old Colony Maritime LLC ran into opposition and legal challenges under the state’s 10-intervenor law that allows mostly out-of-town residents to challenge a project, even on trumped-up environmental grounds.
That challenge, led by Gloucester obstructionist Stevan Goldin, wasn’t the only obstacle faced by Kaneb. Once the courts disposed of Goldin’s challenges, the bottom fell out of the condo market, leaving Kaneb with few development options. Yet, he never took action toward even clearing the property — and for whatever reason, town Building Inspector Paul Orlando never forced his hand despite the clear and present health and safety dangers posed by the old and crumbling building and smokestack.
That’s what understandably frustrated Pigeon Cove neighbors like Marie Larsen, whose petition in 2011 at least got as far as Town Meeting and helped lead to a Tool Company Task Force. But that panel never chose an avenue for revitalizing the site — essentially leaving it fully up to Kaneb, who still did nothing before selling the site to Rauseo for $1.5 million.
In the midst of all this came some really bad ideas. Town Selectman Paul Murphy noted that some residents wanted the town to buy it and convert it into a park — at a time when Kaneb’s asking price hovered just below the $3 million mark. As we noted previously, one of Rockport’s top long-term priority is ensuring it remains in private hands, and provides redevelopment that adds to the town’s tax rolls. Rauseo’s purchase of the property sets the stage for precisely that.
But the town’s chief short-term goal still needs to be getting this property cleared and cleaned up for its reuse. And the pulling of demolition permits by Rauseo and his company serves as a giant step in that direction.
Let’s hope town officials put these permit approvals on the fast track — and bring on the wrecking ball. Pigeon Covers have had to endure sore eyes for far too long.