GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 16, 2013

Rockport faces new round of lease talks

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — With the 10-year leases for the town’s 154 Long Beach properties due to expire at the end of December, officials here have scheduled two more open meetings in the coming days with an eye toward gaining consensus on how to deal with the beach’s and tenants’ future.

First, the town’s Finance Committee is set to give a presentation on the details of the leases to the Board of Selectmen tonight, with the two boards meeting in joint session.

Finance Committee chairman Walter “Wally” Hess said residents will be able to ask questions during the meeting, which is slated for 7 p.m. at the Community House on Broadway. The selectmen are then slated to host their own regular meeting on Tuesday, though there is no agenda items listed for further discussion of the leases or Long Beach.

On Saturday, however, the Board of Selectmen will meet to discuss lease options and details. That, too, will be a public meeting, with residents welcome to attend. But there will be no public comment period in that session, slated for 9:15 a.m. at Town Hall.

It is still to early to tell if any decisions will be made at the Saturday meeting, according to Erin Battistelli, who chairs the Board of Selectmen.

Previously, officials agreed to rule out all but two options: continuing to lease to residents or sell them the lots; some have been vocal about the need for short term leases while some Long Beach residents are promoting long term leases.

In anticipation of the Long Beach discussion running on Saturday, Battistelli said she plans to ask that a workshop scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24 to be treated as a regular selectmen meeting.

“We have a policy not to vote at workshops, so this gives us more flexibility,” she wrote in an email to the Times.

Town officials, including Battistelli, had indicated previously that the town was due to notify the Long Beach tenants — who own their homes and pay taxes on them, then pay both property taxes and rent on the town-owned property — by Oct. 1 if Rockport was planning to extend the leases.

But lease documents, cited at last week’s Fall Town Meeting by former selectman and ex-Finance Committee chairman Wendell “Sandy” Jacques, show that the Oct. 1 deadline applies only if a super majority of selectmen — four of the five — vote to cut off a lease prior to the Dec. 31 expiration date.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.