ROCKPORT — Town residents who are registered voters are invited to decide on a variety of Rockport issues at Fall Town Meeting this Monday.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the John Lane Auditorium at Rockport High School, 24 Jerden’s Lane.
One of the 16 articles on the warrant that has townspeople talking is Article H, which asks Town Meeting to approve a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion to pay for a Public Works facility, which is estimated to cost $12.25 million.
Article B asks to confirm a series of money allocations, one of which is to transfer $900,000 from the Sale of Land fund to the proposed new DPW facility budget.
In order to replenish that fund, proposed Article I would allow the town to sell four town-owned parcels of land: A 3 1/2-acre plot on Straitsmouth Way; a 1.5-acre plot that borders Phillips Avenue, Point du Chene and Linwood Avenue; and two lots — 20,142- and 20,748-square-feet, respectively — on Woodbury Lane.
However, after pushback from residents, it will not be discussed on Monday.
"When the article comes up in the lottery Monday evening, there will be no motion," said Town Administrator Mitch Vieira. "There has been significant discussion on more than one of the proposed parcels."
Selectmen will "revisit the topic this winter," according to Vieira, which will include a discussion on how to replenish the Sale of Land fund if Article B passes.
An issue with preservation
The possible sale of the Straitsmouth Way plot has been a topic of concern among neighbors. The wooded area is home to many species of birds and holds a few unkempt nature trails.
Despite how wet neighbors say the land can get in the spring, it is not recognized as a wetland in need of conservation. Because it is owned by the town, there are no plans to construct anything on it. There's been no incentive for the town to pay for land studies, such as delineating its wetlands.
Elisabeth and Bruce Perkins live a few feet away from the town-owned Straitsmouth Way plot.
"(My husband and I) had thought it was conservation land," said Elisabeth Perkins. "We find out two weeks before Town Meeting that it's not."
She argues the Straitsmouth Way plot works in tandem with the John Kieran Sanctuary across the street to provide a natural habitat for a variety of animals.
"The Kieran Preserve is considered the dry land and the (Straitsmouth Way plot) is considered wet," she said. "The two sides of the road work together as one ecosystem. You can't have one without the other."
The Perkins are seeking to prove the plot is worth preserving. Some of their ideas include surveying the land for vernal pools, measuring its wetlands and finding a way to have the plot included in the John Kieran Sanctuary agreement.
"We're learning more and more information (about the land) by talking to neighbors," she said. "We have more homework to do. It's not going to be voted on at Town Meeting but it might be at another."
Other articles of note
Townsfolk will also vote on whether to ban non-biodegradable food wares, balloons inflated with helium or other lighter-than-air gases, and plastic water bottles from being sold or distributed in Rockport.
If Articles K to M pass, store and restaurant owners will need to swap out their restricted wares for environmentally friendly alternatives before Jan. 1, 2021. Offenders will receive a verbal warning at first, followed by a $100 fine for the second offense and $200 for the third and subsequent offenses. Store owners who are unable to find an alternative for a particular product may seek an exemption from the Rockport Board of Health.
In 2018, residents voted to ban thin-filmed plastic bags from stores. Enforcement began this past March.
As it does every year, the Rockport Community Preservation Act Committee will seek approval for this year's Community Preservation Fund grants. The committee plans on giving $415,300 to six community organizations, including $200,000 to Harborlight Community Partners for the upcoming Granite Street Crossing affordable housing development.
Here is a summary of the articles on the 2019 Fall Town Meeting warrant:
A: Pay unpaid bills from previous fiscal years. (Requires nine-tenths majority.)
B: Fund appropriations granted at April's Town Meeting.
C: Present the annual report and recommendations of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC).
D: Replenish the CPC's Community Housing, Open Space Recreation and Historic Preservation reserve accounts.
E: Use CPC funds for a granite bench at Millbrook Meadow ($15,000), preservation efforts for the Rockport Public Library building ($27,400), preservation efforts for Sandy Bay Historical Society Museum ($49,900), a professional assessment on affordable housing in Rockport ($23,000), purposes consistent with the Community Preservation Act ($100,000), and a grant for Harborlight Community Partners to build an affordable housing unit at 5 Granite St. ($200,000).
F: Fund the collective bargaining agreement between the town and the Rockport Police union.
G: Fund theunds for the collective bargaining agreement between the town and the Rockport supervisors and foremen union.
H: Allow a Proposition 2 1/2 override to pay for the proposed DPW project. (Requires two-thirds majority.)
I: Sell four town-owned plots on Straitsmouth Way, Phillips Avenue and Woodbury Lane.
J: Raise the Council on Aging fiscal year spending limit from $30,000 to $60,000.
K: Ban single-use plastic food ware products from being distributed in Rockport in an effort to cut back on pollution.
L: Ban balloons from being distributed in Rockport in an effort to cut back on pollution.
M: Ban single-use plastic water bottles from being sold in Rockport in an effort to cut back on pollution.
N: Change the number of required members to the Historical Commission from seven full members to five full and two alternate members.
O: Allow any available free monies to be allocated to another initiative that requires town funds. (Requires two-thirds majority.)
P: To exempt all uniformed positions in the Rockport Police Department from the Civil Service Law.
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What and who: Rockport Town Meeting, open to residents who are registered voters, will consider a 16-article warrant.
When: Monday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m.
Where: Auditorium at Rockport High School 24 Jerden’s Lane.