To the editor:
In “Too Many Unanswered Questions on Tool Company,” Sue Waller raises a number of critical questions about the development of the Tool Company site.
Since 1987 when the Cape Ann Tool Co. closed down, Rockport has been dealing with this blight on the landscape, resulting drag on neighborhood real estate values, consequent delays in creating other planned development projects in the area, major loss of tax revenues, and legal costs to the town from multiple court cases.
A previous developer had a plan, approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the town that consisted of commercial space in the existing masonry buildings, townhouses and well-planned public waterfront access, including a large landscaped park. This plan was delayed by a frivolous 10-taxpayer suit, and ultimately abandoned by the developer during the 2007-2008 recession.
Mr. Rauseo, the current owner/developer, initially proposed a development that deviated significantly from the former plan. The park and waterfront access essentially become a laydown area, off-season, for a floating transient dock system. The residential component was to consist of some 14 minimum width (50 feet) narrow lots, between the street and the waterfront access, improved with long narrow single family residential structures, resembling military barracks. Parking was to have been partly provided by a number of vertical car stacking systems. The plan showed two of the residential properties at the southern end of the property displacing the public waterfront access, and having proprietary rights to the transient dock. As a member of the Rockport Planning Board at the time, I can attest that we were never informed of the reason for these exceptions despite numerous requests. There was also concern about the displacement of a number of moorings as a result of the transient docks. A positive note was the planned water taxi to downtown Rockport. This plan was never approved by the town or the DEP.
Subsequently several plans were floated by Rauseo, which developed the central portion of the property for commercial use, by incorporating a number of the existing steel buildings, in addition to the masonry buildings, with expanded parking lots off Granite Street. One option included numerous car stacking systems on the northern boundary of the commercial section. No reference was made to the development planned for the remaining sections. The development of the Tool Co. site has remained in limbo.
The town of Rockport should seek a grant to conduct a study of the Pigeon Cove Harbor and surrounding area, to determine the optimum development of this valuable neighborhood and town resource, including zoning, the potential impact on current harbor operations, and taking into account the impact of expected sea level rise. Such a study including the various stakeholders: the current property owner, the Pigeon Cove Fish Co-op, neighboring residential and commercial property owners, etc. should result in a development plan that would be a benefit to the Pigeon Cove neighborhood, the town, and the developer, a win-win.