Thank you to Times Editor Ray Lamont for letting me get the Chair’s Corner up and running again!
In an effort to communicate more with Cape Ann residents, this column is one of the ways I feel we can get more information out about the various issues that we as a board are dealing with.
One of the most frequently asked questions our board members receive is “So, what’s happening with the Cape Ann Tool Company?”
The Board supports development at this site and fully understands/appreciates the benefits to the town including; revitalization of the area, the return of some commercial uses in Pigeon Cove, increased tax revenue from the property and increased property values nearby.
However, the board is also very concerned with protecting public access to this unique area and preserving the public use of Pigeon Cove Harbor for our commercial fishing fleet as well as our recreational boaters. We need to get this right!
The previous owners’ plan had no in-water uses and included significant public access to and amenities for the area. The permits transferred with the sale of the property, but the new owner opted to change those plans to include significant water related activity and a more limited public access plan. The new plan was introduced about 16 months ago.
These changes required new permitting on the Local, State, and Federal levels. These processes take time and may include some “back and forth” between the permitting agency and the applicant.
At the local level, permitting with the conservation commission is currently complete. It is not clear if additional local permitting will be required for the landside portion of the project until the owner provides more detail on the uses of the concrete building and the housing plans. Once the owner provides the town with those final plans, we will know if any special permit or variance is required.
At the State level, the owner is seeking an amendment to the existing Chapter 91 License. The Mass Department of Environmental Protection has determined that changes to the owner’s plan will require a second public comment period. At its June 10th meeting the BOS decided to request that DEP hold a public hearing to coincide with the public comment period. In a recent letter to the owner, DEP raised several questions and has asked for additional information. Ostensibly, once the State has that information, they can proceed with notification of the comment period and public hearing.
At the federal level, in April 2014, the owner submitted an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their proposed in-water activity. An Army Corps permit is required because federal funds were used to dredge part of the harbor, thereby creating a Federal Navigation Channel. It is our understanding that the Army Corp notified the owner in that more detailed plans are required before they can proceed with their application process.
On the one hand, we are hearing from frustrated residents who have looked at the deteriorating buildings for years and just want them gone. We get it!
The owner has done some work on the property and the town recently issued permits for a new roof and windows on the concrete building. The owner could also proceed with demolition of the metal buildings with the proper permits and abatement plan to deal with the asbestos and other contaminates.
Please know that although this process takes time, we feel it is our responsibility to make sure that public access and public use of the harbor is protected, and we will not jeopardize that to rid the town of an eyesore.
We will keep the public updated at our meetings and with postings for the next public hearing. Please feel free to join us at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting (check our schedule at www.townofrockport.com ) or email me with any other topics you’d like to hear about!
Sarah Wilkinson chairs the Rockport Board of Selectmen. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org