ROCKPORT — Members of the Rockport Select Board appointed five of nine potential candidates to serve on the newly formed RES Redevelopment Committee during an Oct. 15 meeting. The votes were not unanimous, with three board members consistently voting one way and two voting the opposition.
Members of the board discussed the qualifications of potential candidates, as well as their town of residence or businesses, before selecting citizens to serve on the committee whose goal is to oversee the development of the parcel of land at the intersection of routes 1 and 90, where the former Rockport Elementary School once stood.
Select Board members Doug Cole and Debra Hall were previously appointed to serve on the committee, and the two had been meeting in an ad hoc capacity since March, along with Town Planner Bill Najpaeur and then-Town Manager Rick Bates to discuss possible plans for the 7.6-acre property. The ad hoc group has since received approval by the Select Board to form a committee, and solicited applications from members of the public willing to volunteer their time to help put before the town a development proposal for the site.
In September the board interviewed five citizens interested in serving on the RES Redevelopment Committee but aside from appointing two select board members, (Cole and Hall) and the chairwoman of the Parks and Beautification Committee, Haunani Wallace, the board declined to add new members, saying they wanted more applications.
At the Oct. 15 meeting the board had nine candidates to consider for five vacancies; one of these slots was to be filled by a “neighbor,” someone who lived adjacent or very near to the RES site.
Those who applied for consideration were Allen Mitchell, Amanda Dwelley, Dave Jackson, Janet Hall, Mary Stevens, Dyke Messler, Martin Cates, Eric Boucher and Sarah Greer.
During discussion, Cole said he had spoken with Messler prior to the meeting, and Messler withdrew his candidacy based on the fact that he spent most of autumn and winter outside of Maine.
Janet Hall was elected by the board to serve as the “neighbor” on the committee in a vote of 3-2, with Cole, Debra Hall and Denise Kennedy-Munger voted in favor and Mark Kelley and Jeff Hamilton opposing the motion.
Further appointments to the committee then stalled when Cole moved to appoint four individuals (Dwelley, Cates, Boucher and Greer) in one fell swoop.
Hamilton pointed out that it would be difficult for the board to approve such a large group without weighing the qualifications of the candidates individually.
Kelley asked the board if it was a requirement that the committee be filled with Rockport residents, and said it was his intention that the committee consist of residents who volunteered before those who lived out of town be considered.
He pointed out that although Dwelley and Greer either owned property or businesses in town, they did not live in Rockport.
Mary Stevens and Eric Boucher were appointed unanimously to serve on the committee, and Dwelley was appointed in a 3-2 vote (Kelley and Hamilton opposed).
When Cole nominated Martin Cates, Hamilton pointed out that he too lived and worked elsewhere.
Kennedy-Munger said that she and Cole had met Cates and asked him to submit an application.
“I was impressed with [Cates’] real estate background and the networking contacts he has throughout the state. A big part of this RES redevelopment is getting people to be interested in this project and coming in and wanting to invest in Rockport. I thought he brought something different to the table then others who might be more local...and already had some ideas about reaching out to the ‘Portland metro’ area,” said Kennedy-Munger, adding she believed the livelihood of the project succeeding relies on the quality of the parties interested in developing the site.
Hall pointed out that Cates had met with the ad hoc RES group in the spring and had provided them with a great deal of insight on the project – it’s viability and possible ways to approach interested contractors, etc. She said she felt Cates was uniquely qualified and worthy of having an exception made to an all-resident committee.
“I think the success of this project is going to be about more than just Rockport... If people are going to come [to the developed site] to shop and participate as part of a community, I think we’ll be drawing people from Camden, Rockland, Union, Hope... they’ll come in and I think it’ good to have someone with a county-wide view,” said Cole ,of Cates.
Cates was elected in a 3-2 vote (Hamilton and Kelley opposed). At this time there are no upcoming meetings of the RES Redevelopment Committee listed on Town of Rockport website.