The currently proposed hotel for downtown Rockport has been receiving alarming and questionable support from Town functionaries, specifically members of the Select Board and Planning Board.
It is an effort by a few individuals, who happen to be temporarily empowered by their positions on these Boards, to undermine the long-established ideals and rights of all Rockport citizens as embodied in our Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Ordinance.
This small group is putting their personal interests and opinions above the citizens they are supposed to represent. The right to enjoy the scenic views, safe and convenient parking and use of our roads, and respect for the historic built environment are treasured by our citizens, and that is why our Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Ordinance protect them.
Our current Select Board and Planning Board seeks to give all of this away, for free, to benefit a private developer whose clientele is from away.
Consider the following:
1) The chair and vice-chair of the Planning Board publicly voiced their support for the hotel project before its officially review. Demonstrating personal favoritism, they should have recused themselves from the Planning Board review. (See LiveStream of Pre-Application, 2019/10/24, at 1:16:44 https://livestream.com/rockportmaine/events/8859160)
2) In their review of the hotel application, the Planning Board dismissed Land Use Ordinance requirements in order to facilitate the developer. These included Scenic View provisions and Architectural-conformity provisions, for which the Planning Board is given no latitude to waive.
3) The Planning Board allowed the application to proceed with the developer having provided zero new parking spaces downtown (actually, eliminating two existing ones). Instead of holding the developer to provide parking as every business in town is required, an unenforceable and unprecedented “valet” service to a remote lot across town was accepted. The Select Board and Planning Board are attempting to retroactively amend our laws to permit this. Sound wrong? Vote NO on Article #6.
4) The Select Board has officially recommended that all downtown parking requirements for developers be abolished from our Land Use Ordinance, as a means of facilitating this developer. This would allow developers to eliminate all current downtown private parking, thus shifting the cost of constructing and maintaining parking onto the taxpayer - you.
5) The Select Board is promoting the dismantling of all parking lot landscaping requirements, representing a cost-savings to this hotel developer. Disagree? Vote NO on Article #9.
6) The developer of the hotel purchased the property when there was no allowance for hotels. Then, the Town’s Ordinance Review Committee wrote and promoted a new ordinance provision to accommodate him. Note: the developer's project engineer also sits on the Ordinance Review Committee.
The Select Board, whose first and foremost duty per our Town Charter is to “...execute the will of the people…”, has taken a contrary position, denouncing two successful citizen-initiated petitions, characterizing those petitions as “unjust” and “insulting”. What could be more reasonable than the citizen’s request that a parking and traffic study be required for the most substantial development of Rockport’s downtown in the last century, the first ever since the advent of motor vehicles, the cost of which must be borne by the applicant?
The Select Board, in its zeal to favor this private developer, calls this “insulting”. What is unreasonable about the citizens' request that the developer be held to the number of rooms he publicly stated? The Select Board apparently feels it is OK to dupe our townspeople, you, and they have called our citizens' reaction “unjust”.
The statements and actions of the Select Board unambiguously illustrate their failure to execute their central responsibility: that of executing the will of the people. Instead, they are attempting to bend or eliminate our Town’s laws to favor a single individual developer, who does not even live in our Town.
Vote YES on Article #3, requiring a traffic/parking study at no cost to the taxpayer. Vote YES on Article #4, holding the developer to his promise of 20 rooms, a number reasonable for our little village. And think carefully before voting to re-elect the Select Board members who currently stand in opposition to the citizens they are supposed to represent.
In case you think your one vote does not matter, consider the effort and care taken by all those Rockport inhabitants who created this beautiful town that we love, and who crafted Ordinances to protect it. Think about the countless generations to come, and the permanence and irreversibility of decisions and actions we make - or fail to make - today, as stewards of Rockport.
John Priestley lives in Rockport