ROCKPORT — The RES Redevelopment Committee met Jan. 30 to outline the criteria that will be used to qualify development proposals for the town-owned 7-acre plot of land where the former Rockport Elementary School (RES) once stood.
Committee members present at the meeting were Amanda Dwelley, who chairs the group, Eric Boucher, Janet Hall, Martin Cates, Mary Stevens and Select Board liason Doug Cole. Town officials present were Town Planner Bill Najpaeur, Town Manager Bill Post and Finance Director Megan Brackett.
Najpaeur led the group through two documents that outline the the project’s “principals of development” and the credentials required of applicant proposals.
The development principles developed by a working group last year outline a development project that contributes to Rockport’s tax base and is aesthetically pleasing while maintaining some of the lot’s undeveloped or “green” space.
Najpaeur said that credentials for proposals/developers include past experience with similar projects, a level of creativity and a specific vision for the RES property, as well as the aesthetic of the applicant’s previous works and ability to work successfully with a public entity, such as the town.
Committee members agreed that the outlines would be useful in comparing various proposals generating questions for applicants who are asked to present their plans at a public meeting.
Post explained that it would be the committee’s task to compare and contrast the strengths of multiple applicants and proposals with the goal of arriving at one or even two of the best options for the site, which they would then submit to the Select Board for approval.
Because the property is owned by the town, Post said that any decision to move forward with developing the site would require a public vote by Rockport citizens.
Cole said that he had anticipated the committee would continue to work on a selected proposal with the developer once it received Select Board approval.
“The committee’s mission is to provide a recommendation to the Select Board on a potential developer for the town to work with,” said Post. “We don’t want the process to be rushed, we want to make sure that there’s plenty of time, and that the recommendation or recommendations – there may be two and the committee may say ‘we can’t decide between these two, let’s pass the buck to the Select Board’ – and then from there on it’s really up to the Select Board. The [Select Board] may decide that the [RES Committee] should expand their mission and work with the developer some more to really develop the concept some more; that’s up to the Select Board.”
At a Jan. 13 meeting the Rockport Select Board approved a recommendation by the committee that the town reopen a request for proposal (RFQ) period from Jan. 14 to Feb. 28, for interested parties to submit plans for a mixed-use development on the property, which is located at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 90.
To date, the town has only received one proposal for the site, which was filed at the Rockport Town Office last October by Douglas Clayton. Clayton’s called for converting the property into “Rockport Crossing,” a mixed-use residential, commercial and recreational site. In a 16-page proposal received by the town in October, he described placing refurbished cabins on the property which would be marketed as senior living facilities. Other plans include a commercial business complex, a farmers’ market and a recreational area.
Clayton was expected to present his proposal to the RES Redevelopment Committee Thursday night, but Town Planner Bill Najpaeur said he was unable to attend. The committee did not discuss the “Rockport Crossing,” proposal, and instead decided that they would share feedback on Clayton’s submittal at a meeting next month.
Post said that both he and Najpaeur had been approached by parties interested in submitting a proposal for the site, and that he expects multiple RFQs to be filed at the Town Office by the Feb. 28 deadline. Committee members agreed on a time period of two weeks following the deadline to review the proposals, formulate questions and share feedback with one another before discussing the proposals at a meeting.
The RES Redevelopment Committee will meet Thursday, Feb. 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.