Letter to the editor: Clare Tully, Friends of Rockport

We hope you will consider our Rockport recommendations as your neighbors, fellow citizens

Sat, 08/01/2020 - 10:00am

Last week, Rockport residents received an anonymous postcard targeting a grassroots coalition of over 325 Rockport registered voters who signed two citizens’ petitions, which are on the ballot for the August 18 Town Meeting. The postcard falsely characterized thepetitions as “private” even though many residents signed them.

The postcard also falsely implied that the signers were “out of state VRBO owners.” In fact, we are a politically and economically diverse group of retirees, families, and young people who live in West Rockport, Simonton Corner, Rockville, Glen Cove and Rockport Village.

The citizens’ petition (Article 4) would limit hotels in the downtown district to 20 rooms. This includes the developer’s planned hotel on Central Street overlooking the harbor, and is based on the size the developer originally proposed.

When the developer first bought the land on Central Street in 2016 ,the Land Use Ordinance did not permit hotels in Rockport’s small downtown. At a meeting to secure the Select Board’s recommendation to place an ordinance revision on the ballot, the developer represented to the Board and the public that he was going to build a “small hotel,” about “20 to 22 sleeping rooms”.

The developer has since repeatedly denied that he ever made this representation, “We never talked about a 20 room hotel.” (“Village Soup”, July 29, 2020).

We encourage residents to view this livestream link of this meeting: https://livestream.com/Rockportmaine/events/7198735/videos/15449 5579 at minute 34:53, in which the developer says exactly that.

The Select Board then advanced the proposed ordinance allowing up to an aggregate of 40 hotel rooms downtown. The voters approved it, anticipating the small hotel that the developer had proposed, with perhaps, a second 20 room hotel sometime in the future.

When the developer filed his initial hotel application last fall, residents were stunned to learn that it was for a 36-room hotel, a staggering size for a small downtown surrounded by residential streets. Following public outcry, the developer switched the hotel to 26 two-room suites but the hotel’s size (volume and footprint) remained the same as the 36-room version.

The second citizens’ petition (Article 3) requires an independent traffic study by a qualified professional paid for by the developer, not Rockport taxpayers. We believe that our elected and appointed volunteer officials should rely on objective data, not the developer’s opinion or their own personal opinions in making decisions that impact the greater good of Rockport citizens, like the adequacy of public parking and motorist, pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Our citizens’ group, the Friends of Rockport (FOR), recently sent you a postcard of our own. It isn’t as slick as our anonymous detractor’s.

Ours was a team effort, drafted and paid for by volunteers who live in and care greatly for Rockport. Our postcard has some typos and our website, www.friendsofrockport.org, didn’t work at first. But unlike our unnamed adversary, we were proud to put our name on ours.

And while no members of the Planning Board “recommended” a vote for our petitions and certain Select Board members even deemed them “offensive,” we hope you will consider our recommendations as your neighbors and fellow citizens.

Our website gives you the facts; you decide what is best for our beloved town.

Clare Tully, and the Friends of Rockport, www.friendsofrockport.org