Camden Herald letters to the editor March 18

Mar 18, 2021

Non-Binding Bind

Well, I am in rare agreement with the editor of this paper and, as it turns out, with Ted Cohen of the “Portland Press Herald.” With respect to governments holding non-binding votes, they agree that “…if it’s non-binding then why hold the vote because either way the politicians will make it fit their plan.” Precisely!

It is a clear dereliction of duty for the Rockport Board of Selectmen to now consider holding a non-binding vote on the need for short-term rental regulations. On a clearly divided board, three members, Debra Hall, Denise Munger and Jeff Hamilton, think  the board should renege on its decision to table the matter of STR regulations until after the June town meeting. Their disingenuous rationale is that they wish to know “what the town wants” on the issue. This nonsense is based upon a letter sent to the board at its last meeting by 34 residents who support hurtful regulations. But isn’t this petition more than outmatched by the far greater number of citizens who have expressed “what the town wants” in countless letters, as well as the corporate business letter, signed by an overwhelming number of Rockport business owners who support STRs and the resultant tourism that they bring to our economy?

Moreover, a dereliction of duty by the board is found in the raison d’etre of this matter. The three board members who are obsessed with the need for regulations are taking advantage of their offices to address minor personal gripes that they have regarding tourist renters. Their frivolous issues have been supported by the whiny complaint of another town official, John Viehman, that STR owners are selling the wonderful village vibe to these tourists from away. Breaking news, John – it’s called tourism. Add to this the steady drumbeat from Chairman Hall that Rockport should do this “because other towns are doing it.” Is that really how town government should work?

If so, how about some other non-binding referenda that might have a much wider Rockport appeal? How about “what the town wants” on excessive school taxes; regional district overcharging of Rockport on school taxes; town comprehensive plan; road conditions; water and sewerage costs; deficit operation of the Opera House? Surely, these matters outweigh the almost trivial angst of a few malcontents.

If the board decides to go forward with this non-binding referendum to “make it fit their plan” they will assuredly plunge Rockport into a schism of the citizens which has not been seen since the battle over the new library. Is this really “what the town wants?”

Doc  Wallace

Rockport

Rockport resident speaks out on proposed hotel

The Rockport Hotel is back in the courts. An impartial judge will decide its fate. He or she will be deciding much more as well.

A rich family from Camden has bought up almost all of Rockport Village. The Smiths now own most of my neighborhood. The judge will decide if the Smiths are to defy the Land Use Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan and stuff a big ugly building in a once green space outside my window. He or she will decide if this family will be allowed to obliterate not only my view of the harbor, the islands, the hills, the sky and sea beyond; but ruin my family’s peace, quiet, privacy and happiness as well.

I’m not an appellant in this case because, though I’ve spent parts of 45 years here, I’m not (yet) a citizen of the town. I watched all the Zoning Board of Appeals meetings on Zoom, however. In spite of the appellant’s excellent lawyer, I felt totally unrepresented. I heard little discussion of the size of the building, of the fact that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of Rockport, that the balconies are ridiculous; that noise, lights and traffic will create an enormous nuisance for people like my family and me.

We now plan to live year round in this house less than 500 feet from where the hotel may be built. For 40 years I’ve paid taxes on this house that I love, as well as on a smaller house less than 300 feet from the site. Both  houses have given my family and me enormous pleasure.

I don’t know if any members of the Planning Board or the Board of Appeals live nearby. I don’t know if they will have their views destroyed; or if they will suffer from noise, lights, traffic, or the presence of as many as 50 strangers in their midst.

Many Rockport people think it’s fine. The hotel will bring in tourists, bring in money. For whom? Maids and bartenders and a certain rich family. The developer has told the press that he doesn’t need the money. Is it power he wants? Perhaps a private princedom? Something like a smaller version of Bar Harbor?

I grew up summers in Bar Harbor and spent parts of 40 years there. As a little girl I attended the town meeting after the Fire, where the town decided to allow motels. They were forced to, their tax base had been incinerated with the burned mansions. I watched Bar Harbor become honky tonk. I watched bulldozers and backhoes. I watched nice stores change into ones that sold fake oriental rugs and cardboard cows that mooed when you turned them over. (I even worked in such a store.) In the 70s my young family left Bar Harbor as the streets became so crowded you could hardly walk. We came to Rockport. We thought it was the most beautiful place in Maine. Around every corner of every building there was a view; if not of the ocean, of a lovely street or little forest, or of a garden. And in the summer there was live classical music.

Meanwhile Bar Harbor became unlivable. The few friends I have left there hide in houses in the woods. The streets are impossible. You have to make an appointment to drive up Cadillac Mountain.

Of course the judge in this lawsuit will be impartial. But I also hope that he or she will realize that their decision will affect some people so much more than others.

Sincerely,

Ann(Andy)Austin

Rockport

 

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