Courier-Gazette Letters to the Editor Feb. 25

Feb 25, 2021

In response to Justice's letter to the editor,

Hi Jim, the select board has received your letter. Although you made it clear you don't want apologies or explanations, I still must offer both after your strongly voiced disapproval of our Feb. 2 board meeting.

I will apologize for failing to recognize you wished to offer comment. Your image on my screen never moved once during the entire meeting, nor did I ever hear your voice. We know Zoom is not a perfect format, and this proves the shortcomings.

I have specifically asked all Zoom participants to refrain from using the chat box option during meetings, as I believe it's too distracting. It would be exactly the same as if attendees in a normal "live" meeting chatted and whispered and interrupted while the regular meeting business was conducted. I'm unable to multi-task enough to address the agenda and manage chat boxes simultaneously.

For all public participation, we ask for written or e-mail comments to Jay or myself before the meeting. I do allow relevant commentary and questions, to a limited extent, during the agenda part of the meeting after the public comment period, but I can only respond if I see hands or hear voices. I think this glitch in our Zoom demonstrates our need for enhanced broadband coverage.... hopefully our broadband committee will help and continue to work for this!

We all do recognize your many contributions to our town over the years. As I have said to you and Greg many, many times; I personally appreciate all you both have done for Union, thank you once again.

I do realize the TCC committee applicant appointment process was not handled skillfully and I accept full responsibility for that. I definitely should have thought about this more ahead of time.

I honestly thought we would simply decide to appoint all nine applicants, and I proposed to do so at the beginning. When I was reminded we voted to have a seven person committee, I failed to argue strongly enough in favor of increasing the number. I now know this was a mistake and the result of trying to reduce the number to only seven created the unfairness. I was not able to quickly propose a fair way to proceed with selection, so I left it to board discussion.

In voting not to approve you or Greg, I honestly do feel neither of you are the best candidates for a new committee which hopes to explore new options for the TCC. I know you both have had many years of dedicated service and involvement with TCC in which you've worked hard to make a positive difference. We all thank you for that.

However, I have to acknowledge that along with this history, there are many strong feelings, some distrustful and even resentful between yourselves and people still involved with TCC, and I feel this undertone of suspicion could lead to more animosity and a failure to move forward in a meaningful way.

In good conscience, I made this very difficult vote with the intention of launching the new committee with the best prospects of success. I am very sorry that circumstances required me to make such a difficult decision without any preparation. My strong preference would have been to appoint all of the applicants and let the process work itself out.

I am sorry you've decided to resign from the board. We all know you would have contributed a lot of time and effort and I do apologize for my part in causing you to make this decision.

John Shepard

Union Select Board Chairman

The Council must listen

Once again, the Rockland City Council is proposing the introduction of tiny houses in everyone’s back yard or side yard as an answer to a need for affordable housing.

Although countless examples of surface water flooding throughout Rockland’s neighborhoods has been amply documented by former Rockland Community Development Director Rodney Lynch and others, the City Council has ignored these warnings and resurrected this proposal that was initially withdrawn in the face of a citizens’ petition and a lawsuit in 2019.

Yet, here we are again.

The real motivation behind homeowners’ requests for accessory apartments is a need for additional income to help pay Rockland’s notoriously high property taxes.

Rather than degrade Rockland’s neighborhoods by stuffing in tiny houses, I suggest the City Council dedicate itself to reducing our property tax burden.

Richard D. Warner

Rockland

From concerned Willow Street residents

We have lived on Willow Street for over 40 years. We have concerns about the push to make it possible to build houses on small lots. The area east of Broadway would suffer greatly if this is done. The drainage in this area is very poor. After heavy rains and snow melt, our backyards are flooded. This has been happening for years. New construction in the area would only make the drainage problem worse.

Please take this into consideration, before voting on this change. Also, to destroy the natural area on upper Talbot Avenue to create low income housing is heartbreaking. Once this habitat is gone, it is gone forever! This truly would be a shame. There must certainly be other alternatives.

Rockland needs to hold on to it’s natural areas.

Richard and Lucinda Leonard

Rockland

The unknown petition letter I received

The U.S. Postal Service just delivered to my Owls Head home in a plain white envelope, appearing to be a run of the mill piece of presorted junk mail. It was addressed only to “Local Postal Customer,” with no return address of any kind. The contents were four typewritten pages plus a petition, under the date Feb. 4, 2021.

It is a call to action concerning the airport expansion issue. The mailing was unsigned, no names anywhere, with the only address anywhere in the document being at the bottom of the petition: Box number 91 at the Owls Head Post Office, the presumptive boxholder given as “Owls Head Citizens.”

It is impossible to guess from this mailing who wrote it, exactly what their stake in the matter really is, or why the hush-hush. However, he/she/they are apparently optimistic I am going to take an unsigned mailing seriously, asking me to jump on board with, for example, the wholesale sacking of our Selectmen, and other strident calls to legal action, claiming dire consequences for our town and “the people of Owls Head” if we don’t play ball.

I don’t know, maybe this is clandestine or not in fact a sound, well-intentioned campaign, but it doesn’t resonate with my notions concerning decision-making that rests on nothing more than someone’s anonymous say-so.

Martin Feldman

Owls Head

Zoning is unjust?

Public debate has sufficiently exposed potential environmental impacts of the proposed zoning change, as well as congestion in residential neighborhoods. The endless push for detached apartments in residential neighborhoods rages on and some on Council continue to ignore the public in questioning.

It’s long time we start asking ourselves what the true motive is here and why we do we not have any answers to our questions.

Where is the demand for this zone change? I have been offered no credible evidence of demand for this which leads me to believe it is purely ideological by following trends in other local government bodies in the U.S.

When you are finished reading this, all you need to do is Google “zoning laws are racist” and you will find partisan studies, blogs and government efforts to eliminate or reduce residential zoning because it is believed to be “inherently unjust.” Eliminating or modifying residential zoning will provide racial and economic equity according to the Pratt Institute.

That’s right, our zoning laws are “racist and unjust” because we have exclusive residential zoning that only allows single family residences in some of these zones. It’s the phenomenon of cancel culture growing like mold in a petri dish right here in our own city hall and it needs to stop. Pardon me if I don’t want a yurt outside my kitchen window.

E.C. Moran Jr. wrote the Rockland City Charter which has since become a model nationally to aid other cities in reducing the drag partisan politics has on city administration.

By rooting out partisan politics his model greatly improved municipal efficiency and has since been adopted all over the country. We as residents of Rockland should be proud of that.

However, if you continually have a clique of like-minded individuals driven by hyper partisan beliefs to change policy off national trends then this system does not work correctly. As residents we have a duty to demand no agenda, liberal or conservative, belongs in city hall.

Let the public vote on it to settle the issue.

Ian Emmott

Rockland

A response from the Captain to the Council

My name is Jim Kalloch and I live at 41 North Main Street in Rockland. I would like to voice my opposition to the latest tiny house plan being put before the city council, again!

This plan to allow tiny houses, garage apartments and outbuildings to become houses is against the comprehensive plan being written as we speak. It is against the current plan.

One of the main goals of the comprehensive plan is to maintain current density of Rockland housing. Having been a member of the comprehensive planning committee, I have a good feel for what Rockland residents want in their housing stock, and what they do not want.

Trust me when I say, that a hobbit style housing community is not what the residents want popping up inside the historic district. This is from Broadway to the sea.

The City Council is not chartered to force their desires on the residents but help run the city along with the city manager. This tiny house issue has been dragged into the forefront of the council for six years.

Most concerned residents thought as soon as Val Gieger left the council, this issue would die, (or at least we hoped) but no, now Davis has picked up the torch and is running to get this through. At a time when no one is allowed to gather, discuss and oppose this issue, Davis is pushing hard to get it through city council.

This issue is so important to the character of the historic section of Rockland, it needs to be put on a ballot so every voter has a chance to weigh in and have a voice on such an important change to the city landscape.

This change will negatively effect the value of each abutting land owner property. When a tiny house is built next to a nice historic house, this will reduce the resale value of our property. First, because the tiny house was built outside of the comprehensive plan and because the new hobbit house increases the population density next door to the historic house.

I spend over $850 a month in city real estate taxes for a small lot (less than a quarter acre) with a house and garage. Is the city ready to refund my taxes because of my neighbors building a tiny shack house that decreased value of my historic house? I bet not.

Also, under the current zoning rule, we have nice setbacks from our neighbor's lot lines and road frontage. In order to accomplish these hobbit houses, these setbacks will have to be changed along with many other current zoning rules. These zoning rules are the results of over 100 years of tried and true experience of city councilor before us.

Do we just throw these rules out because Val Gieger and now Nate Davis has the latest and greatest idea, or do we listen to what history and the residents tell us?

We currently have one small house project in the works on Philbrick Avenue and another on the drawing board. This is the right way to get your tiny houses. Not turning the beautiful downtown historic district into San Francisco or Portland where neighbors have no green space and live on top of each other.

This entire question needs to be shelved until after COVID-19 when we can come together and discuss this face to face, or placed on the next November ballot so the voice of the people can be heard.

Jim Kalloch

Rockland

Tiny homes is not the answer

Are we going to maintain our wonderful community or develop it into a tiny house consortium with a city full of accessory dwellings? The Rockland City Council just passed the first stage on this road to ruin for the city of Rockland.

Our home was built in 1853 and owned by General Davis Tillson, giving it a place on the historic register.

Habit for Humanity’s proposed development plan for 10 acres at 165 Talbot Ave. is worse than I could possibly imagine. The proposed 16 homes, eight of which are tiny houses are not in character with Talbot Avenue.

My children used to gather eggs in the frog pond and show their friends at school. The frogs no longer sing their songs after the drainage was changed by the city, but the wetland is still there. The drainage is a very big concern of mine. How did it become okay to develop wetland when I was told a few years ago that you couldn’t?

Our neighborhood loves this wonderful green space and it sad to see it change. Can the property be designed and developed in a manner that preserves open space for all to enjoy? Of course it can, but the tiny houses plopped on Talbot Avenue will look very strange.

One person commented that “approving a 'tiny home' exemption sounds simple, but it's anything but. Should this pass, density will increase and problems multiply. More cars, people, noise crammed into same area. Then, neighborhood quality of life issues arise and property values decrease. Once you're on that slippery slope, it will become impossible to stop the skid.”

It's up to the Planning Board to see the development will not degrade the present community with tiny houses. The council should not continue to push the minimalist fad of tiny houses.

Beverly Cowan

Rockland

Un-natural gas

How tempting it would be to put in a gas furnace, paid for by Summit Gas with money they dangle in front of you to do so.

Oops, that is if you spend your own money, even before the pipeline is built and if you meet their fine print deadlines and restrictions. Oops, that money is straight out of your own tax money through the Efficiency Maine program.

Oops, our streets will be torn up for years. Oops, we are locked into fossil fuel infrastructure for decades while the rest of the world is getting off the fossil fuel habit. Oops, most of this “natural” gas comes from fracking. Oops, you would be helping a mega-million dollar hedge fund company line their pockets.

If you have investigated all this and still want to have fracked gas, it is your decision. Yup, at least for a few years your heating bill may be smaller. (But have you ever heard of a monopoly seller who keeps prices low?)

Whatever the prices, it is a short-term benefit. You might stretch a bit to think long-term and commit to a non-fossil fuel future of a cleaner and safer world. Our children and their children might like that.

Connie Hayes

Rockland

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