Courier-Gazette Letters to the Editor March 18

Mar 18, 2021

Since when does asking questions equal opposition?

Your March 11 editorial seems to make assumptions about those of us who are asking questions about the proposed Habitat for Humanity subdivision at 165 Talbot St.; questions that are generating some pretty vague answers.

Are you assuming we are in opposition because we are questioning drainage mitigation on land with significant environmentally sensitive wetland areas?

Are you assuming opposition because we point out that the current plan shows no community storage space for residences many of which are 500 square feet?

Do you assume opposition because we question the wisdom of starting a new 19-unit subdivision when Habitat’s 12 home Philbrick Commons Project begun in 2019 has only four residences near completion, a pandemic underway and building material in short supply and at an all-time high in price. Are we being unreasonable to ask “just how long this project will linger on?"

Or are you simply assuming opposition when we ask for a definition of the specific roles and responsibilities of the three partner organizations in this first time collaboration between Habitat, the Knox County Homeless Coalition and the Maine Housing Authority? Could we simply to trying to avoid endless future finger pointing should this subdivision become a reality?

I, for one, did not start out opposing this project, and I still do not. However, given the vague and often condescending answers I and my neighbors are getting from Habitat and the Landmark Corporation, I must admit that even as a supporter of both Habitat and the Knox County Homeless Coalition, I am moving from a “believer” to a “doubter.”

Larry Campbell

Rockland

Planning board tours site at 165 Talbot Ave.

Just like the weather, wait a few minutes and it’ll change. That’s what we witnessed as the Rockland planning board visited the site for the development of a 10.6 acre field. Neighbors showed up at the site where some of the proposed buildings, roads and small houses were to be built.

Oh, but wait. The plans have been changed; where once were tiny houses near the road, now they’re at the rear of my property.

I live at 157 Talbot Ave., the residence of General Davis Tillson. When we bought that, house it wasn’t habitable. We had to first install a furnace, evict various animals and repair old wiring to name a few. With limited resources and time it’s taken over 30 years to restore the Tillson house to its former glory.

General Tillson’s house will now be a part of a homeless coalition that has no reason to feel invested in their homes.

The March 9 meeting of the planning board which can be viewed on the city of Rocklands website was informative. The concern of neighbors, like myself, asked about decreasing property values with the proposed site.

The chairman, laughs and said they (the planning board) don’t concern themselves with property values, and rest assured that the city council will find other sources of funds through taxes. This can be viewed for the exact words.

Others at the meeting were speaking up for the various inhabitants of the field. Johnathan Frost and wife Susan pled for the wildlife that they have observed while walking daily past the “Firefly Field.” This green space is not empty, but full of living things being threaten by the Habitat for Humanity with habitat loss.

Fireflies, birds, turkeys and many others will have to find another home. Wetlands attract many other natural species and have limited places to relocate. The frogs used to live there before the city changed the drainage and more species are threatened.

The present codes should be enforced. There has been a grant of $500,000 already issued for this project. There is no reason to grant a wavier for 500 square foot tiny houses instead of 750 square feet homes.

The history of minimum-sized houses for emotional and physical health as stated by the American Society of Planning Officials Report No. 37 April 1952 talks about children needing a certain amount for free living space. A minimum sized house for only one person is in the range of 500 to 600 square feet.

Also, it’s stated that a community has the right to require a minimum standard of decent housing in the community on the basis of a broad interpretation of health. Taking the case a step further, a large minimum building size requirement may be supported because it "preserves the character of the neighborhood."

Habit for Humanity’s proposed development plan for 10.6 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 Ave.

The document referenced above was written seven years after the end of WWII when housing for the returning veterans were being considered. (Sept 2, 1945) Minimum house sizes have an effect on emotional and physical health and it’s not a good idea to minimize this risk for the homeless.

It’s not humane to house people in little boxes, despite the newest fads of tiny houses. Keep the building code at 750 square feet.

Beverly Cowan

Rockland

Demolition for a park

The citizens of Waldoboro have spent a great deal of time and money saving the A.D. Gray school building. We finally have a solid plan to make it a usable structure in our community. Why, at the ninth hour, are we talking about demolishing it?

There are well maintained ballparks off Old Route One and Route 32. The Midcoast Conservancy maintains the Waldoboro River Park with beautiful benches behind the American Legion Hall on Jefferson Street. Quarry Hill, the Town Forest, the town landing and Dutch Neck Marine Park are all available for recreational use by the local communities.

Why, suddenly, is another park so essential?

We listened to yet another presentation from the A.D. Gray anonymous coalition of undisclosed donors and some non-residents by Saran Pyne. This time, she had a plan. Her plan was a map.

There were no indications of the supervision of the demolition, the removal of the rubble, the rebuilding of the wetland area or the managing of the park. Who is going to run the farmer’s market, manage the community garden, build a gazebo or arrange for the future concerts?

Her discussion about the shadow from the building on the park was ridiculous. In summer, any shade from the strong sun is welcomed. However, if you view a google map of the A.D. Gray building, you will see it is facing west, and only in the winter is the sun so low in the sky that it would cast any significant shadow. During the summer, the sun is quite high in the sky and only shades the highest part of the hill next to the building.

Her following comment that there are other sites in Waldoboro more suitable for senior housing was also unfounded. What other sites? Sam Cohen’s suggestion that 32 senior residents will overburden our town services is equally ridiculous.

She now has pledges for over $180,000 for demolishing a building. Where was she and her donors when the playground committee was trying to build a new play area for our community?

Will any member of this coalition volunteer to improve the grounds, build a gazebo, manage a farmer’s market or arrange for concerts? Will any of them ever come to this park?

Caren Clark

Waldoboro

Open letter to the Rockland Planning Board and City Council

I write to you with a sense of urgency, because a subdivision on the wetland meadow of Talbot Avenue is contrary to the ethos of “Habitat for Humanity.” If the name of this organization has any real integrity, it must be responsible for the impacts on humanity’s “habitat” when it considers the environment for subdivisions.

This wetland is within the watershed of the very important Rockland/Oyster River Bog, and is classified with the same significant descriptors as the bog, according to the National Wetlands Inventory map.

“Humanity’s Habitat” is the entire ecosystem where we live. You must consider not only the importance of this wetland to the human inhabitants of Rockland, but of all the living creatures and plant life that depends upon it for their habitat.

As you consider plans for housing people, consider that more than 25% of wetland plants and animals are facing extinction. Do you think Habitat for Humanity should contribute to the disappearance of habitats of other species by destroying yet another wetland?

Wetlands are among the world’s most valuable ecosystems because they contribute importantly to mitigating the climate crisis that is threatening our planet. They are disappearing three times faster than forests. Wetlands are some of the most carbon-dense ecosystems in the world and as enormous carbon sinks, store carbon and release oxygen to the advantage of all of us.

The city of Rockland has pledged to reach ambitious carbon neutrality by 2045. Destroying this wetland will destroy a significant piece of reaching this goal.

There are many better options, and you know that. Habitat for Humanity must be required to finish Philbrook Commons first and assess the alternatives in the meantime.

I hope I have helped you to understand why this is important.

Nancy Galland

Rockland

On the subject of storm water

At the Rockland City Council Meeting March 8, Ordinance Amendment 39 passed in final reading, which allows both attached and detached dwellings (small houses in back yards or side yards) in every residential zone in the city, except Zone AA.

Each single family residence will now be allowed one such small house in their back yard or side yard. This was originated and sponsored by Councilors Nate Davis and Ben Dorr as an answer to affordable housing.

In reality, these back yard and side yard homes will actually be rented at whatever the market will bear, or as short term rentals in the summer, which will be even more profitable for the owner, as there is no limit to the number of residents that can have short term rentals on owner occupied property.

Just before the vote, when people finally became aware this proposed change was not for affordable housing, but just the opposite, the council’s answer was that we need all types of housing. As more housing turns into high end rentals and short term rentals, it only contributes to the lack of affordable housing and moves Rockland further to gentrification.

To better understand the unreasonableness of this vote, one needs only look to the report of Lindsey Brook, which was provided to council members via email from Rodney Lynch, AICP. With limited time, Rodney identified sites on Broadway/Summer, Rankin, Gay, Willow and Masonic Streets along with photos. The photos of each location were accompanied by the description of the site as to its storm water related problems and suggestions for remediation.

The Council openly dismissed this report before their final vote as being a separate issue and not related to adding more housing to already dense land with documented existing flooding. I suggested interested Rockland residents read this report and survey by contacting council members or the city manager.

Once the impervious surface is compromised in already flooded areas, there is no turning back.

The council also chose not to consider alternatives which included:

(1)Upper floors of Main Street and the downtown area, working with Maine Housing to secure funding for adaptive reuse of buildings.

(2)Rehabilitation of the 599 empty existing houses in Rockland as identified in a report by Vince Papsidero, AICP.

(3)Reactivation of the City’s Multi-family Housing Rehabilitation Program to assist with the rehab of up to 425 identified multi-family and single family units, predominately occupied by low income people.

All of the above can be accomplish in already existing buildings.

Barry Faber

Rockland

Commending Betts

Each week when I read the Courier, I see nearly all the articles written by Stephen Betts. Not to diminish the work of Christine Simmonds, but Stephen primarily does the news.

I remember him for many years with the Courier, and also with the Bangor Daily News. During these times, when print media is clawing to remain afloat, I must credit Betts as a fearless warrior for the printed word — a traditionally fine reporter and always ready for a scoop.

Thank you, Stephen, for being there all this time.

Philip C. Groce

Union

Courage is found in unlikely places

“Courage is found in unlikely places.” — J.R.R. Tolkein

Congressman Jared Golden put a face to that statement, when he stood before his peers and voted to oppose the Justice in Policing Act of 2021.

Maine Sheriffs recognize the undeniable need for ethics and transparency in law enforcement. Our citizens demand and deserve the accountability of all law enforcement professionals. No one wants this more than the overwhelming majority of police officers, deputies, chiefs and sheriffs who carry out their commitment to serve with integrity every single day.

Officers who make unethical choices cause devastating damage not only to those they’ve sworn to protect, but to those of us who wear a badge with honor and pride.

The Justice in Policing Act is flawed. While the intent was to create pathways towards rebuilding public trust, the bold stroke of eliminating qualified immunity would almost certainly cause ramifications that would in essence, cripple our public safety infrastructure.

Congressman Jared Golden did what many among us could not imagine. In the chambers of Congress, the young Congressman stood up to a resounding expectation to follow political lines by doing the right thing. Representing the safest state in our country, Congressman Golden saw the importance of retaining qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity is a process that should be scrutinized and understood. Courts have long defined the criteria for “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of what a reasonable person would have known” in such an unusual way that it’s difficult to hold an officer accountable even in the most serious cases. We need to be working together to better understand qualified immunity, not broadly eliminating a process that has an appropriate place in public safety when used properly.

Maine’s 16 county sheriffs represent different political parties, but we’ve come together to offer our deepest gratitude for the bold stance Congressman Jared Golden took against significant pressure to vote with his party. We can only hope our Senate leaders recognize the tremendous decision that faces them next week, and follow the lead of Congressman Golden.

Signed by Sherriff Tim Carroll, along with Maine’s 15 county sheriffs

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