Response to the Rockport Select Board letter

By Kathie Grealish | Aug 06, 2020

[Ed. note: the following letter is a response to a letter from the Rockport Select Board, published in the Camden Herald, Aug. 6.]

This Select Board’s letter is what is misleading, inaccurate and very disheartening to see. Actually, it is defamatory.

Why does the SB care if the hotel is responsibly sized and maintains a view? It was originally proposed as 20 to 22 rooms, the same number of rooms as 16 Bayview, which is profitable but will fit better in Rockport. That is all the petitioners want. Why don’t they want a third party traffic study done to make sure the downtown can handle the added traffic with valet parking going to and from the offsite parking at the old Hoboken Garden from the hotel ?

The Citizens Petitions were thoughtfully crafted with nothing misleading about them. The supporters have consistently been transparent and aboveboard. This fascination with out of town off-site VRBO owners is ludicrous! There is not one person involved who fits this description. They want you to believe this, that there is personal motivation. I assure you; there is not. Residents of Rockport have put in their blood, sweat and tears trying to get the message out to the residents so they can make an informed decision and vote. Not spoon-fed misleading guidance from the Select Board (feels like the library). There is no financial gain, nobody is worried about their personal parking, but rather safety and parking for all.

The petitions are not about retroactively changing a previous vote. They petition signers are not opposed to a reasonable boutique hotel as the original vote contemplated. Rather it is about standing by what they pitched to us all publicly when this whole hotel proposal was being put to residents asking for their vote.

April

04/18/2017 (33:00 min into meeting) Select Board at their public meeting explains how they arbitrarily came up with the aggregate number 40 because this would be too big for one hotel “there would be no deciding between winners and losers.” Another Select Board member continues to say, “We don’t want one large hotel; two smaller hotels would keep downtown vibrant without taking up the entire district as a hotel.”

Fast forward to 35:08 and Stuart Smith pitches his proposed project “we would like to build a small hotel in Rockport, 20-22 rooms”

https://livestream.com/rockportmaine/events/7198735/videos/154495579

June

Vote was put to the Rockport Residents to have up to 40 aggregate hotel rooms in downtown Rockport, thinking a few “small boutique sleeping room hotels” so not just one developer could have a monopoly.

Vote passes. The developer submits an application to build a 36-room hotel which is approved by the boards, taking up a huge footprint which blocks an entire historical view to the Rockport Harbor (while offering it to his out of town guests for a weekend). It is a hotel without an adequate parking solution, a hotel that goes against town view ordinances and our Comprehensive Plan. After there was some opposition, the developer reduced it from 36 rooms to 26 suites – without changing the footprint of the hotel. This still leaves only 14 rooms for any other person to build a hotel, which is not feasible. So now there is a “winner.” Winner is Stuart Smith. He now has a monopoly on the downtown of Rockport harbor hotels. The size of the hotel is something the petitioners thought would be an obvious change with the message of so many caring petition signatures.

To the Select Boards letter. Why aren’t you following our Comprehensive Plan, which they are supposed to honor, where the citizens survey spoke for itself saying their number-one priority was to preserve and protect our views and integrity of our harbor and village? The Select Boards solution is “there a harbor view 20 yards away.” It is okay to them to lose a view that has been there since Rockport was established because there is one a few blocks away? This is how much the Select Board cares about the Comprehensive Plan and our downtown. The Select Board has completely ignored the Land Use Ordinance in their accepting of the size of this proposed building, blocking a view and defacing Central Street. The residents care and this is purely the motivation behind these petitions. Safety and preservation with responsible growth.

No, the petitions cannot retroactively change a vote, nor do they want to. But they can try to make the hotel be what it was stated to be. Nobody is in this for personal gain other than the developer. Select Board, maybe you should spend more time listening to the residents you are supposed to represent and not so much time on a Camden resident. And not find the signatures of 350 residents voicing their concern “offensive” and misstating facts to get a vote in your favor and dismiss what this is all really about (plus 200 Change.org and others who wanted to sign but were afraid of retribution from the developer because of personal relationships). Please don’t also smear the petition for a third-party parking study. That is so important for responsible growth for Rockport. Since 1994 when the Comprehensive plan stated making downtown vibrant, since then we have three restaurants, a huge new library, two new galleries, hair salon, a book shop … plenty of growth. This petition could have said no hotel but deliberately did not. They are trying to work for a compromise to make everyone happy. Let’s ensure we move forward with future growth wisely.

A 20-room hotel appropriately sized will bring in the same tax revenue as this 26 room super-sized hotel. This is not anti-growth; this is pro Rockport! Do you really think you will miraculously get a tax bill in a few years that is lower than what you are paying now if the hotel goes in at proposed size?

Kathie Grealish is a resident of Rockport.

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