Many Reasons For Plastic Bag Ban
I would like to respectfully respond to Mr. Summers' recent concerns (and one of yours) about Chatham's single-use plastic bag ban which began the first of this year. I'll try to be brief and go point by point:
1) Using heavier plastic bags is not "skirting," but rather complying with the regulation: "Single use plastic bags for the purpose of this regulation are defined as a bag, made of plastic, with integral handles, and thickness less than 2.5 mils (2.5 thousandths of an inch)." Bags thicker than 2.5 mils are sturdy enough to be reused many times and are still recyclable.
2) Yes, of course we need trees, but the ultimate goal of the regulation is not to encourage paper bags, but rather people using their own reusable bags.
3) Chatham is not "copying" other towns, rather respecting the data on plastics in our environment, as, hopefully, any responsible town does. Biodegradable bags must be composted to biodegrade, and only 6.1 percent of plastic bags are recycled – the resulting litter, pollution and risk to land and marine life being quite real.
4) As to whether this matter is within the mission of the board of health: "The Chatham Health Division and Board of Health enforce Massachusetts General Laws, State Environmental and Sanitary Codes, and town of Chatham bylaws and regulations. The health division has the primary responsibility of protecting and improving the public health and well-being of the Chatham community. The enforcement and inspection activities ensure a safe and healthy environment in which to live and work." The board of health is not "intervening." It is doing its job.
5) If anyone has any doubt about the effects on the environment of unnecessary plastics on our lands and in our waters, watch the documentary "A Plastic Ocean" at plasticoceans.org.
6) As for the "less convenient" claim, wouldn't it be convenient for us to just roll down our car windows and toss trash onto the road, or to leave our garbage on the beach or toss it off the side of a boat? But of course we can't condone that (I hope!) If the goal is to lessen the negative effects of plastics via litter, pollution and very real injury to animals, marine life (and ultimately into the fish we eat), then is using a slightly different bag truly such an inconvenience?
Enough Space For Fleet?
As a summer resident expat the editorial on the fleet's future made me think there are some sticky issues on the horizon. How many of the 120 commercial boats would want to relocate to Stage Harbor if the bar is unusable? How would that number be accommodated in a harbor that already has a mooring wait list about a generation long? How would it be possible to accommodate the ground traffic associated with that number of boats (i.e. boat owner trucks, crew trucks, fish trucks) not only at the town property but through town. Can the Stage Harbor channel handle the implied increase in boat traffic during the summer? It might be wise to address some of these questions before diving into eight figure capital expenditure planning.
Officials Ignore Middle School Vote
Harwich voted for its grade school students to be part of the Monomoy School District. Grades one through six were to attend the Middle School facility in Chatham starting in 2012 and grades seven through 12 were to attend the new high school built in Harwich the same year.
This action left Harwich with a vacant middle school facility with a small remaining debt service to be paid and future costs of maintenance until the facility could be sold or a solution found for its cost effective use.
Without highlighting each and every painstaking proposal, recommendation, or review held by committee, the board of selectmen or the town administrator, the Harwich Middle School remains, costing the taxpayers between $100,000 and $150,000 each year ($600,000 to $900,000 through 2017) with no appreciable income to offset these costs. Costs of yearly middle school custodial/maintenance service salaries and their fringe benefits are included in these costs.
In an effort to obtain voters' preference regarding the future of the Harwich Middle School facility, a nonbinding 2016 ballot question was voted unanimously to dispose of the facility unless it generated income to offset its costs. The 2018 town budget forces decisions that may benefit a few at the expense of many by continuing to ignore the voters prior disposal preference and allow the middle school to remain open with a significant shortfall of offset income. This may contribute to either asking the voters for a Proposition 2½ override to fund additional public service personnel or in lieu of an override, reduce town services or lay-off town employees to meet budget constraints.
The choice again becomes a matter of priorities.
Charter Recommendation Misrepresented
Nancy Bober wrote a letter published in the March 23 edition of The Chronicle which was factually incorrect and very misleading regarding Chatham's most recent charter review. The committee did not recommend removing from the charter the provision of town meeting votes being binding. In fact, the charter review committee strongly endorsed the concept that town meeting votes were binding on town officials. The specific language presented to town meeting was:
“ The exercise of the legislative power by a vote of town meeting shall be presumed to be binding, to the extent permitted by law, and shall be implemented by a designated town agency or department in conformance with the law or such vote. Upon the introduction of every non‐binding warrant article at town meeting, the moderator shall state the article is non‐binding, to the extent feasible.”
The Charter Review Committee retained 100 percent of the language from the previous Charter and added language to help clarify the very few situations where town meeting articles (primarily petition articles) were written in language that could not be binding on the town. This recommendation did not pass the town Meeting vote on May 11, 2015.
Mr. Taylor did attend many of our charter review committee meetings; he acknowledged that he was a frustrated, unchosen applicant for the committee. The committee itself was exceedingly generous in its openness to public comment. However, Mr. Taylor’s participation was often disrespectful to committee members, to other speakers and presenters and was, at times, belligerent.
Shareen Davis was an active member of the charter review committee that successfully defended the primary basis for our previous Charter while receiving support at town meeting and at the ballot box for several incremental changes which make our robust Charter even stronger. Shareen worked collaboratively with the other members of our committee to achieve these results. The committee members did not always agree on every issue, but we had very civil discourse, listened to each other and ultimately achieved consensus. I believe that Ms. Davis will bring the same ability to work with others to the board of selectmen and will bring a “breath of fresh air” to the selectmen’s meetings. It is clearly time to improve the level of discourse at board of selectmen’s meetings.
Douglas P. Hamilton
Chairman, Charter Review Committee 2013 – 2015
Skydiving Adds No Value
The March 23 editorial regarding skydiving suggests that concerns about skydiving by Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport are based on a few disgruntled individuals who live near the airport and set a dangerous precedent for other businesses in Chatham, and thus needs a vigorous defense by the town. There could be nothing further from the truth.
The issues raised by the CSCA are based on a few simple facts. First, despite FAA pressure, it is clear by expert review that the conditions at Chatham Airport do not meet the minimum FAA safety guidelines in multiple ways, including the size and proximity of the landing area to the active runway and being surrounded by a densely-populated area. Indeed, adjusted for size, no other Massachusetts airport with skydiving has even one-fourth as many flights per day or denser residential environment. Secondly, the estimates of revenues brought to the town by this activity have been shown to be totally unsupportable and, excepting for the skydive operator, amount at most to a few tens of thousands of dollars. Finally, the editorial lists a bunch of far-fetched scenarios like complaining about the bandstand or beach traffic as being equivalent targets of discontent. Those are part of Chatham’s charm, and why so many of us love and want to protect the town.
Skydiving is not safe in Chatham and does not add value. Supporting skydiving for business development would be like supporting construction of a McDonald’s on Main Street. There are better uses of town resources than this.
C. Ronald Kahn
Farmer No One To Blame But Himself
I am a direct abutter to the so called “farm” at 35 Chatham Rd., Harwich. I have lived on Lovers Lane for 19 years. You bet we are concerned “about the commercial activity, noise and impacts on the wetlands.”
Mr. Viprino moved into the neighborhood last April and allegedly clear cut three acres of a heavily forested environmentally sensitive area well into the wetlands without any permits. He neglects to mention that fact in his appeal to the state. He neglects to mention that the area is a NHESP priority habitat. He neglects to mention that there was a residential permit for horses of which there were two on the property. The property was never a commercial “horse farm.” Horses were not bred there, were not sold there. He neglects to mention that he moved hundreds of animals onto the property without any consideration for nitrogen loading and the requirements pertaining to the town of Harwich. He neglects to mention that he has not filed a notice of intent for any of the clearing before or after the fact. He neglects to mention that he also cut into abutting properties. He neglects to mention that he’s been down this road before in Brewster. He neglects to mention that he has a pile of manure two stories high and two stories wide leaching directly into the wetlands. The conservation commission did the right thing by denying an agricultural exemption. Had Mr. Viprino followed the proper course of action initially, he would not be two stories high in manure.
He speaks about the conservation commission as not ruling in a reasonable manner. He needs to point that finger at himself. Had Mr. Viprino done his due diligence and acted in a reasonable manner, followed the proper procedures for permitting, he would not have incurred “serious financial loses.” There is no one to blame here but himself. The conservation commission did its part with regard to protecting the wetlands from further damage. It is now up to the board of health to take the reins and require a manure management plan, as well as enforce all violations that Mr. Viprino had incurred with regard to the “poundage” of animals allowed.
The town of Harwich is going to ask us to vote in favor of spending $30 million for a wastewater management facility at town meeting in May. If they can’t manage to clean up this “mess” how can we trust them with our hard earned dollars to clean up the rest of the town?
Can't Support Non-inclusive Candidate
I commend anyone that gives their time to serve on our local boards, especially our board of selectmen. I agree that mean-spirited and negative comments directed towards individuals who serve in these roles are unnecessary. However, I do believe that committing to serve comes with a responsibility, and those who serve must be held accountable. As a resident and business owner in Chatham, I have a very different view point on the support that Seth Taylor offers to someone like myself, as referenced by your letter writer last week. Having a mindset that focuses on alienating our visitors and summer residents while supporting articles that threaten future economic growth, as shown through his public comments and voting records, is not a mindset that supports our small business community. We need to embrace what we are as a community today and position Chatham to be ready for its future. We can protect our core values to ensure we shape the future we all want, but we can’t do so by holding onto the past so tightly. I believe in creating an environment in which all of our local industries are supported and strengthened by our elected officials and residents alike. I believe that the Chatham we all love will continue to be the Chatham we all love, but only with the right people in our elected positions and the continued engagement of all of our residents. Mr. Taylor, I thank you for your public service, but I cannot support someone that doesn’t support all of our residents, industries and visitors.
<Headline>Skydiving Opponents Not Small Group
You, the selectmen, the airport manager, and others seem to hold the mistaken belief that Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport are only a tiny number of disgruntled people who live near the airport.
In fact, as their substantial group at Barnstable Superior Court a couple of weeks ago shows—and by my own observation—CSCA is a large, respectable, and reasonable group. They’re not only from Great Hill and West Chatham, but also from the Riverbay and Barcliff Avenue areas. Many do not abut the airport.
By the FAA’s and selectmen’s own admissions, Chatham is considered “dense,” and the FAA does not allow skydiving in dense areas. Yet they, the selectmen, and The Chronicle, continue to push for this illegal, unsafe, and troublesome blight on our town.
Is skydiving money everything? Is money from your advertisers everything? What about safety? What about legality? What about the right of our citizens to enjoy their homes?
Even Judge Nickerson seemed bewildered by why the town resists full evidence being presented to the court, and recommended that these kinds of hearings cease and be “folded” into a real trial. He even raised the issue of how much time the town’s actions have burdened the court system with.
And last, your editorial spends a lot of adolescent verbiage on silly, far-fetched hypotheses and then congratulates itself on making its point, which it doesn’t. You guys can do better than that.
J. Denis Glover