Letters to the Editor, Nov. 1

Clarifies Marconi CPA Grants


In Michael Tompsett’s response (“Many Benefits of CPA,” Oct. 11) to my letter (“Ideas To Encourage More Families,” Oct. 4), he appears to have missed my point and has further misrepresented a critical fact.  While his recitation of recent CPA funds expended for affordable housing is no doubt accurate, they represent sunk costs which have not significantly furthered the objective, a point reinforced by your Oct. 11 article “Chatham Housing Production Plan Update Paints Bleak Picture.”

I wrote as a private citizen, not as vice president and executive director of Chatham Marconi Maritime Center.  For the record, CMMC (“the Marconi Museum”) did not receive $1.7 million in CPA funds.  In 1999, the town of Chatham spent $950,000 to acquire the two former RCA/MCI properties for conservation, and subsequently spent about $800,000 to restore the exteriors of the 10 1914 structures on the National Register Historic District in Chathamport.  CMMC leases space in two buildings on site and since 2006 has privately raised and invested over $750,000 in leasehold improvements to the interiors of the buildings for museum exhibit, STEM education classroom and office space.  As landlord, the town mandated infrastructure upgrades including an elevator and sprinkler systems which it funded with $110,000 in CPA funds.  It also funded improvements to the septic system and parking lot, as it would have for any tenant.  Over the last two years, CMMC was granted $45,000 in historic preservation CPA funds to catalog and digitize records documenting Chatham’s unique place in 20th Century maritime radio history.

Bob Fishback



Questions Approval Of House


I am writing for myself and several others who would really like to know how the massive three-story house behind the former bank and across from Cumberland Farms was ever approved by our planning and zoning boards.  Will someone please let us know?  Just looking at the size of the house on that little lot brings a lot of questions to mind as to what in the world is going on with these boards?

Judy Patterson

West Chatham


Appreciation For Windmill Expert


This past August, the Cape lost one of its local treasures: artist, teacher and resident expert on historic grist mills James Owens. Always one to be generous with his time and talents, Jim was a dedicated researcher and explorer of the history and lore surrounding the critical role of wind, water or tidal-powered grist mills in Colonial New England, especially right here on Cape Cod. Thanks in part to his lifelong dedication to this work, our local mills have flourished and provided wonderful teaching and learning opportunities for countless children and adults.
Jim began his education at the little yellow schoolhouse in Eastham, now the Schoolhouse Museum, in the 1930s. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II in Italy in from 1945 to 1946. Upon discharge, he attended the Rhode Island School of Design and then went to NYU for his teaching certification. He always smiled when he stated that the only application he submitted to teach was at Nauset Regional High School and he was lucky it just happened to be in his hometown of Eastham. He ended up teaching there for 26 years. It was also fortuitous because it allowed him to step into the role of docent for the Eastham Windmill, the oldest Smock Grist Mill in the United States that is still standing today, where he proudly served as the official Miller for 44 years.
The docents for the Jonathan Young Windmill on Town Cove in Orleans would like to express our debt of gratitude to Jim Owens for his generosity in donating educational materials, artwork and photos over the past 30 years, all of which improved our tour capabilities and will be on display for many seasons to come. As tour guides, we are grateful for having had Jim as a mentor and resource. He definitely inspired many people to see these seemingly quaint old landmarks with a renewed respect and appreciation, marvelous machines providing vital links to the history and development of each town on Cape Cod.
Thank you, Jim Owens, for your service to our country, our community, and to your beloved town of Eastham. Peace be with you, our friend.

John Knowles and Nick Muto, docents
Jonathan Young Windmill



Small Scale Demo Warranted

If Chatham is truly going to be dedicated to keeping young families in town, then it has to first give them a place to live.  This means changing the mindset of a small segment of the population to allow the proper zoning to accomplish this.  We need to build 1,000- to 1,500-square-foot homes on 4,000-square-foot lots, not the usual 3,000 to 6,000 square foot houses on our sacred 20,000 or 40,000 square foot lots.

The town might, could, should, must do a demonstration project of 10 market rate houses on an acre of town-owned land with the help of some local civic-minded architects and developers.

Phil Richardson

Chatham and Tiburon, Calif.


Village Centers Promote Diversity


Preserving Chatham's unique small-town character in the face of today's development pressures involves preserving not only our historic places, it involves making sure that Chatham's working families and children remain a vital part of our community. The West Chatham project, recently announced as under contract, has always been far more than just a roadway and roadside improvement project, although improvements are needed. The West Chatham project is the first step in following the Chatham Long Range Comprehensive Plan for village center development on Route 28 – a carefully designed and town meeting approved plan that helps solve the shortage of affordable housing for Chatham's working families.

Traditional, compact village centers built on the modest scale of Chatham's Old Village historic area reduce the cost of housing by reducing the amount of land needed for a home. In Chatham, the skyrocketing cost of land has priced most working families out of the market for a home. To succeed, compact village centers require the kind of pedestrian safe and friendly environment absent automobile dominance planned for West Chatham village center. Businesses, people and communities thrive in this traditional small-town environment.

The greatest threat to preserving Chatham's unique character is a hollowing out of our historic diversity – a sort of suburbanizing, homogenizing of a more diverse and vibrant community that is Chatham's historic legacy.

Rick Leavitt



Gratitude For Encouraging Words

Thank you, Juliet Bernstein, for sharing your inspiring words, “It's not easy growing old.” You give cheer and encouragement to those of us who follow not far behind. God bless you!

Emily King

Historical Sign Appreciation


The following letter was sent by the Chatham Historical Commission to Don Edge:
On behalf of the Chatham Historical Commission and the citizens of Chatham, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to you for your efforts associated with the Historic Chatham House Sign program.
Chatham is currently undergoing an unprecedented loss of historic homes, structures and businesses. We, the historical commission and historic business district commission, cannot stem this loss without citizens' support.
Thanks to you, a visitor can walk our beautiful downtown and get a sense of the historic origins of many buildings and the town itself. The signs tell a “story” so important to our history. In time, more signs are sure to go up throughout the town. Each reinforces the importance of the mission of the Chatham Historical Commission and Historic Business District Commission, which is to preserve the town's heritage for future generations.

Frank Messina, chairman
Chatham Historical Commission


Sheila Smith Helped Lay Groundwork


I was about to write to you to congratulate the Chatham Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce for another home run with the recent Oktoberfest weekend.  Before I could write that letter I found out that my dear old friend  Sheila Smith died on Oct. 22, so I want to change my letter a bit.  Sheila Smith was an amazing woman in so many ways; she was very dedicated to this community and preserving what made it so special, while working tirelessly to build business during the shoulder season.   Anyone who was in town for Oktoberfest or any of the other great events like Spring Fling, Chatham Christmas By the Sea or First Night see these amazingly successful events and think that they were always as bustling as they are now.  Those who have been around for 25 to 30 years know much better.  It was people like Sheila Smith who worked year after year when the merchants association  was a new organization and the busy season was June 30 till Labor Day and there were no crowds to speak of any other time of the year.  Sheila was a true pioneer, and someone that did not take no for an answer. When I started my career in Chatham in 1990 it was Sheila and a few others who took me under their wing and guided me through the sometimes quirky nature of Chatham.  Sheila was always first to say yes when it came to volunteering (she, on many occasions got me into a Big Bird costume, Easter Bunny and Santa suit!). No one could stay no to Sheila and I will be forever grateful for all she did for me and this town.

The town of Chatham, the merchants association  and chamber owe a debt of gratitude to Sheila, her tenacity and love of this community forged the way for much of the success these events enjoy today.  That’s why it is so frustrating and disheartening when the town manager and select board do not give the financial support these organizations deserve. There is no trick to getting people to this town in the summer; what draws crowds in the shoulder and off-season is a direct result of the hard work of these organizations.  I remember last year when the chamber asked for a meager raise in the amount that they get from the town and the town managers said “we have to look at the analytics.” What a ridiculous statement…look at the crowds in town through the New Year and early spring.  It’s remarkable that parking was still an issue during these shoulder months but it is.  If you want to look at something, fix the parking problems.  The tax dollars generated by these shoulder season visitors surely would help pay for adequate parking.  Thank you Sheila Smith for your amazing contribution.  Rest in peace!

Tony Guthrie