Harwich Faces Serious Traffic Problems
As a Harwich resident using Route 124, Route 39 and Oak Street, I am reminded daily of two intersections that need to be monitored and supervised.
Oak Street is heavily traveled through out the year. The volume and speed of traffic turning onto and off of Oak at Route 39 pose problems in terms of traffic flow and, more importantly, safety. Consider that this one street is home to Brooks Park, a playground, a bicycle crossing, a little league field, MRHS, the community center, and Cranberry Valley Golf Course. To get to the Brooks Library, pedestrians use the crosswalk at Oak and do so at their own peril.
The intersection of Route 39 and Route 124 is nightmarish. As it is presently configured, it cannot safely handle the number of commercial vehicles and passenger cars approaching in any direction. This is at the center of historic Harwich. The Congregational Church sits at this intersection. Speed limits are routinely ignored.
These are serious problems that exists in the “off’ season. The influx of tourists will exacerbate the problems that exist. Why can police supervision at both intersections not be done?
Refer Project To Commission
The largest developer of Dollar General stores in the northeast is planning a project at 52 Route 28 in West Harwich. We have a problem allowed by outdated zoning laws from the '70s in which a 7,400-square-foot modern franchise building can be developed in a historic neighborhood. Imagine such a monstrosity next to your home. Our zoning bylaws will need to be updated.
Our planning board is pursuing a thoughtful approach by considering a discretionary review through the Cape Cod Commission. Thank you. The CCC has more tools to guide the project than our current zoning laws allow. I was shocked, however, by one board member who seemed ready to vote immediately even before the CCC presentation. His concern was that the referral would take away control from the board. The referral is only for this project and impacts no other planning board controls A discretionary referral would actually give us some control where there is none. For a project that will devastate a neighborhood and open the door to such projects across Harwich, why not use every available resource? The planning board would still have input to this project but couldn’t impose less strict conditions than the CCC plan.
It’s time for action now! We need a referral to the CCC. Attend the planning board meetings, send letters to the board of selectmen, planning department and town administrator. Take back our town; there lies the control.
Special Visits Made Possible
My honors junior English class at MRHS and I want to heartily thank the Friends of Chatham Waterways for awarding us a recent grant. Their generosity gave us an opportunity to visit special, natural spots in Chatham in order to enrich our study of Emerson, Thoreau, and Transcendentalism. After visiting Goose Pond, Harding's Beach, and Frost Fish Creek, students are creating projects that include personal reflections, poems, sketches, photographs, and video from the visit. Some of the projects will also include natural items collected on our trip to be used in a three-dimensional work. All projects will include the actual words of these great men. Friends of Chatham Waterways, thank you!
Lisa Ford Doyle
Monomoy Regional High School
Forum Stumbles On Housing
The recent housing focus of the state economic forum held in Chatham stumbles going up the stairs. The fact that we cannot house people for affordable prices is a reflection of a broken economic system. Simply building more housing units is not the solution; it is the problem. More homes, people and cars increases property taxes and municipal service costs. Higher population density is not what the Cape needs.
The only ones benefiting from more housing are the developers, real estate brokerages, banks and mortgages lenders, while the rest of us absorb the true cost. What is needed are lower home sale and rental prices. Affordable housing as currently calculated, generally 8 to 10 percent below the median home sale price, still leaves a price of over $400,000. Downpayments and monthly mortgage rates are out of reach for many. The Trump/GOP tax plan does nothing to help leverage or alleviate the issue. "Instituting a transfer tax" and complaining unjustly about so called "burdensome regulations" offer even less in solving the inequality we are experiencing. If this is all an "economic forum" can produce from the collective mindsets of all those attending, it is a poor excuse for a meeting.
Harwich Deserves Transparency
The May 30 Chronicle reported that the bids for the first sewer construction contract for East Harwich came in “slightly higher than expected.” Really? The estimate in the bid package for this work by the town’s consultant, CDM Smith, was $7.5 million, while all the proposals were $11.4 million and higher. The lowest bid is a whopping increase of $3.9 million or a 52 percent miss! How could our long-time wastewater consultants make serious engineering or estimating errors? Then our town administrator decides to downplay or bury this problem. It was suggested that the amount and type of pipe (“the backbone”) drove the bids higher. I’m not sure if this is true. Why wasn’t there a match between the available funding and the scope of the bid package? Does the increase have anything to do with delays in releasing the invitations to bid? Remember, this authorization was approved 12 months ago. Why did it take so long?
This phase for the East Harwich project was to use two contracts to sewer approximately 650 properties on 50 streets at an estimated cost of $22.6 million. If that estimate is in error, the project cost could grow to over $34 million, much more than was initially authorized by the voters. The estimate for the Chatham inter-connector, $2.150 million, is apparently coming in at closer to $3.0 million, another million-dollar problem.
Our neighbors, the residents in Phase 2, have been mistreated. Some were told they would not be sewered until Phase 8 (year 2048), then in April 2018 they were told they were part of Phase 2. After a year of planning for a backhoe to dig a sewer service cutting across their property, now they may be back to year 2048 or some other unknown time. Not to mention the stress and concern over the financial impact of the process.
So, taxpayers will be asked to borrow more money and accept that we may not complete the sewering that was approved by the voters. The consultants are now suggesting that bid “alternates” be used in the next request for proposals. This means that a significant number of Phase 2 streets/properties could be dropped. Harwich taxpayers get less in return for more money.
Taxpayers deserve transparency and full disclosure from our board of selectmen and town administrator. The options, plans and impacts from this need to be discussed as they occur with the public and in public. The end results are potentially higher costs, confusion among affected property owners and loss of credibility in the management of this project.