Selectmen Not Doing Their Job
The United States can talk to the Taliban, but our selectmen won’t talk to its own citizens about skydiving.
So as you reported last month, it’s off to court again—this time to the state Appeals Court in Boston. Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport is bolstered by an impressive array of legal expertise for the hearing there. This makes the fifth time court proceedings will have taken place over the danger and nuisance of skydiving. The selectmen have technically been within their legal rights to keep blocking the facts from being heard, but their actions smell of avoidance, misinformation, and failure to understand or expose the whole truth.
The board’s job, in part, is to defend the safety, livability, and charm of our town—not the nuisance and danger of skydiving—which defense apparently is based on an extraordinarily faulty so-called FAA “report.” (Your correspondent’s letter last week, extravagantly headlined “Airport is An Economic Engine,” bases his comments on equally faulty reports.)
It’s time for the selectmen, as the airport’s sponsors, to vigorously take back control of over 100 prime acres of town land (the airport), to more closely supervise the airport commission, and to promote safety, openness, and economy in the airport’s management. Their delegation of control may seem a well-intentioned management technique, but it clearly has not worked to the benefit of the town.
J. Denis Glover
Questions Property Tax Shift
To the Chatham Board of Selectmen:
Have you considered what will happen if Chatham 365 succeeds in its efforts to shift the tax burden from resident to non-resident taxpayers? Chatham has such a low tax rate as compared with other towns primarily because non-resident taxpayers demand fewer year-round town services. If we succeed in discouraging the purchase of homes in Chatham because we raised taxes for non-residents, if we succeed in increasing the percentage of year-round residents, we will shift the burden of paying for more services to the very people we are trying to encourage to live here. I pay nearly three times the amount in taxes for a residence outside of Albany, N.Y. compared to what I pay in Chatham for a house worth only a third. Yes, we have a thriving community there, but it is not because of our tax rate which is high. It is because of the availability of well paying jobs, primarily driven by our proximity to state government in Albany. We don’t have that here in Chatham.
If the intent of raising taxes on non-residents in Chatham is to make Chatham affordable, it could backfire. Just something to think about. Many of the 365 proposals are targeting the symptoms and not the cause of loss of year-round families in Chatham. It’s all about the jobs. And that is a far more difficult problem to solve. I don’t know how we solve that problem, but driving a wedge between residents and we so-called non-residents is not helpful.
And finally, I can’t resist pointing out the elephant in the room—the airport, which is conspicuously absent in these discussions over how to make Chatham more community friendly. I think it is a given that efforts to create affordable housing in Chatham will focus on West Chatham neighborhoods. Those same neighborhoods that will be subjected to ever-increasing levels of noise and conflict from an airport that is steadily laying the groundwork for more air traffic, bigger airplanes, and inevitably more conflict. Airport noise and pollution is not a healthy environment for working families. We are in denial if we think the two are compatible. And God forbid you succeed in making Chatham the skydiving capital of the northeast. Something to think about as you continue to prioritize airport funding for a handful of pilots over families in West Chatham.
Tired Of Climate Change Denial
I am getting tired of all the arguments about whether climate change is a "natural, cyclical occurrence" or manmade. With glaciers failing, forests burning, droughts causing worldwide human migration, and all the other unusual climate phenomena, it is up to humans. We, who consider ourselves so darned smart, must do whatever we can to mitigate these changes and preserve our planet and the lives of our children, and their children, and their children—wherever they live.
What's Your Top 10?
One of the 10 top things I like about Chatham is the Book Sale Room in the lower level of the library. Always well organized, it offers a treasure of books, books on tape, and CDs. I wonder what other people consider to be one of the top 10 things to like about Chatham.
Airport Proposal Needs Discussion
The Chatham Airport Commission has recently approved a major expansion of airport operations, as requested by the airport manager, and submitted them to the FAA. As a community we need to decide what kind of airport we really want, not what he wants. Do we want a busy commercial airport with more deafening jets and noisy twin-engine prop plane taxis, solely for the convenience of a tiny minority? The airport commission has also revised the vision statement to indicate that the “airport should become an integral transportation component in southeastern Massachusetts,” despite the existence of the much safer Barnstable Airport with a control tower and two long runways only 14 miles away. Or do we want an airport for small planes described in the contradictory mission statement “the airport is a safety-minded, community-based, environmentally friendly aviation center and a good neighbor.” Plane noise and safety affects all of Chatham. I was recently kayaking on scenic Muddy Creek enjoying the ospreys, egrets, and kingfishers except that the serenity was continually shattered by multiple noisy planes approaching the airport.
The new plans would enable bigger planes to land under conditions of poor visibility and at night. Over 40 property owners would be forced to sign FAA aviation easements to allow “the unobstructed use and passage of all types of aircraft in and through the airspace at any height or altitude above the surface of the land. The right of said aircraft to cause noise, vibrations, fumes, deposits of dust, fuel particles, fear, interference with sleep or communication, and any other effects...” It is estimated these easements would cost the town at least $1,500,000, (and a proportionate annual loss of property taxes) and require trees to be cut down. Trees on acres of wetlands would also be cut down. There must be town-wide discussion of this unconscionable action and the town needs to take back control of its airport property. Residents and visitors love Chatham because Chatham is a beautiful old town with great character and a peaceful, relaxing environment, so let’s keep it that way. The new $8 million Airport Improvement/Management Plan is in full view under airport commission on the town of Chatham website and would be disastrous to our vision of Chatham. Wake up Chatham!
Margaret Tompsett, MD
Selectman Has Conflict Of Interest
In the spring, the Harwich board of Selectman decided to form a committee called the noise containment committee. The purpose of the committee was to reach a point of compromise between the bars in Harwich Port and residents. In recent years outdoor music and volume of the music had consistently increased in Harwich Port. As a result local residents had grown frustrated of the constant noise and complaints increased.
Perks, Embers, and The Port provided the primary reason for complaints as they frequently exceeded the noise level and times stated in the noise bylaws. Music was usually seven nights a week, sometimes afternoons as well. The live music was audible from blocks away.
Mr. McAskill, an interviewer for the noise committee, was given the option to recuse himself from the process due to a potential conflict of interest related to Perks. He declined and assured the board he could be impartial.
One of the people picked for the committee was Sara Powell, wife of Taylor Powell, owner and manager of Perks. According to Massachusetts law if someone is in a position to gain financially or related to someone who might gain financially, it creates a conflict of interest. This includes volunteers, committee members, selectmen etc. In addition, two other committee members chosen by MacAskill are personal friends of the Powells.
Mr. MacAskill was later appointed to be the selectman liaison for the noise committee.
This is wrong.
See No Problem With Chase Park
We enjoyed the recent article about the Chase Park Croquet Club. Our home is on Shattuck Place, and we back right up to Chase Park. We consider ourselves fortunate to live so close to this beautiful municipal asset, and have had the pleasure of visiting with many nice people as they enjoy the park, or stroll down Shattuck Place to enjoy the windmill and labyrinth. We are amazed at the recent opposition to the addition of the labyrinth and the croquet court, as they seem like the perfect accompaniments to the windmill, dog walking, and the occasional football game that breaks out in this lightly used park. Equally amazing is that the opposition seems to have been fueled by one angry rabble-rouser who has forgotten that the park is not an extension of his private property. The recently circulated petition signed by some residents does not reflect the views of all in our neighborhood. We applaud the board of selectmen and the parks board for their careful and thoughtful consideration of requests by those seeking to use Chase Park in new ways, and trust their good judgment will continue.
Lisa and Dana Roy
Advanced Course In Skydiving
Back to school—enroll in skydiving 101. Course includes: Learning a judge ruled three times to allow the Citizens for a Safe Chatham Airport (CSCA) to proceed with their lawsuit to stop skydiving, but the town blocked it with a procedural technicality. The issue whether to allow skydiving could have been decided years ago, saving Chatham legal costs, if they had allowed the courts to hear the reasons CSCA wants to prohibit skydiving.
Reviewing that neighbors had no complaints about the airport for many years until skydiving started. So people are not trying to change the airport; the airport caused the changes by offering skydiving.
Researching reasons skydiving is not safe in Chatham with part of the drop zone obstructed by a building, “off-shore fog can move in very quickly over the runway,” states CQX’s website, pilots may have to circle before landing if skydiver is descending, and landings may occur outside drop zone due to strong crosswinds. Most importantly, the town’s lawyer stated it’s not safe in Chatham.
Examining how skydiving differs from regular airport activities with takeoffs as frequent as every 20 minutes, planes not flying out of the area but circling overhead, and people, not just planes, landing from the air.
Discussing two lawsuits against the town: CSCA is only suing to stop sky diving, not to receive money. Sky Dive Cape Cod, the previous skydiving operation, is suing for $100,000.
Understanding others, not the town, will benefit financially from skydiving in Chatham.
A field trip will be taken to nearby Cape Cod Airfield in Marstons Mills to observe (or jump over) large grassy fields at their airport.
Study well and you’ll pass this course with flying colors (pun intended)!