Letters To The Editor: Jan. 30, 2020
Complete Streets Not Needed
Recently The Chronicle wrote about Harwich moving forward with the Complete Streets Program under MassDOT requirements to pursue a sidewalk along Route 28 from Harwich Port to Saquatucket Harbor. On this topic it was suggested that bike lanes be put along Hoyt Road because there would not be enough room on Route 28 for compliant sidewalks and a bike lane. I drove Hoyt Road and it is a lovey curving residential street with very nice homes. Many them have mature trees, hedges and fences alongside the road. Much of the property owner’s investments would be destroyed. Further, as it is a curvy street, there is not good visibility for bikes or motorists. On a related topic, it was said there was a need for sidewalks from Harwich Center to Harwich Port. There are two main roads connecting the two villages, Bank Street and Sisson Road. Both of those roads already have sidewalks. They are 1.3 miles long.
Harwich year-round residents are really feeling the pain of increased taxes this year and for many years to come. Every expenditure that the selectmen approve needs to be carefully analyzed as to whether it is a “want” or a real need. Please contact selectmen with your thoughts about Complete Streets and whether these proposed sidewalks are absolutely necessary at this time.
I appreciate Selectmen Howell bringing up the importance of public participation in the policy and prioritization process to avoid the year long dreadful experience of the Route 124 proposed TIP project.
Stand By Parish Priest
Father James Buckley needs our support today to the same extent that he has supported his parishioners and neighbors, as well as complete strangers, during his entire life.
If you were lucky enough to know this man of God you were privileged. I had the honor of helping him for eight years as the confirmation instructor at Holy Redeemer Church. Volunteering was something I always did but "Father B" constantly showed his appreciation. He did this for all those with whom he came in contact from the senior he visited in the nursing home, to his parishioners and to the young people he guided to live a more Christ-like life. He is a true Christian.
This man deserves the respect and support from the thousands of people for whom he has cared over the years. He buried my husband and stood by me during that difficult time. He performed the marriage of one of my daughters and shared in my joy. Today I stand by him with deep pride and respect.
Protecting History Isn't Easy
I totally share Janet Whittemore’s concern about the demolition of Chatham’s historic houses. However, getting people together for a couple of hours on Wednesdays to deal with this problem is almost an insult to those individuals, groups, and neighborhood associations who have worked for years to save historic buildings and protect Chatham’ character. For example, the Old Village Association was formed in 1997 for this very purpose. Over the years, brave neighbors wrote letters, attended hundreds of regulatory hearings, and spoke out (often ignored, sometimes insulted) at selectmen’s meetings to plead their case. Similar organizations, including the West and South Chatham Associations and now a new group “POP” (Protect Our Past) are also trying to save historic homes.
Despite years spent in advocacy, we could not combat 21st century trends, including the bizarre increase in the value of properties. The emphasis on economic development too often trumped preservation, especially at the ZBA and planning board, the two boards whose decisions could have made a difference. The historical commission was caught in the middle between developers, their lawyers, summer residents and preservationists. The selectmen are now forced to focus on tourism and the multiple issues that popularity has brought.
Nature has played its role in the disruption of our peaceful town. We are seeing more storms with washovers. The fishing industry is fighting to survive a changing shoreline with rising waters which may well also be a threat to property. (Perhaps climate change should be at the top of the list for anyone ready to step in and join the fray.) I admire Janet Whittemore for taking on these multiple issues. Just so that she knows it ain’t goin’ to be easy!
Do Nothing Viable Airport Option
The airport compromise plan neither meets the touted instrumentation needs nor eliminates public objections. This plan still requires 18 avigation easements costing $3 million-plus, and would significantly reduce property values. The town created this situation, so for the town to take rights and value away from even one homeowner is just not acceptable.
The FAA presumably considers a non-precision approach much less safe than a visual approach, because it increases the area of the runway/overshoot protection zones (RPZ) 3.6 fold to 49 acres. This would include over 80 homes instead of only 10 for the existing visual runway. The FAA says these zones are to protect people and urges that they be totally unpopulated. A non-precision runway still requires a minimum runway length of 3,200 feet, so that granting the required waiver would reduce the safety margin.
Bizarrely, the compromise plan specifies a non-precision southern approach, which would only be used infrequently because the prevailing wind is from the southwest and planes land into the wind predominantly from the north. Therefore based on this, and without horizontal and vertical guidance on both approaches, the whole argument of doing anything falls apart. Hence “Do Nothing” is the only viable option. This avoids all the legal costs, loss of property values, environmental destruction, an eight-fold increase in the number of people at risk in RPZs, and millions of FAA dollars, which handcuff the town’s control of the airport. Displacing the runway thresholds by 390 feet and 286 feet, as calculated by Gale Associates, would effectively shorten the runway with minimal impact on small-plane users, but would make the airport safer and quieter by rerouting commercial turboprop planes, which are the main source of protest, to Barnstable Airport. This would also eliminate the case for the dangerous practice of straight-in without a control tower, which primarily benefits the charters. “Do Nothing” is something, which, in more ways than one, we could all live with.
Dr. Michael Tompsett
Middle School Better For COA
I watched the Chatham Council On Aging meeting held on Jan. 13 and found it to be amusing that the COA is now requesting folks to write letters on a weekly basis in favor of 1610 Main St.
Out of fear they’ll be left with nothing, the COA is ignoring all the negatives of 1610 Main St. and the board of selectmen are choosing to ignore the comments made at the special town meeting requesting they look into the 31 acres of town-owned property at the middle school location.
There would be room for a more user-friendly and less costly one-story building, room for needed parking, green space for outdoor activities on a much safer road with room for expansion if need be. It will not interfere with any baseball fields or the bike paths. No additional costs or need for retaining walls or landfill, overflow parking or the need to fight traffic. It’s closer to the fire department in case of emergencies as well. Seems like a no brainer.
I find it totally ironic that so many people, in their haste to have a new building, lack the common sense to use a more economical piece of property that more folks would vote for. There is no reason for the selectmen and the town manager to ignore the people’s wishes when we request this land be looked into.
Compromise To Save Oldest House
As I drive around Chatham, it is with great sadness that I see our heritage being stripped away, little by little. What makes the Cape, the Cape, is disappearing so quickly, I don’t recognize where I am half the time. Houses are being torn down and rebuilt almost to the lot line, doubling the size and some adding guest houses that are as large as most Capes.
That being said, I had an opportunity to tour 68 Shell Dr., which our relative, William Nickerson, built and lived in in the early 1700s. I believe this treasure needs to be saved.
Our town has an opportunity to save this historic house. This is one time that the planning board, the ZBA, the board of selectmen and hopefully the conservation commission might be able to give variances to save the oldest house in Chatham and to help come up with a win/win solution that will encourage others to save our historic houses instead of tearing them down.
Mike Dislikes Bikes
Route 137 is the main route into Chatham (except right now) fuel, food, construction equipment, workers and visitors come in on 137. With the addition of flashing lights at the bike crossing on 137 are we going to see a repeat of the problem in Harwich? Lights flashing and no one there! They have already gone across two or three minutes before. Are we going to see traffic backed up out onto Route 28? The entrance to Commerce Park is a quarter mile up the road, with over 50 businesses in there! Trucks, trucks and trailers heading to jobs. What about the working person? You can see if someone is coming up to the crosswalk (bike “walk”) across 137. We don’t need a flashing light to stop people, which is what will happen whether someone is there or not.
The bike trail is recreation! People in pickups, dump trucks, tractor trailers, tankers are working!