Letters To The Editor: Feb. 6, 2020

Letters to the editor.

Helping Families Year-round


We have an amazing community! The Harwich Children’s Fund/Friends of Harwich Youth would like to thank the following businesses and organizations who supported our mission to help Harwich youth in need:

Art of Charity Foundation, Cape and Islands United Way, Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation, Chatham Candy Manor, Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Dunkin Donuts Route 124 in Harwich, Eden Hand Arts, Guild of Harwich Artists and Chris Banks, Harwich Chamber of Commerce and Cyndi Williams,  Harwich Cranberry Festival, Harwich Employees Association, Hot Stove Saloon, Monomoy Regional High Casual For A Cause, Monomoy School District nurses and guidance staff, The Women’s Club of Chatham, Monomoy Schools Interact Club, Pilgrim Church—Susan Cartmell and Peggy O’Connor, Stacey Yarnall’s Volleyball Fundraiser, Sativa, Harwich Parks and Recreation, Harwich Community Center, and Tom Blute with Henry T. Crosby Monuments.

We helped countless families throughout the year and especially during the holidays. We couldn’t have done it without you! Many, many thanks!

The Harwich Children’s Fund
Friends of Harwich Youth

People Make Harwich Great


Two weeks ago I wrote a very negative letter about Harwich. I don’t regret what I said, but there is another side. The town is definitely having growing pains, but there are still great things about Harwich. It is why I live here.

Town hall - The employees for this town are wonderful. Whether it is paying taxes; talking to the water company, or getting a beach sticker, people are great to work with in Harwich.

The community and senior center - This town has wonderful programs for everyone from young to older.

The Food Pantry - Remember when it was just the Harwich Pantry? People gave and gave, and it grew and grew.

WE CAN - Another amazing organization that shows the willingness of people in this town to volunteer and donate to help others.

Music in the Port - It just gets bigger and better. It really brings the community together.

Police and fire - Again a great group of people, who do more than their jobs. They really care for this community.

The thing that makes this town great is the people who love it. That is what all the things listed have in common. And there is much more, the schools, baseball, Art in the Park, Cranberry Festival, the Hometown Parade, and the list goes on.

We need to keep our core values and build on them. The chamber of commerce had a slogan about Harwich, “The warm side Of the Cape.” They were not referring to the weather. It is all of us that makes it warm.

Patricia O’Neill
Harwich Port


Taking Care Of Our History


All Chatham will lose value if the house at 68 Shell Dr. is demolished.  Chatham’s attractions are not only its beaches and access to the sea, but also its direct connection to New England life from 100 to 350 years ago.  If we demolish such a connection as the Nickerson/Howes House, then Chatham will forfeit a piece of its soul.  All over Cape Cod, and in so many other parts of the northeastern United States, historical, architecturally significant homes and buildings are being torn down and replaced by tasteless, graceless, and lot-line-to-lot-line structures with poor designs.

We have restored historic homes.  The first thing you learn is that the house is not yours, despite what the deed says.  The house belongs to the continuous fabric of history and society.  Your jobs as the owners are to maintain the home’s integrity and to pass it on to someone, who, hopefully, has the same respect for the structure and the community.  The second thing you learn is that you do not have the monetary value for which you had hoped.  Non-demolition buyers of historic buildings are usually thoughtful people, who might not be willing to pay as much as the redevelopment ones.  The true value of owning an historic, significant home derives from two sources: 1) being able to live each day in a museum of history and society, and 2) owning the real estate, in that order.  Once a valuable piece of architectural history is lost, then the only thing left is regret.  Witness the raw feelings still present from New York City’s tearing down Pennsylvania Station and replacing it with a new Madison Square Garden in 1963.  

If we do not take care of our history, how will it take care of us?

Jim McNair


Non-resident Tax Unfair, Burdensome


The following letter was sent to Chatham Chair of Selectmen, Shareen Davis.

Like other secondary property owners who comprise a majority of the tax base of Chatham's residences, I received State Form 2HF in the mail recently.  It is a great reminder of one of the causes of the Revolutionary War!  Taxation without representation.

As background, we have been connected to Chatham since 1965, purchased our first home in 1980 and retired to a new home we built in 1999 and became residents. Since that time nothing has changed other than we now spend less time in Massachusetts.  We still support the local economy for many months a year, we still pay the same, large real estate tax bill, we still require the same level of municipal support we always have.  But now we're different and an easy non-voting target for the tax man.  A great example is the referenced form.  I don't know if you or your fellow select board have ever examined this form but I suspect not.  For if you had you'd realize it's about the most intrusive bureaucratic request I've ever seen.   I'm proud to be an upstanding citizen whose moral compass steers him to do what's right and what's asked of him.  But this form will test that.  It requires levels of detail that for most of us who have owned a home for years will find impossible to provide.

Fundamentally is requires a full inventory of everything that a homeowner has acquired over the years with its cost and present value—from pencils to trowels to individual sauce pans to easy chairs to wall ovens to draperies, to wash cloths, to books! It requires a listing of what those cost and what those things are worth now.  There is no way I or anybody else can do that.

There are appraisal businesses who make a living doing this.  To me if the town requires such information then it should retain such an appraisal firm to come into my dwelling and create that inventory as it does with the dwelling itself.  So I and many others are in quandary.  How do I comply with a request that is impossible to fulfill?  Making that more so is that I am presently out of state and will be so until May. 

John Trimble
Bonita Springs, Fla.

New Approach Is The Danger


The recent article in The Cape Cod Chronicle regarding the Chatham Municipal Airport has brought great concern to those residents who own property and live adjacent to the airport.  The necessity to modernize and maintain the airport infrastructure is not the alarming issue, it is rather the changes in approach and departure patterns that will bring airplanes closer to homes. With the planned addition of jet fuel storage tanks, larger jet planes may have an open invitation to use the airport. Noise and air pollution and a potential increase in traffic will lead to  safety issues and ultimately to a poorer quality of life. Who and is looking to change this airport from its functioning convenience to something that would change our lives and our life-long investments in not only property but in community, and why? The airport in Hyannis accommodates all types of planes and is built on commercial property.  We do not need a similar airport nestled amongst the homes and lives of taxpaying residents.  No to jets, No to expansion and no to changing plane approaches and departures. 

Eric P. Williams

Airport Com Should Be Good Neighbor


I believe that the first responsibility of any board or commission elected or appointed in our town is to serve the needs of its people. With that belief in mind, I would hope that the airport commission would reconsider their proposal to ask for easements on 16 properties. The airport has functioned quite well thus far without placing easements on any properties, so it seems to me that it should be able to continue to do so.

An easement would reduce property values and as a result reduce taxes paid to the town. These are our homes, and for most of us our primary asset. Since part of the mission statement of the airport commission is to be a good neighbor, at the very least, we should have a voice in any decisions made about our own homes.

Jean Greenough

Swim Club To The Rescue


On behalf of the Nauset Regional High School Swimming and Diving Team, I would like to sincerely thank manager Colleen Murphy, and the entire staff and membership at the Chatham Swim and Health Club, for welcoming us for the past month.

In mid December we were left without a pool to swim practice in, which is kind of a requirement for a swim team. Colleen emailed me and offered the use of their pool. We worked out a schedule and have been using the pool throughout the month of January. It truly saved our season. We just wrapped up our regular season. The girls team finished 6-1, second in the Cape and Islands League and the boys finished third with a 5-2 record. This would not have been possible without a place to train.

A lot has been made recently about young people in Chatham. Knowing that a facility that has always been known as being 18-plus was willing to step up and offer a group of 30 teenagers a place to practice says a lot about how invested the people of Chatham are in the youth of not just Chatham, but the surrounding areas. We are forever grateful.

Justin Bohannon, head coach
Nauset Swimming and Diving Team

Mini-golf Plan Would Be Disruptive


Town zoning has been petitioned for re-zoning residential property to commercial to allow a 36-hole mini-golf facility on Sisson Road between Harold Street and Route 28, across from Shaw's. Their argument is largely based on the existence of a go-kart operation under the same ownership but in a section zoned for commercial use.

Harwich Port needs housing, not honky-tonk seasonal vacationing entertainment for children. Plus, mini-golf and similar facilities are already minutes away westward “on the curve” at the Weatherdeck, and into the Dennis- Yarmouth corridor of Route 28. The proposed structure would bring gross structures, night illumination, increased traffic at an already-busy intersection, noise, and likely debris. The abutting property is an 84-unit condominium development that is largely occupied by senior, year-round residents and owners, a peaceful and quiet setting. It would no doubt be victimized by this proposal, from the above nuisances to cut-through traffic to potential loss of value for owners and corresponding loss of tax revenues.

The character and quality of Harwich Port is paramount. In the 21st century we should allow no further encroachment of such facilities as they distort the very nature of the community. Citizens, please join in protest.

Thomas Jones
Harwich Port


Value Local Small Businesses


As we move into the beautification project on Main Street in Orleans I would like to thank the residents of Orleans and out of town customers who have braved obstructions during the past projects to support our local businesses.

I feel grateful to work in a town with a vibrant town center and an entrepreneurial spirit. It is through the support of the community that our small businesses can continue making our town vibrant and useful. While it may be inconvenient for us to move about on Main Street, I ask you to continue looking toward our local shops first. Personally, I find that when I spent my money locally, I spent it wisely. I enjoy chatting with the people who know me by name, my interests and provide me with great customer service.

During this time of construction please remember that our small businesses are the ones who support and sponsor our local teams, community groups, and nonprofits when we ask for money, goods and services for fundraising.

Thank you for valuing our small, independent shops in Orleans.

Noëlle Pina, executive director
Orleans Chamber of Commerce

She's A Bee-liever Now


Wow! Thank you, Kristen Andres, for your excellent and educational column “Bee Basics Revisted!” (Jan. 30). I had no idea about the diversity and different life habits of native bee species. I expect to be(e) much more observant now. And thanks for the excuse to not rake leaves in the fall!

Karen McPherson

Get On Board C-SHIP


A call to form a coalition was heard loud and clear by a strong group of articulate concerned Chatham citizens. The group, quickly named C-SHIP –Save Historical Important Properties-- encourages other towns to build their own SHIP. We are also in collaboration with P.O.P., Preserve Our Past, a much larger organization with similar focus that is in the process of producing a documentary film.

Discussion included the risk of loosing one of Chatham’s oldest homesteads at 68 Shell Dr. which could face the wrecking ball. The group formed some energetic plans to curb the loss of our town’s historical fabric and the need for comprehensive law that would surpass the current 18-month demolition delay. Also expressed was density issues which could turn Chatham into a “Quincy” without protective town law.

C-SHIP will be meeting Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. at the Isaac B. Young 1840 House at 727 Main St. We encourage young students to join us. Meetings are open.

Janet Whittemore


CECH Helps In Other Towns


Home is where the heart is. CECH (Chatham Ecumenical Council Helping Prevent Homelessness) is a small group of volunteers who have, since 1993, been able to keep over 1,400 families in their homes. Although our name has Chatham in it and we are based in Chatham, we help many families who live outside our town.

In 2019, we helped 10 Chatham families totaling $13,100. In Harwich 10 families received $19,736. In Orleans six families received $9,400. In Brewster four families received $5,600. In Eastham two families received $3,100. In Truro one family received $1,400. Our total gifts amounted to $52,300.

CECH works closely with Homeless Prevention Council, the Chatham COA and St. Vincent DePaul. Our mission is to help those who are struggling with housing needs due to poverty, medical hardships, loss of employment and personal family tragedies. We depend solely on the generous contributions from our annual appeal to Chatham residents and one other fundraiser open to everyone.

My reason for writing this letter is to make neighboring towns aware that we provide help to their residents as well as our own. I hope that when you hear CECH mentioned you will be aware of our mission to help all who have housing needs, not just Chatham residents.

Consider helping us in our missions by contributing to: CECH, P.O. Box 81, West Chatham, MA 02669

Carol Daly
South Chatham

Senior Center Only Benefits Some


Spending $6.6 million of Chatham taxpayer money for a senior center is a waste of money to maybe benefit a few seniors. A classic example of a small group of people trying to get the broader community to fund their pet project. The people who pay the majority of taxes in Chatham will not use this center. The people who will pay almost no property taxes because they have low-value properties. The money to build this is not their money. At a minimum a vote should be held among all Chatham taxpayers and arguably the votes should be weighted by taxes paid. Otherwise, the building of this center is theft from wealthy taxpayers to poor taxpayers. Chatham has the lowest property taxes in the state. Let's keep it that way.

Lawrence Lepard


Phase Out School Choice


Several years ago, the state established a School Choice program which allows schools to voluntarily accept students from other school districts. Statewide a total of 1.7 percent of public-school students participated in the choice program in 2019. Nauset had approximately 20 percent of its students coming from the choice program. This has a very significant financial impact on the towns of Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Brewster that fund the Nauset Regional Schools.

Specifically, the inter-district School Choice program is very wasteful and is heavily subsidized by the Nauset taxpayers. In 2019, 314 of Nauset’s students were choice students in the middle school and high school.

Nauset received $5,940 for each incoming choice student in 2019. The cost per pupil at Nauset was $20,000. As a result, the 314 choice students were subsidized by Nauset taxpayers. This subsidy exceeded $4 million in 2019.

Nauset High School received an excellent rating as the 26th best performing high school in Massachusetts from the U.S. News and World Report ranking in 2019. However, in 2019 none of the top 10 rated schools in Massachusetts accepted students from the choice program. Only two of the top 17 schools accepted choice program students.

One justification offered by the Nauset administration for such a large number of choice program students in our system is that Nauset needs to admit these students in order for Nauset to be a high-quality school. The facts do not support this argument.

Half of the top 25 rated schools in Massachusetts had fewer students than Nauset. These highly rated schools ranged in size from 224 students to 864 students, and had an average size of 577 students. Furthermore, these smaller, highly rated schools had an average expenditure of $2,000 less per pupil than Nauset.

The size of a school does not determine that school’s quality of education. Size does not matter. Furthermore, while these smaller schools do have fewer teachers than Nauset has, the student/teacher ratio in these schools’ averages about the same as Nauset High, at 11.7 students per teacher.

The school committee should reduce this unnecessary and expensive choice program over the next few years by limiting future participation to the statewide average of 1.7 percent of students, or approximately four new students per year. This choice program is costing Nauset taxpayers millions of dollars annually by subsidizing these students, and is about to cost us tens of millions more for the proposed $131 million renovation of Nauset High School by renovating the school to accommodate 25 percent more students than is required for the four member towns.

Bill Dugan


Don't Tell Us What To Do


An Orleans resident, Peter Gerstberger, in your You Guest It column and two Chatham Airport Commission speeches, again tells us what to do with our own airport. He parrots all too familiar, questionable talking points distributed for years. He implies that us folks down here in Chatham don’t own our own airport. Gerstberger says he is “sympathetic” to Chatham homeowners who have long complained about airport noise. Yet he endorses the outrageously loud biplane.

Mr. Gerstberger claims the airport has cost a very small percentage of property tax. Actually, it costs millions of dollars in lost revenue from 100 tax-free acres. He says that, despite being a non-resident, he’s part of Chatham’s "constituency"—and as a “stakeholder,” he feels entitled to opine at our commission meetings. And he seems to think the AC has no obligation to represent countless Chatham citizens who are not pilots.

He also closes his eyes to the fact that deceptive federal/state subsidies mostly for recreation by a handful of pilots have clamped tight golden handcuffs on the town—and have already changed the very nature of Chatham. On a rolling basis a proposed new plan would continue to sacrifice town control for 20 years. Whatever happened to home-rule rights for the rest of us? 

Deeply concerned homeowners, as well as our selectmen, must have a bigger say in airport decisions—without self-serving orations by pilots, whether local or otherwise. 

J. Denis Glover

For An Airport Advisory Committee


At the airport commission (AC) meeting on Jan. 28, it was clear they believe that a citizen’s advisory committee (CAC) would exist only to ask questions of the AC.  It would be much more than that. One of the several responsibilities of the CAC would be to “make consensus recommendations to the planning team." See the FAA circular on master plans.  To do this it must deliberate using the knowledge of the committee members and seek out further knowledge it needs from the town government and others in the community.

I support having a CAC, but unfortunately the AC rejected it. Here are their principle objections and my comments:

(1)  Creating CAC would be burdensome because it would have to follow the Open Meetings Law and take minutes: The town has about 40 committees.  All of these committees have to follow the Open Meetings Law and take minutes. It is hard to see how a CAC would have a greater burden than these existing committees have.

(2)  CAC would be expensive: No evidence was presented on why CAC would be expensive. If CAC would be expensive then the AC owes the community an estimate of how much it would cost.  Since the only significant cost I can imagine would be Gale Associates attending a CAC meeting, it should be easy to estimate.  After all, the AC estimated the cost of Gale Associates attending its meetings.

(3)  It would slow the process: The AC agreed that it was not required to update its master plan for another four years, but they brought up some vague reference to “clearances” that they need to act on for the FAA. They asserted that the CAC would delay the clearances.  No information was given that would allow anyone to evaluate that claim. (4)  It would be impossible to represent all the interests in the town in a reasonable sized committee: Of course the CAC cannot represent all the interests in Chatham.  Nor can the AC.  In fact no committee can represent all the interests in a particular area.  The best that can be done is to have members that represent the major interests and invite community input.  The AC has not invited substantive community input, but only invited questions which they answer based on what they have already decided.

Dr. Read Moffett