Letters To The Editor: Feb. 20, 2020

Letters to the editor.

Clarification Of Cemetery Tree Plan


I wish to correct a statement made in the Feb. 6 Chronicle in the article titled “Meeting Called for Alternative Senior Center.” The article states “Friends of Trees has proposed planting trees along the nearby cemetery property to screen it from the road.” This is inaccurate. Friends of Trees funded the development of a master planting plan by a landscape architect who worked with the cemetery commission over the past year. The plan calls for planting to take place throughout the new extension of Union Cemetery on Stepping Stones Road. The goal is for an attractive shaded green space that is inviting for meditation and retrospection. The town expects the work will begin this spring. Friends of Trees was pleased to work with the cemetery commission and town staff on this project.

DeeDee Holt
Friends of Trees


Better Than Advisory Committee


I am both stunned and mystified with the negative reaction to the airport commission’s wise decision to reject the formation of an advisory group. Much attention was given to an FAA advisory circular that mentions the use of an advisory group as one of many tools in the master planning process. But the FAA advisory circular is a “one size fits all” document. Such a group would be appropriate for say, a master plan update for a large airport such as Logan, we must keep in mind that Chatham is a tiny airport in a small community, with no plans for expansion of any kind. The advisory circular itself says that the adoption of any recommendations should be appropriate to the size of the community and the scope of projects anticipated. Regarding the Chatham Airport, the airport commission’s decision, from the beginning to have a fully transparent process in which the community has direct access to all planning meetings certainly made more sense and exceeded all FAA requirements. As for the scope of projects planned, if you look at the documents you will see that the master plan update contemplates enhancements to safety, decrease in noise per aircraft, and a more secure administration building, none of which will increase airport traffic.

Lastly, the FAA advisory circular states that an advisory group is helpful in the early stages of developing a master plan. With that understanding, the master plan update is no longer in the early stages anymore. If you believe that the airport commission should have had such an advisory group at the beginning in 2017, you had the opportunity to voice your concern over two years ago. As for those who have called for the commission to be more inclusive, I am really puzzled. Has the commission actually ever “excluded” anyone or prevented them from expressing their inputs? The vocal airport opponents were well aware of all aspects of the master plan from the time they were drafted by airport consultant Gale Associates. It’s quite evident this group has an intense interest in all matters pertaining to the airport and attends every airport commission Meeting with their opposition to a wide scope of matters down to the most minute detail. Unfortunately, their opinions and misinformation are presented as fact and circulated throughout town, completely misleading the citizens of Chatham.

What we need is something much better than an advisory group; we need to set up informal meetings to clarify what is going on and allow questions to be asked in a small group setting. This community outreach approach could be scheduled at convenient times and locations for working folks, families, professionals and our senior citizens. It will be more effective in dispelling the fear and false information that has been spread through town by an aggressive group intent on, what it appears to me, threatening the very existence of CQX. I have always felt very fortunate to have grown up in Chatham and I am eager and feel compelled to give back to my hometown. As a retired major airline captain, I hope to share my experiences and career path with the children of Chatham. As a parent or grandparent reading this, you play a vital role in helping your children and grandchildren achieve the goal you could have only dreamt of. Give them that chance. Let that be your legacy. Please support the airport become safer and remain the genuine asset is it to Chatham.

Katie Buckley


Give Stepping Stones Site A Chance


We were surprised and disappointed by the haste to judgment and lack of vision implicit in the comments attributed to several selectmen in a recent Chronicle article regarding the proposed site on Stepping Stones Road for the COA facility. For the most part, the comments appear to be based on a concern for a potential disruption of the neighborhood and impact on the Monomoy Middle School (MMS). However, a short walk around the loop formed by the bike path and Stepping Stones Road reveals that the site is actually heavily buffered from both the MMS and the road by a dense growth of trees and vegetation, as well as the topography. By preserving and perhaps augmenting the natural buffer on the site perimeter, especially around the proposed parking area, it should be a simple matter to achieve whatever degree of isolation is desired.

It is also worth noting that Stepping Stones Road is already widely used as the only route to get downtown from Old Queen Anne Road without making a left turn on Main Street. Additional traffic resulting from locating the COA center there should result in only a small increment over what currently exists. Finally, regarding the selectmen’s comments, it is hard to understand the need to reserve the proposed site for expansion of the 30-plus-acre MMS, which already includes a playground with three soccer/lacrosse fields, a full-size baseball diamond, softball diamond and half-filled parking lots.
The proposal put forward by the organizers of the petition for the special town meeting appears to be an ideal option for the COA facility, significantly superior to the Main Street site in many ways including potential cost. We urge the town to approve allocation of the resources needed to take the conceptual design to the appropriate levels that an informed choice between it and the Main Street site can be made at the May town meeting.

Carolyn and Ronald Parker


Recognize Everyone's Contribution


Kudos to the board of selectmen and economic development committee for committing to advance the recommendations of the Chatham 365 Task Force. Recently the board unanimously agreed to further explore, assess and prioritize the 30-plus recommendations for ensuring a sustainable future for our town.

The issues we face in sustaining ourselves as a year-round community are complicated and interconnected. Residents will have the opportunity to vote on several recommendations at town meeting, and I encourage folks to remember that we’re all in this together. So when we read ugly letters with anti-democratic suggestions like weighting votes based on wealth, or claiming that funding the COA is “theft from wealthy taxpayers” and a “pet project” advanced by a few, we should remind ourselves of what makes our town beautiful—the contributions of the young and old, those with many resources and those with few, and those who work to make this town thrive.

Danielle Tolley


Grant Inspires Pleasant Bay Poets


I would like to whole-heartedly thank the Friends of Pleasant Bay for their generous grant to my creative writing class and to my extra-curricular writing club, Sandscript. We spent a glorious hour on the beach at Pleasant Bay; we wrote poems and took photographs to celebrate such a lovely spot. Those poems and photos can now be found throughout the Monomoy district and beyond. The booklets are available at town halls and town libraries in Harwich and Chatham. They are also available in the school libraries at MRHS and MRMS, and you may even find copies at the chambers of commerce in the Monomoy District. A little birdie told me she even saw them at the Brewster Ladies Library! Thank you so much Friends of Pleasant Bay!

Lisa Forte-Doyle
Monomoy High School


Consider Well-being Of Community


I am not sure I understand the letter in The Chronicle (“Senior Center Only Benefits Some,” Feb. 6) from Mr. Lepard of Wellesley. Perhaps I can get some clarification from other readers.

Was he saying that second homeowners in Chatham pay too much in taxes and should not be taxed for services they do not use? That his taxes should not support the overall health and well-being of his chosen second home community? Is Mr. Lepard saying that year-round Chatham residents, who happen to benefit from the low tax rate, should not be able to support schools, year-round police and fire, the DPW, the health department, senior center, etc. without his permission? Choosing to have a summer house in Chatham apparently gives him the authority to decide what the year-round residents think is necessary for their town.

Is he saying that the town should create a tax formula based on the number of days he is actually in Chatham and not provide town services when he is not in residence? He has raised the question, and some summer residents might feel the same way, but I doubt it would cross their minds to be that petty. Our children are grown, we don't use the senior center, and up to now we have not needed the direct services of the police or fire departments. Would he suggest I should get a tax rebate for services not used?

Nevertheless, I am open to understanding his argument. Though it saddens me that we have become so entitled by what we have that it has allowed some of us to value monetary wealth more than the well-being of our neighbors and community, whether it be our full-time or summer home residents.

Scotti and Richard Finnegan


Preserve Town's Historical Fabric


I have been inspired to write this letter after reading The Cape Cod Chronicle article and several letters to the editor in response to it about the possible loss of the oldest house in Chatham (68 Shell Dr., North Chatham). It is sad to see old historic houses in Chatham going down one by one by one.
I’ve been a full-time resident of Chatham for 15 years but was lucky enough to be a “summer kid” to visit and stay with my grandparents for summers starting at the age of 1. Naturally I’ve seen a lot of changes in Chatham—some I like, some I don’t—but realize that change is inevitable and that the town’s housing stock needs to be maintained, upgraded, improved over time. However, it is sometimes painful to see the old historic properties being demolished and replaced with oversized houses that are often far too much mass for the size of the lot. Some of our historic streetscapes are also being dramatically altered changing the tenor of the town. Chatham is unique with a diverse character and spirit all its own. It would be a tragedy to see the historic aspects of the character of this town lost as a byproduct of modern day demolitions, renovations and new construction without recognition of possible preservation. Preservation can go along with renovation although the former usually adds more costs to a project. Many home owners in Chatham have done both and we are the better for it. Incentives for preservation have been discussed and hopefully these will be forthcoming soon as the demolition derby in town continues.

Back to 68 Shell Dr. Chatham’s oldest house appears to be next on the chopping block. Remember, once gone, it’s G-O-N-E forever. Then, maybe it’s the next oldest house, followed by the next oldest house, and so forth. Those owners here in town who have preserved historic aspects of their properties in whatever way they could afford to do are to be commended. Recent efforts by Janet Whittemore, Ellen Briggs (ProtectourPast.org) along with other groups, such as the Chatham Historic Commission, Old Village Association, Chatham Historical Society, Chatham Conservation Foundation and probably many more should all be recognized for their contributions and efforts in this regard.

One of the greatest success stories of local grassroots activism here in Chatham that resulted in historic preservation is that of the Chatham Marconi Property—both in South Chatham and in North Chatham. No buildings were saved in South Chatham but open land was preserved. The 10-acre campus in North Chatham with the 10 original buildings constructed in 1914 by the J.G. White Co. of New York for the Marconi Radio Co. were saved and renovated with several buildings now used for housing and two by the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also the only intact and original Marconi Radio Co. campus left in the world. Perhaps we should all be thinking along those lines when it comes to preserving individual properties in Chatham and raise our collective voices once again. Individuals and groups in town have been down this road in the past with a few recently taking their first steps, but all deserve support by those who feel strongly about preserving Chatham’s historic fabric. May C-SHIP (Chatham Saving Historic Important Properties) sail on with both new and experienced crew members. Perhaps someday a regatta of SHIPs will be sailing in all Cape towns.

Ted Whittaker


Chatham Cares For Its Own


This letter is an appreciation of the people of Chatham who are ready to risk their lives to save ours, the people who educate our children, who make our roads, make our parks, maintain our beaches, provide safe drinking water, supervise our waterways and natural resources and those who run our town and oversee democracy on its smallest scale, town government. These people work tirelessly on our behalf as did those who went before them for years, decades and generations. Thank you also to the hardworking fisherfolk, builders, small business owners and restaurant workers, to say nothing of the countless organizations and individuals who donate time and money to help those in need.

These are the people that make our town what it is today and if they need comfort, care or companionship in their senior years this town would likely vote in favor of a senior center to support them.

Kudos to the gentleman from Wellesley on his great wealth. It is concerning, however, that he seems to think this should trump his vote above the men and women who have built this town and have equity in it. To imply that we are stealing from him, if it weren’t so outrageous, would be a rave insult.
Our town is rich in many ways, but above all, Chatham cares for its people and I am grateful for it.

Cynthia Ahern


Save Historic Home


I have a question or two for Chatham’s board of selectmen. After it has been requested more than once that this governing body put the issue of saving the oldest house in Chatham, 68 Shell Dr., on an agenda for discussion, why has there been no action taken by them? It is in jeopardy and we need you to take action now since the demolition delay is up in July of this year. Could you write a zoning by law that will protect this living representation of Chatham’s 18th century history?

I understand that the town of Chatham owns 92 properties of varying sizes. With the demolition deadline for 68 Shell Dr. rapidly approaching, could this town find land that would be the new address for this invaluable piece of Chatham history? Why not the property behind the Bassett House? To offer two living examples of 18th Century lifestyles in one place increases the interest from the public, an opportunity for multi-generations to experience history.

When one steps foot into 68 Shell Dr., one is in awe of this extraordinarily well maintained post-revolutionary home. The beehive brick fireplace, the wide planked floors, the impossible to replicate white pine paneled and horse-hair plastered walls, all the nooks and crannies [that symbolize] simple family living swallow you up as you look around. It exemplifies that large families managed to live well in small spaces. Just to clarify the value of this home, the oldest part was built before 1800. The next addition was built in 1802! Thankfully the history of this property is well documented, including old photographs, which enriches its possible use as a museum for the town of Chatham.

Selectmen of Chatham, let’s talk about this…this is urgent. If we don’t move on this quickly, to quote Jim McNair, all we will have left is regret.

Ellen Briggs
Protect Our Past


'Do Nothing' For Runway Approaches


David Rogers, in his letter last week, is correct. I am definitely biased. I am biased toward benefiting the community and the character of Chatham. I am biased toward learning and honestly applying FAA advisories. I am biased toward protecting individuals’ rights. I am biased toward protecting the environment. I am biased toward avoiding the legal costs of avigation easements to the town, and I am biased towards restoring the hijacked Airport to town control.

I was never confused by the Airport Master Plan Update (AMPU). It was only too clear. It described an outrageous imposition on Chatham’s citizens and environment, and clearly violated FAA rules. That is not spreading false information. While on that topic, at the last airport commission meeting, you claimed that you lived under the flight path, when in fact you live 11/2 miles away from both the flight path and the airport. There were people you so gallantly chastised at that meeting, who live directly under the flight path only 260 yards away from the runway.

Thank you, David Rogers, for regarding me as a trusted individual, but unfortunately my membership of a town committee or commission does not take away my right to speak as a citizen. As an elected member of the National Academy of Engineers, perhaps I have earned the right to speak out. As someone who disobeyed state wetlands laws (Chronicle Feb. 6, 2014) and damaged our environment, maybe you are not in such a strong position.

Let us look at specifics. The so-called clarifications have really been obfuscations and omissions. Even under the so-called compromise plan, they highlight the damage that would be done to devalue multiple properties, via forced avigation easements. They omit the damage to around four acres of wetlands and a vernal pool, and let’s not forget the roughly eight acres of trees in the “runway primary surface,” which the FAA would require to be cut down, and removal of the bike path. I don’t arbitrarily define the sizes of the runway protection zones or the number of people affected. They are defined explicitly by the FAA, for different types of approaches [like] the non-precision approach specified in the compromise plan, which I cited. Gale Associates states that the runway lengths will be reduced by 13 percent in one direction and 9.5 percent in the other, not 23 percent. Which 85-year-old plane will be excluded? My first memory is a Battle of Britain dogfight and apparently those planes took off on 1,200 feet of grass. A “Do Nothing” approach would indeed exclude the noisy five-ton turboprops with 400 gallons of fuel, and which are what scare people most, especially when landing at night, and are the major threat and source of protest.

True, Gale Associates confirms that a “Do Nothing” approach could “jeopardize the airport’s eligibility for future federal funding.” However the runway and taxiway have been paved to last at least another 20 years, so there should not be any major expense in that time. In addition hangar funds are beginning to accrue, so that the airport will become self-sustaining, without FAA and state support, and could be returned to full town control for future generations.

Michael Tompsett