Letters to the Editor, March 5

Letters to the editor.

Poor Grade For Preservation


At last nights lively C-SHIP meeting the statement was made that Chatham has failed at saving its important historical touchstones. Let us take a look.
1. Old Harbor U.S. Life Saving Station which was built in 1897 was decommissioned 1944 abandoned and sold 1947. The property returned to federal ownership in 1973. It was cut in half and barged to Provincetown where it was restored and serve as the Old Harbor U.S. Life Saving Museum by the National Park Service.
2. The Old Coast Guard Station on Stage Harbor boathouse is now in Hull, subject of a legal dispute. This boathouse sheltered the nationally famous Coast Guard life boat CG36500.
3. Coast Guard rescue boat CG36500 is in Orleans. This was the single most significant rescue by the Coast Guard in its history and as we all know made into the movie “The Finest Hour.”

I would to date give Chatham a D-minus in its failed efforts to keep our touchstones. What is to happen to 68 Shell Dr., reportedly the oldest house in Chatham?

Janet Whittemore



Restaurant Paper Policy Misguided


I do not mean to turn into a one woman letter writer. I wished more people from Harwich wrote in about the issues. I know they are unhappy because I see it online.
I recently learned of a troubling trend. There are currently at least three restaurants in Harwich that have mandatory paper service. This is because their septic systems cannot handle the load. It is a town mandate. If a business is too big for the space shouldn’t they move or get a new septic, not stop using plates? Then a new business more suited to the space would move in and flourish as well.
Maybe this paper only policy, which must include plastic utensils and cups, is common practice in other communities. To me it is just another example of greed and abuse. And overloading the town with trash. We worry about plastic bags and bottles, but it is the waste we do not see that scares me.
If you have a positive take on this please respond. Explain why this is not a negative for our community.

Patricia O'Neill

Harwich Port


Do Selectmen Care About Seniors?


Feb. 24's negative vote by the Chatham Board of Selectmen to, at least, explore an alternative placement of a proposed council on aging building was a strong indication of the tight grip that certain builders have on them. A citizen group outlined a better site on Stepping Stone Road and a better plan. After a “professional” presentation by various citizens and comments, all failed to excite not one of our selectmen. It was an orchestrated denial to our public (how dare they). Individual comments by each selectman, turned into lengthy diatribes that were “nasty” to everyone who worked on a better choice, a much better alternative than 1610 Main St. One selectman’s stated objection was that Stepping Stones Road had recorded 600 cars on a single day; yet, he preferred the Route 28 site with recorded traffic counts of tens of thousands of vehicles a day (in summer). It seems that our board members do not care about this better site for whatever their reasons. They want 1610 Main St., even though it does not provide what our COA needs and deserves. They don’t care about financial responsibility, parking needs, or safety of seniors traveling this state highway.  Why?

David E. Burns, MD

West Chatham Association, Inc.


FAA Rules Conflict With AMPU


The airport master plan update (AMPU) tries to apply FAA regulations, which are made for safety, to an impossible situation, which the airport commission denies and obfuscates, and has not even clarified a current plan and its implications. The FAA requires a cleared 500-foot-wide surface around the runway for any instrument approach, so Fig 6-3 clearly shows removal of all eight acres of trees and the bike path within the orange rectangle. The airport commission ignores the runway (people) protection zones, which include many more people with an instrument approach, despite urging from the FAA, that these zones should remain unpopulated.

Does Mr. Dietrich expect a continuing annual subsidy of $0.5 million for recreational and commercial activities at the airport? The airport is paved for the next 20 years, so it could be returned to town control by using only the FAA annual entitlement of $150,000, without grant assurances. The cost of implementing the AMPU is at least $15 million with about $1 million or 4 percent directly on our property taxes.

Dan Wolf, the former airport manager, started his Cape Air business at Barnstable, which is much more suitable and safer than Chatham. It is very important for everybody’s property values to maintain Chatham’s aesthetic character, which most would claim does not include the airport.

Each plane taking off must use a “balance field length,” in case of aborted take-off, or 115 percent of their takeoff distance. The required runway length is defined by the monthly mean daily maximum temperature specified by Gale as 80°F. Gale calculates 3,000 feet for the Beech Baron design aircraft, and the Pilatus turboprop is 100-200 feet longer yet. Therefore Chatham’s 3,000-foot runway is just not long enough. The FAA actually requires any instrument runway to be over 3,200 feet.

The results of my analyses are deeply concerning, but the commissioners thoughtless attitudes towards the townspeople have also engendered negative feelings across town, and led them to realize that Barnstable Airport is close by for much safer commercial and bad weather landings, without the enormous costs, environmental destruction and commercialization embodied in the AMPU.

Michael Tompsett



COA Alternative Shortsighted


The school committee’s recent unanimous vote to not give up middle school land for a potential COA site is to be loudly applauded.  It may be a small plot of land, but for our children, every inch matters. 

It’s worth reminding folks that Chatham is in a crisis: we are losing young people and young families at a rate we’ve never seen.  Every decision made in this town matters for the future of our children and the families who live here. The last thing we need to do is take away opportunities from future generations.

The special town meeting on March 7 will ask taxpayers to fund a feasibility study for the site that the school committee has formally voted to not give back to the town.  The school committee has also affirmed that a feasibility study will not change their minds—their commitment to our children is their priority. If folks strongly feel the need to have an alternative COA option on the table, find one. But not at the expense of our young people.  

The petitioners for the Stepping Stones site are woefully out of touch with the challenges our young families face. If this vote passes, our children will yet again be collateral damage for shortsighted development. Vote no on March 7. 

Danielle Tolley



Put Aside COA Differences


On Feb. 27, after due consideration and deliberation, the Monomoy Regional School Committee voted unanimously against declaring surplus a parcel of MRSD land leased from the town between Stepping Stones Road and the Chatham bike path for the possible location of the new council on aging building. 

Article 1 of the March 7 special town meeting warrant petitions the town to (1) vote funds ($130,000 has been suggested) for a feasibility study to locate the COA building on that site and (2) authorize the board of selectmen to negotiate with the MRSD to declare the parcel surplus. 

The school committee vote effectively moots negotiations between the MRSD and the board of selectmen which unanimously recommended disapproval of Article 1 in favor of the previously approved 1610 Main St. site in West Chatham. Nothing in Article 1 is binding on the board of selectmen even if voters approve the article, including the expenditure of funds for a feasibility study. Moreover, in light of the school committee vote, it would be fiscally irresponsible to expend any funds for a feasibility study.

The time is long past for townspeople to put aside their differences and prejudices and support moving forward at the May annual town meeting to approve construction of a new COA center for Chatham seniors at 1610 Main St.

George Myers

Chatham and Venice, Fla.


Town Getting The 'Bum's Rush?'


My father used to call it the “bum’s rush.”

It appears that our elected officials and the powers that be are bent on having their way despite an absence of information on the cost of the two story deluxe proposed for 1610 Main St. in West Chatham; no information on the schedule for road improvements necessary to provide access for seniors and complete ignorance on the future plans for Chatham airport. 

Our thoughtful fellow citizens who raised these critical questions before a packed house at the BOS the other night were blown off or ignored or gaveled down if the word “stepping” crossed their lips.

It is your money but how and where and why it will be spent is secret.  It is a done deal unless we all show up and take control of our business and how our money is spent.

John M. Dowd



Study Waste Of Taxpayers' Money


As we know, young families and children are the future of Chatham and it’s these families that feed our labor force. Chatham 365 will continue to advocate for town initiatives and decisions that continue to help our younger families thrive in Chatham year round. Thankfully, the board of selectmen, the town manager and our community recognizes the dire need to support young families living here year-round.

Next week, the special town meeting on March 7 will ask taxpayers to fund a feasibility study for the site that the school committee has formally voted to not give back to the town. The school committee recently voted unanimously to not give up middle school land for a potential COA site. So then why would anyone consider giving money for a feasibility plan for this site? It frustrates me to learn that a small group of people are continuing to force the issue of continued exploration of the Stepping Stones Road for the COA. They are wasting taxpayers money.

Those funds, which are being used to explore a site that is off the table, could be used to educate an entire class of four-year-olds in pre-kindergarten. Those funds could pay for countless after school programs and summer camps awarded through Monomoy Youth Services. Those funds could be used to help acquire housing for a family living and working here in Chatham. Those funds could be used for so many wonderful programs that could continue to add to the vitality of this town.

Conducting this feasibility study is a clear and unnecessary waste of taxpayers money. Please vote no on March 7.

Lindsay Garre Bierwith


The writer is a member of the Chatham 365 Task Force.

Plan Would Impact Quality Of Life


I agree with Ms. Katie Buckley that Chatham Airport is tiny. It’s also constrained by residential abutters and a hill. It’s also close to fully equipped/safer Barnstable Airport for commercial/bad weather landings. No amount of environmental destruction or violating citizens’ property rights can ever make Chatham Airport as safe as Barnstable.

Buckley’s statement that there are “no plans for expansion of any kind” in the airport master plan update (AMPU) is inaccurate.

  1. The airport commission insists on expanding approaches by allowing the FAA the right to remove trees on residential properties.

  2. According to AMPU Fig. 6.3, the airport boundary would expand beyond a new 500-foot-wide area around the runway, remove the fence, eight acres of trees, bike-path, and decimate wetlands.

  3. Primary beneficiaries of straight-in, and instrument landings in bad weather and at night, would be charter traffic, which would be encouraged to expand services.

  4. Commercial business expansion is obviously anticipated by becoming an Integral Transportation Component in SE Mass, which allows 2,500 commercial boardings.

  5. Proposal of a 10,000 gallon jet-fuel tank and $4.6 million terminal building either anticipates expanded traffic or encourages it.

The premise that the public was made aware of the AMPU two years ago is false. Chapter six, “Development and Evaluation of Alternatives,” was first posted in late August 2019, without any publicity so that it seems even the selectmen were unaware. The commission demonstrated in the past that it is non-inclusive by successfully lobbying against reappointment after a single term of two very effective commissioners. Buckley’s criticism of local citizens objecting to AMPU details, which would have major impacts on quality of life, property values and even safety, is thoughtless criticism.

David C. Thaxter



Can School Com Be Overruled?


As reported on Sunday, the Monomoy Regional School Committee has voted unanimously not to give up the middle school land along Stepping Stones Road that has been proposed as an alternate location for a new senior center. Additionally, you reported that school committee members indicated a feasibility study would not change their position.
The school committee's vote begs the question as to the necessity of the town meeting on March 7 if the Stepping Stones Road land is not available.
If the meeting does go ahead, and if there is a consensus at the meeting to continue looking at this site in opposition to the school committee decision, I would hope that town counsel, or some other authority, will explain 1) if there is any recourse to overrule the school committee's decision, 2) how it would be done, and 3) what would be the cost.

Tom Gribble



School Property Not Available, Period


The Monomoy Regional School Committee, whose primary responsibility is to the children who attend our school district, voted unanimously not to declare school property on Stepping Stones Road surplus. This action eliminates that parcel as a potential site for a new council on aging (COA) center. Thrust into the debate by a citizens petition, the MRSC showed exemplary leadership in making this decision to avoid any misunderstanding before a special town meeting vote on March 7. There is no need to spend any sum of money on a feasibility study on a property that is not available. Period.

A recent article in The Cape Cod Chronicle reviewed the 148 acres of open space that we have preserved through the Cape Cod Land Bank. Why would we spend $19 million over a period of 20 years to preserve open space and then develop a two-acre wooded parcel on Stepping Stones Road when there is a much better site to build a new COA center?

At a special town meeting on Jan. 4, we voted to appropriate $130,000 to conduct a feasibility study for a property at 1610 Main St. that was valued at $750,000 and donated to the town for a COA. As a member of the working group that works with the owners project manager and reports to the board of selectmen, I believe 1610 Main St. has exceeded all expectations and will compliment the West Chatham Village Center following the guidelines of our comprehensive plan.

I encourage all the well meaning citizens who signed the petition and who believe we need a new COA center to look at the information on the 1610 Main St. site being presented on the town of Chatham website and come to the first public information session on March 14. There is still work to be done and your input could make a good project even better.

It is important to note that the board of selectmen, our elected representatives, unanimously support the 1610 Main St. site.

Vote no on Article 1.


David R. Whitcomb

West Chatham