May 21—ROCKPORT — The town will organize a committee to help determine the future of the cottages on town-owned Long Beach once the tenants' leases expire in 2023.
Town Meeting last Saturday voted to create the committee after resident Carol Cooke presented Article X, a community petition, that sought to remove the beach's seaside cottages and replace them with "an ecologically sustainable parking lot and walking paths." During public comment, a Finance Committee member stated the estimated cost to remove the cottages would be somewhere around $11 million, not including any legal fees needed in case any cottage owners wished to challenge the decision.
Cooke could not be reach for comment on this story.
Several Town Meeting voters pointed out flaws in Article X, but noted would be prudent to consider all options regarding Long Beach's future.
Would it be safe to continue to have houses so close to the shore as sea levels rise everyday?
Will the new $2,580,000 Long Beach seawall truly be worth it in the end? Taxpayers are expected to front 25% of the planned project; FEMA will be covering the rest.
A motion was made to form the Long Beach Options Committee, which was approved.
"The committee will consider the possible renewal of the Long Beach cottage leases, and also the possible sale of all or portions of the Long Beach property, and the costs, benefits, and detriments to the town of all the options considered," the motion read. "The committee will hold a public hearing to present its report not later than two weeks prior to the 2022 Annual Town Meeting, and the committee will present its report at the 2022 Annual Town Meeting."
Selectwoman Sarah Wilkinson said Friday "selectman have already decided that removing the cottages is not an option that we will be looking at."
According to Town Administrator Mitch Vieira, one selectmen, and one member each from the Planning Board, Finance Committee, DPW Commissioners, and Conservation Commission, as well as four residents who wish to volunteer their time will be selected to serve on the committee.
Town Moderator Bob Visnick is tasked with appointing each committee member.
"I have one interested citizen that I'm going to talk to," he said Thursday afternoon. "And I plan to reach out out to various board that were mentioned on the article sometime tomorrow. I'm hoping the committee will be fully formed by next week, but one never knows with life."
Visnick said he hopes the committee will look into each and every aspect of Long Beach and its cottages.
"(The future of Long Beach) is way broader than just tearing (the cottages) down," he said. "We have multiple options before the leases are up, like lease renewals, selling the land — it's going to be broad. They're going to take what the town has already considered and go from there. I understand there's also a Long Beach Infrastructure Committee as well, so I'm sure they'll take their input."
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or firstname.lastname@example.org.