EASTHAM — The arguments over where to locate the new harbormaster building at Rock Harbor remain unresolved. After asking the planning board for its advice, the Rock Harbor Improvements Committee now appears to be sorry that it asked.
The Rock Harbor committee, which is part of the town’s capital projects committee, held its ground at an April 29 work session against some planning board members’ advice to move the planned harbormaster building to a location closer to the boat ramp. The new plan had been submitted to the planning board for a site plan review.
“I guess what I honestly feel is, if you want to try to force us to move the location of the building and you do that by denying [site plan approval] — then I will be forced to appeal like any other applicant would,” said Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe. Beebe is one of three members of the Rock Harbor committee, with select board member Jared Collins and finance committee member Thomas Gardner.
At a May 10 Rock Harbor committee meeting, Beebe said she was now leaning towards a different strategy.
“My sense is we should withdraw the application” to the planning board, Beebe said. She noted that site plan approval was not required for a building permit.
The April 29 work session had been scheduled after the planning board’s April 21 site plan review hearing, when members asked whether the partially obstructed view at the new location of the harbormaster building posed a safety issue.
“I still have not seen any compelling reason why this building couldn’t go back to its original location,” said planning board chair Dan Coppelman after a presentation from the project architects. The original proposal, he noted, had been favorably reviewed at an informal planning board meeting months before.
But planning board member William Craig said he wasn’t in favor of the original location.
“At the risk of not being reappointed,” said Craig, “I wasn’t too hot on the first plan because I thought putting the building out there was a sharp stick in the eye to Dyer Prince Road residents.”
The building design and waterside location in the original proposal were changed after the Rock Harbor committee heard objections from neighbors and other property owners about the effect the building would have on the environment and natural look of the area.
Beebe said she erred in not asking for an informal review of the second plan as was done with the first one. “At this point, I honestly don’t want to go over the same ground again,” she said.
Planning board members were split at the joint work session, with some citing the building’s distance from the boat ramp as a safety issue and other members satisfied with Beebe’s assurances that staff, including the wharfinger, would be present on the docks during the busy season. In recent years, the wharfinger has not been working exclusively at the harbor.
“I don’t think the location is that critical now, and I would accept it where it is,” said planning board member Joe Manas.
Coppelman said he was a regular user of the ramp and had witnessed some “significantly incompetent people” backing up trailers there.
“There’s a lot of activity going on down there, and I just want it to be safe,” he said.
Town Planner Paul Lagg pointed out that, should the board not approve the site plan based on a public safety issue, they would need to justify the decision.
“My guidance is to take into account the fact that there is no presence whatsoever of the harbormaster at Rock Harbor now,” said Lagg. The current proposal, he said, “provides some measure of presence.”
The hearing on the project was continued to the planning board’s May 19 meeting.