Opinion: Selectman Teitelbaum says beware of misinformation

Apr 6, 2021

To the voters of the Town of Wareham:

Greetings. I write to correct misinformation circulating about the East Wareham Hospitality, Recreation and Rezoning proposal article that will be voted upon this Saturday. 

At Monday night’s Planning Board hearing on the article, the President of the Wareham Land Trust expressed concern that the by-law would allow up to 75% of the land to be covered by impervious surface, and wondered how that could be when the current Zoning By-Law has an existing limit of 15% impervious surface town-wide (except in a few existing commercial and village districts).

She had clearly misconstrued the portion of the proposed by-law that called for a minimum 25% of the land be preserved as Open Space to mean that the rest could be paved and covered with buildings. This is not remotely the case.

This is not the first time I’ve heard someone make this erroneous claim. And yes, it would be a potential threat to Red Brook and the Onset Water supply if 75% of the land could be covered in tar and buildings. And no, as an environmental attorney I would never vote to put such an article before Town Meeting - but that is not what is being called for here. The proposed by-law is completely silent on the question of impervious surface coverage, which means that the existing Groundwater Protection Overlay District at section 440 of the current by-law would still impose the 15% impervious limit on any project that could be brought forward if the new zoning passes.

While I am sure that the misunderstanding was an innocent one, my concern is that this gross misinformation has been spread around to the various other conservation groups that have come out against the rezoning proposal. I would ask everyone to simply sit down and read the proposed by-law not just to confirm the facts on this issue, but also other concerns that have been raised about the adequacy of groundwater impact review and the ability of the Planning Board to demand such review during any permitting process under the proposed by-law. I would also ask everyone to look at both the United States Geological Service 1990 and 2009 reports on the Plymouth-Carver-Kingston-Duxbury aquifer.  This aquifer contains 194 square miles, which is 124,160 acres (a square mile has 640 acres).  It already contains thousands of houses, businesses and septic systems, as well as cranberry bogs, thousands of miles of roadways, driveways and parking lots. The proposed rezoning article would affect less than 1% of the total acreage, and as a practical matter only a portion of the Graziano properties totaling 275 acres are likely to see any development. That is a mere 0.217461 percent of the aquifer, which covers nearly all of the Town of Wareham.

I must express my disappointment that no one from the Wareham Land Trust reached out to discuss this article before allying themselves with out of town activists like the wealthy Pine Barren Karen who has taken such a sudden interest in our affairs (recently she took my simple response to her Public Records Act request on behalf of the Board of Selectmen to fire off a missive to the Wareham Conservation Commission in connection with an application by a local landowner, that put words and conclusions in the Board of Selectmen’s mouths that we never made. While I can appreciate zealotry, I cannot abide dishonesty.).

Unfortunately, it seems that this brand of passion without regard for courtesy or even reality has suddenly become commonplace, and is damaging to our community. Recently I overheard another activist who is dead set against the rezoning article complain not only that Danny Warren’s project at the old Greer Lumber Co. should not go forward, but she then pointed across the Narrows and stated that the Cape Cod Shipbuilding/The Multihull Source property should be removed as well. The irony here of course is that one of those businesses is owned by an ardent supporter of the Wareham Land Trust, is a member of its board, and has a green Vote No sign in front of his property. And the Narrows has been a working seaport for 300 years and is a critical part of our history. Are we to reverse all job-creating development to accommodate such unrealistic and radical viewpoints?

In closing, I strongly support the rezoning article up for vote on Saturday, because I believe it offers the Town a chance to increase revenues so that we can better address simple nuts and bolts infrastructure issues like streetlights and potholes, as well as human services issues like a Council on Aging that actually has appropriate facilities and resources to help our aging population, and to protect our library’s certification. We Selectmen hear people clamor for these things and we desperately want to be able to address them, but we are stuck in a revenue holding pattern that only allows us to do the bare minimum.The rezoning article is our best opportunity to do our best for Wareham.

Accordingly, in what has become somewhat a battle of out-of-town millionaires, I’m siding with the millionaires with a proven track record of successful and cooperative development that delivers jobs and revenue. But regardless of your personal position, I hope to see every registered voter in the Town show up on Saturday and exercise their right to act as a Citizen Legislator and vote. This is exactly what our ancestors fought and died for.

Very truly yours,

Peter W Teitelbaum, Esq.