“Building On Top Of The Ocean Is A Great Idea” – Nobody

When we first heard about the planned Soones Court development to subdivide the land Cheryl Soones owns on the ocean side of Atlantic Road on the Back Shore, we all looked at each other quizzically, and said “What the fuck?” It was the same look we gave each other when Trump started polling favorably.

I’d also bet a crisp, clean five dollar bill on the fact that at least 75% of Gloucesterites said the same damn thing, or a more child-friendly version thereof. Why the fuck would anyone try to develop on the back shore? What kind of actual bullshit is this? This is the worst idea anyone has had in Gloucester so far in 2016, and that includes the guy who called the police because his friend stole his drugs.

If you’re not aware of this debacle, let me Clamsplain this one for you. Sit down and Irish up your coffee, preferably ensconced in a mug you’re willing to smash into a million pieces against your wall. We good? Ok, let’s go.

The Back Shore, as we all know, is a stunning, scenic wonder. It’s a fantastic road for sightseeing tourists, joggers, cyclists, and teenagers smoking pot in their cars. The 1.5 mile stretch of the Back Shore that has open ocean beside it is part of what makes Gloucester a unique and beautiful place. The tourists aren’t coming here for our discarded Keno slips and abundance of nail salons. They’re coming for the Back Shore.

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Untouched splendor! Did you think it would stay like this forever? LOL.

 

But clearly, we can’t have nice things. And that’s where Cheryl Soones comes in. Soones is a Florida resident who has owned four parcels of land on the ocean side of Atlantic that the town, in a stunning logical move, had long deemed unbuildable. This designation has been reflected in their value – the four lots are assessed at less than $20,000 combined. When this debacle first started several months back, Soones planned to sell the land and an architect from Lenox, James Harwood, had planned to build one 1500 square foot, single family home on one of the lots. However, Soones enough (see what I did there oh god someone stop me) that one home that was already controversial somehow turned into four. Four houses. Along the Back Shore. You can throw your mug now.

I saved this as facepalm.jpg

I saved this as facepalm.jpg

So somehow, this land, for which back taxes had been owed and the city could have legally taken possession of, is now ripe for four houses to be placed on it. This would be a hilarious comedy, except it isn’t.

At this point, the seven libertarians who bother reading the Clam are saying to themselves, “Well, it’s their land, right? Why can’t they build on it?” So let’s take a look at this land. These lots have very little vegetation and are ledge with boulders upon it. Also, the ocean is there. Like, right there. During even non-notable winter storms, this is how the road looks:

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And this was a minor storm. Remember the Perfect Storm? Even I do, and I was 8.

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This photo was taken exactly where these four homes are proposed. These aren’t in idyllic, protected coves where building close to the shore will have a negligible effect. The Back Shore is a monster in storms. Gigantic boulders get tossed  across the road like a drunk bro throws up late-night tacos in the interior of your mom’s Jeep. On the Good Morning Gloucester post where these photos were originally shared, Jo Major Ciolino commented, We were both completely shocked at the level of destruction and damage. I remember thinking it looked like a plane had flown down Atlantic Road and dropped bombs every 30 feet. It was inconceivable a storm could destroy that much and do so much damage.” And that was twenty five years ago. Climate change will make the next Perfect Storm even more powerful. It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN. 

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Oh, good. Nature.

But don’t you worry! The architects and engineers hired by Soones say they have the technology to make these houses happen. That technology to get around the flood zone requirements involves 24 steel beams which will elevate the bottom of the homes to… wait for it…

15 feet above Atlantic Ave. Floating houses 15 feet above the roadway. Because that makes sense. It’ll look great. Good job everyone, pat yourselves on the back. In addition, the maximum height permitted in this zoning is 30 feet. However, that’s not calculated from the level of the street or the bottom floor of the house – instead, it’s calculated from the average pre-construction grade of the footprint of the house – which are the rocks several feet below the road. Marty DelVecchio, who is a vast fountain of knowledge, pointed out that this means the highest point of the house (except the chimney) can be 30 feet above the rocks, which is 26 feet above the road. 16 feet of that is steel supports, leaving a full 10 vertical feet in which to build the house.

This whole idea is atrocious, especially when you consider stuff like utilities – getting gas, power, and sewer to those houses, where cars would park, and dozens of other concerns like how the homes would even be insured. There’s no evidence that even if these homes were built, there’s a market for them. The homes will all be built on spec – the landowner makes money, the builder makes money, and no one really gives a crap about who buys them and what becomes of them ten years down the road – and when the inevitable happens and these homes end up like my dreams, dashed across Atlantic Road and into their neighbors’ yards, who will be left holding the bag?

This photo by Cindy Lawry, taken an hour before high tide Feb 8, shows the lots mostly submerged.

This photo by Cindy Lawry, taken an hour before high tide Feb 8, shows the proposed lots mostly submerged.

Even Planning Board member Kenneth Hecht referred to the proposal as “bizarre”. What’s even more bizarre is the convoluted way this plan even got to the point where the planning board did a site visit and will hold a hearing this week. City Councilor Joe Ciolino proposed and pushed through an overlay zone for Atlantic Road that was approved in December. The zoning requires a special City Council permit for any building to take place along the ocean side of Atlantic Road from High Popples to Bass Rocks Road. However, the day this zoning was adopted, Soones and the developers submitted their plans for a four-house subdivision solely to avoid the new law, and thus have apparently grandfathered themselves with the previous zoning law.

The city dropped the ball the first time by not taking possession of the properties when taxes weren’t paid. Full stop. Even more aggravating is that (props to Marty for knowing this) once upon a time, until recently, the city had a law requiring City Council approval of any construction in a sensitive coastal area, but that law was lifted – apparently a it meant lot of work for the City Council over minor development that everybody was OK with, and besides, the reasoning was that there are several other boards that can stop the nonsense.

Like the Planning Board. This Thursday, March 3, the Planning Board will hear the proposal. This was continued from last month’s meeting, where it wasn’t brought up – although 60 people still showed up to voice their opinions on the project.

Save Our Shores Gloucester is a group headed by Barb Silberman, with a Facebook following of nearly 2500 so far. They will not only be showing up to this week’s proposal meeting, but they’ve also pooled their resources to hire expert legal counsel to stop the subdivision dead in its tracks.  They’re also looking for donations to help offset this cost. The Back Shore is a resource for all of us, and if you want to see it remain in its current undeveloped condition, you can make a donation below (or click here for mobile users) via GoFundMe. If you would prefer to donate by check, you can do so by write a check to The Gloucester Fund – Put “SOS Gloucester” on the memo line, and mail the check to 45 Middle Street, Gloucester, MA 01930

 

 

 

A List Of Annoying Names For Winter Storms

Winter Storm Jonas. Ugh. Not only is naming winter storms kind of dumb [looking at you Weather Channel], but If you’re under the age of 50, you, like us here at the Gloucester Clam, may have “My Name is Jonas” stuck in your head THE ENTIRE LENGTH THAT THERE IS STORM COVERAGE.

THE METEROLOGIST SWEARS HE LEARNED HIS MATH

THE METEROLOGIST SWEARS HE LEARNED HIS MATH THE NONESSENTIAL WORKERS ARE GOOOING HOOOOOOME YEAH YEAH YEAH

It won’t leave. It’s insipid. I mean, it’s a great song, but I’m yearning for last week when I had solely the flute part of Moonage Daydream stuck in my head for a record 9 days straight.

So that, my friends, got me thinking. If we’re going to name winter storms, we might as well face the truth: winter storms are incredibly annoying. We should start naming them after really annoying things. Such as.

 

Winter Storm Your Child Has Brought Home A Recorder From School

Winter Storm Netflix Has Encountered A Problem

Winter Storm Completely Unreasonable GoFundMe Request

Winter Storm Vaguely Christian 90’s Band

Winter Storm I Have A Structured Settlement But I Need Cash Now

Winter Storm Creepy Little Girls At A Trump Rally

Winter Storm Expresso

Winter Storm Guy Who Corrects Your Pronunciation of Espresso

Winter Storm Firework By Katy Perry

Winter Storm Eighth Client Revision

Winter Storm Ammon Bundy

Winter Storm Inebriated Thirtysomethings Singing Don’t Stop Believin’ At Karaoke

Winter Storm Every Maroon 5 Song

Winter Storm Chris Christie’s Face

Winter Storm Comcast Customer Service

Winter Storm That Guy That Never Stops Talking To You At Parties

Winter Storm Robocall That Your Debit Card Was Compromised

Winter Storm Nearly Unintelligible Public Official

Winter Storm Soggy Wrap

Winter Storm Replacing A Tooth Filling

Winter Storm Customer Feedback Survey Email

Winter Storm Watch Me Whip

Winter Storm Men’s Rights Activist

Winter Storm The Fact That They Don’t Make Super Mario Underpants For Adults

Winter Storm Manbun

Winter Storm #Blessed

And our favorite of all time:

Winter Storm 1-877-Kars 4 Kids (You can thank Anna Benedetto for that one)

 

YOUR CLAM PRESENTS: THE BEST ALBUM COVERS I HAVE SEEN AT MYSTERY TRAIN

It’s not a hugely well kept-secret that I’m mid-divorce, Clamistas. It’s a real pain, a long drawn-out process, even with a relatively amicable split and 50/50 division of caterwauling children and meager millenial assets. But the great thing? I have a sweet and fantastic boyfriend who works at Mystery Train, the giant awesome record store at the end of Main Street. He grew up in East Gloucester, so he is patient when I ask him things like “DID THEY FEED YOU KALE WHEN YOU WERE BORN” and “DID THEY DO YOGA IN THE SCHOOLS?”

So sometimes I go visit him at work, because I like his face. And I have for you a collection of the most ridiculous records I have seen so far upon my visits. Here.

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Guest Post: Hugo Burnham on David Bowie

[this guest post comes from our good friend and Gloucester resident, original Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham.]

My brother called me from England at 2:15 this morning. “Bowie’s dead.”

I was not taken wholly by surprise, but I was bit sad, thinking as I tried to fall back asleep, that I should listen to the new album I had downloaded on Friday. I reached for my phone and posted “Ah. Good grief.” on Facebook. And then turned the light out again.

When I pulled in to my parking space at 6:25am by the campus in Brookline – I had to just sit there, listening to his voice. A replay of an old NPR Fresh Air interview. Then I sort of lost it. It was a good 10 minutes before I swiped my card through the meter and walked to work. I told myself not to spend much time today online. I ignored myself. People are shattered. I am shattered too, honestly.

I could write such a lot about his part in my life. I was just at that age when he appeared on Top Of The Pops, playing ‘Starman’. It turned everything on its head for me. Fucking everything. And it changed it all for just about every person I know of my generation who became punks, post-punks, electronica-types, whatever. We have all talked about it in the 46 years since. 46 Years. My Brain Hurts a Lot. NOBODY wasn’t changed or moved.

And he kept doing it – even with a less-than-moving period in the ‘80s – always coming back with music (and writing, and acting….damn it, I saw him play The Elephant Man on Broadway). Because of him, we heard and listened to so many new and different artists who would never likely have crossed our lines of vision. I still go very quiet whenever I listen to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Avec Piano’. And I love Jacques Brel.

Many friends have know him, worked for him, played with him; he sent me and my best friend from high school flowers because he heard we’d got a rather severe kicking from some skinheads on the Tube coming back from The Rainbow one night after a Mike Garson/Woody Woodmansey concert…where we’d hung out in the lobby most of the night with (Spider) Trevor Bolder and Anya Wilson from Mainman. I hung out with Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers, Special AKA) at these gigs and in exotic, slightly scary Brixton at parties when I was 17 – and neither of us really knew we’d become who we had until years later (on bloody Facebook, of course). Still a good friend. But I never actually got to meet him. Damn it. “Oh, he loves Gang of Four!” we’d hear from those who had actually touched the hem. Another high school friend was his Tour Manager for years – sat in the same bar after a show…but I didn’t want to be rude, because I was talking to my friend, and DB was talking to the promoter. I’m such an idiot. Been so close…and always just too far.

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It doesn’t matter who or what or how old you are – but, let me tell you; there are a number of us who really, really were a part of something quite small at first (but that grew like a bastard before long), who wore the clothes, who hobbled around on the shoes, who put on the slap, who went to The Saturday Gigs. That very early Ziggy show at The Rainbow – before it all took off… Lindsay Kemp’s troupe dancing, Roxy Music and/or Fumble opening. Everyone knowing to do the clap thing in ‘Space Oddity’, him coming out after the encore in a silk kimono to say he loved us, but hadn’t rehearsed any more songs he could play. Oh, David. Thank you.

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We age, we die.  But this one has really, really hit hard today.

THE CLAM INTERRUPTS YOUR SATURDAY WITH AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE

We know, Clamfans, you’re probably a little sad we don’t post as often anymore. We have good reasons – Jim is working his butt off starting his own ad agency while supporting a whole family, KT is in the middle of a divorce w kids, moving, and trying to build a social media marketing business (she is also speaking in the third person right now). We apologize for the lull, but it won’t always be this way – 2016 will bring blogging back. We can’t guarantee every day, but it’ll be more quality over quantity. Probably. 

However, WE NEED YOUR ATTENTION FOR A SECOND.

A ton of you guys know Peggy and Chris Lyman. They are locals here, with four (FOUR) kids, including a toddler/preschooler and a brand-new baby. They’re fixtures, they’re One Of Us, and they are part of the social fabric that keeps Gloucester awesome. They’re in the Clam gang, virtually, if one existed (it doesn’t, we lost most of our gang to a rival comprised of mostly Juggalos). They’re the rare breed of people who nearly everyone knows, and no one can say a harsh word about. You know those people. Yeah. The Lymans are them. 

Anyway, Peggy’s doctors just found a mass between her lungs. Right smack dab before Christmas. No one deserves that news, let alone this family who aren’t exactly living in a McMansion with a heated pool encroaching on Dogtown. Peggy’s a schoolteacher, Chris works with boats and busts his butt, and they’re raising 4 young kids. Have I mentioned the four kids?

ONLY HALF THE AMOUNT OF CHILDREN THEY ACTUALLY HAVE

ONLY HALF THE AMOUNT OF CHILDREN THEY ACTUALLY HAVE

So for this holiday season, they’re facing a lot of unexpected transportation – both for Peggy for cancer treatments and the kids around town – and childcare needs, as well as other expenses. Peggy’s cancer is treatable and her prognosis is relatively good, and she’ll obviously be facing a lot of medical interventions starting really damn soon. The last thing Chris, Peggy, and their kids should have to worry about during this time is if they are going to be able to stay afloat financially – they need to concentrate on mom’s health. 

This is Gloucester, and the best thing about Gloucester is how we come together when we’re needed, to help out our own. We’re damn good at it – we prove that time and time again. And it’s time to do that for the Lymans. We live near a world-class city for cancer treatment. We have a lot of hope.

We can’t control cancer, but what we can control is all the external factors this family has to deal with. So let’s make it easier for them – all six of them.

Here’s the gofundme that BYG czar Lara Lepionka put together. Please donate if you can!