Warren to review Blount Boats plan Wednesday

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A positive vote from the Warren Planning Board firmly in hand, shipbuilders from Blount Boats now head before the Warren Zoning Board in their quest to build a 44-foot-tall tent on the Warren River waterfront.

The zoning board is expected to meet tonight — Wednesday, Jan. 16 — to rule on the company's request for zoning relief that will allow them to build the canvas and steel tent structure taller than allowed by law, and on a lot with less than the required room. They also need a special use permit.

Blount officials say they need the tent to help build work boats, mostly for the European offshore wind farm industry; the tent will be built atop the "ways," steel rails upon which boats have rolled into the Warren River for decades.

Since Blount Boats lies in Warren's special waterfront overlay district, the planning board was required to give a recommendation before the zoning board saw the plans. Last Monday, planners agreed unanimously to recommend the new building, saying the tent, though large, fits in with Blount's physical plant and is a vital part of the company's plans to stay competitive. The tent would not even be the tallest structure on the Blount property, planners noted; the tallest is a 47-foot building.

There were some concerns from the audience last week that the tent might not withstand a severe storm and is not eligible for protection under the federal government's flood insurance program, but engineers hired by Blount said the structure will be built solidly, to all applicable building codes, and will have safety features that will allow storm surge to pass through its lower levels unimpeded.

Even if the zoning board on Wednesday night approves the variances and special use permit, construction would be a way off. Blount still has to have the project approved by the state's Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and Warren Building Inspector William Nash.

Wednesay's meeting starts at 7 p.m. upstairs at Warren Town Hall.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.