Letter: Bristol zoning board, Please reject Belvedere proposal

Posted 5/9/19

I strongly urge the Bristol Zoning Board of Appeal to refuse all of the requested variances sought by petitioners for the proposed massive building designed for Thames Street behind the …

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Letter: Bristol zoning board, Please reject Belvedere proposal


I strongly urge the Bristol Zoning Board of Appeal to refuse all of the requested variances sought by petitioners for the proposed massive building designed for Thames Street behind the Belvedere.

There is little justification for these radical exceptions, which if ever granted, would not only permit a horrid structure to ruin the ambiance of Thames Street, but also would render by precedent a shambles of our careful architectural controls within the Bristol Town Plan.

I admire what the petitioner has done in restoring Belvedere Hotel, built by my great-uncle, John Brown Herreshoff, for periodic residence of owners visiting to take delivery of Herreshoff yachts constructed here. A fine, tasteful job of work at prominent contrasts to the awful structure designed for Thames Street. I do not object to the plan of additional residences adjacent to the hotel building, but please accomplish that in proper scale and taste.

Fifty years ago, the Bristol Town Council contracted a waterfront study which resulted in thoughtful advice by what came to be known as the Suzaki Report. In that, recognition was given to the prominence of Bristol’s extraordinary fine example of a real New England working waterfront.

The advice went on to a series of suggestions for future advance of Thames Street by positive additions, fitting to the long-term values of that special place. Also given were warning of bad actions that might compromise the intrinsic values, by such as the newly proposed monster structure.

During the last 50-year interval, we have been wise and also fortunate to develop well, tastefully and appropriately along Thames Street. Some old mill buildings have been internally renovated for good living within historic structures.

The historic DeWolf counting house into hotel and restaurant property with sutiable restraint and continuation of distinguished appearance. Independence Park was established as a sort of gem replacement of a broken-down train junk yard.

Rockwell Park was redesigned and renovated in conjunction with new waterfront piers for fishing and recreational craft. The Fire Department provided a tasteful addition to the Prudence Island Ferry pier, wisely purchased by the town. Recently Bristol acquired the Azevedo property and entered into an agreement that has resulted in appropriate restoration of two historic buildings there.

It has been said that camels, of notable ugliness with two humps, must have been designed by a committee. Now, let us not by committee, trip up by allowing a 170-foot-long ugly structure threatening to architecturally smash the ambiance achieved by the good works of fifty years.

The petitioner has every right to seek variances to allow its unwise structure to be built. But having recognized that, we also know that the Town of Bristol has no responsibility to grant the requests.

They do not fit our Master Plan. They would allow a very miserable intrusion upon precious space. The design even has two misfit humps (like the camel). Zoning exceptions for this would set horrible precedents for future inappropriate structures.

So, my advice:

1. Zoning Board: Please, please refuse the variances requested.

2. Petitioner: Scrap your plan totally. Engaged a suitable architect to design three buildings of varying form, each appropriate to our colonial architectural values of scale for the precious Thames Street location. Plenty of residences can fit your purposes within. It is asserted that costs would rise, but that may not be significant.

3. Bristol citizens: Please attend a hearing scheduled for Thursday, June 13, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Halsey C. Herreshoff

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