Letter: Blount expansion plan asks too much of town

Posted 9/23/20

To the editor:

On Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 PM, Warren Planning Board will hear a petition by Blount Boats to approve a four-phase Master Plan for the six-acre Blount shipyard and residences that …

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Letter: Blount expansion plan asks too much of town

Posted

To the editor:

On Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 PM, Warren Planning Board will hear a petition by Blount Boats to approve a four-phase Master Plan for the six-acre Blount shipyard and residences that abut the town beach. This plan includes a new bulkhead and piers extending into the Warren River, and buildings that will stand 55 feet high — 20 feet higher than is currently allowed in Warren, and approaching the height of the Tourister building. If approved, the proposed plan would give Blount, or any subsequent owner, the right to develop these phases over the next 10 years. These long-term municipal approvals are attractive to a company seeking financing for their business plan, but is a 10-year Master Plan good for anyone other than the property owner? Is it good for the Town of Warren? Is a 10-year commitment good planning practice? Who will own the property in 10 years? Would these uses be in conflict with Warren's expanded recreation efforts?

In addition to a Master Plan, Blount's legal team has written a proposed new zone, created exclusively for the Blount shipyard. Under this new spot zone, Industrial Shipyard Waterfront zone (ISW), Blount's shipyard would no longer be subject to the Waterfront Overlay requirements as is the rest of the waterfront from Tourister Mill to the Town Beach. Planning Board review is required for Master Plan and zoning. However, the proposed Zoning Ordinance addition would ultimately be forwarded to Town Council for their acceptance or denial.

The most visible provisions of the proposed ISW zone would be the uses, and building heights. The ISW zone includes some two dozen water-related uses 'without limitation,' including "the design, building, launching, hauling, storage, maintenance and repair of any boat or ship. A marina, marine transportation terminal and headquarters for any marine transportation industry, including, without limitation, a cruise line or ferry service. It shall include all appropriate accessory uses thereto, including, without limitation, water, fuel, and sewage pump-out services, other marina services, offices, ground and rack storage, bathrooms and showers, and parking." Also, any residential use that is 'accessory to the shipyard' would be allowable. Dormitory for shipyard or marina workers, or crew members between cruises? Hotel for a ferry terminal? Define 'accessory.' The possibilities are 'without limitation.'

Other provisions of this new proposed zoning would guarantee that all buildings "principal OR accessory structure" in this special shipyard zone, large or small, located on Water Street or anywhere in the property, could be 55 feet high. And, as with any zoning, the uses would apply to the land regardless of ownership.

Are these businesses and building heights appropriate for Warren's very visible waterfront area next to the Town Beach? What kind of precedent does such self-directed spot zoning set for the remainder of the Waterfront, or all the town? What would be the benefits to Warren? And would those benefits outweigh any negatives? Would you feel differently if the Blounts were no longer the owners? You've no doubt heard the expression, 'Give away the store/'

Weigh in on this plan. Don't just let the planning board and the town council make these decisions in a vacuum. Social distancing prevents in-person meetings, but you can contact town council or board members (council's email addresses are on the town website), and let them know how you feel about these plans for our waterfront. Or see You're Probably From Warren if...... on Facebook for further information and conversation. Be a part of this process. The beach can't speak for itself.

Jane MacDougall
500 Water St.

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