Proposed Padanaram maritime center sparks debate

Apr 12, 2016

A $1.7 million proposal to create a maritime center in Padanaram -- complete with dinghy docking and recreational programming -- was met with apprehension from the Select Board and the public this week.

Town Administrator David Cressman said the project would help revitalize the village and could engage young and new boaters.

"[It's] creating opportunity for recreation, creating opportunity for possible economic development," noted Cressman, who discussed the project with the Select Board on Monday.

The 4 Water Street property, which would cost the town $765,000, includes a house, garage, and dock. A total of $1 million of the estimated $1.7 million project cost would be covered by a grant from the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council, Cressman said.

While Select Board members and meeting attendees did not necessarily object to the idea of a maritime center, they weren't particularly keen on the Water Street location.

“This is not a good deal,” said newly-elected Select Board member John Haran, cautioning that the building is filled with mold and mildew, and is susceptible to flooding.

Arthur Burke of Elm Street was concerned about safety in that particular location. A former member of the Navy and a lifelong boater, Burke worried that the area's waterfront would be too hazardous for inexperienced boaters. He argued that it was the most congested part of the harbor, with high winds and strong currents.

"This is the last place in the harbor you'd want to place small watercraft with inexperienced boaters," Burke said. "It should be nautically appropriate, safe and should be financially responsible. I don't see any of those elements in this plan."

Also at issue was the lack of parking at the property, particularly because limited parking on nearby Elm Street is already a big concern for residents and business owners.

Apponagansett was suggested as a more appropriate site for the maritime center. Burke said there is no current, no congestion, and flat water.

"There's no better site anywhere for small boats than that site,” he noted. Several residents in attendance expressed their agreement.

Cressman said he was unsure whether the $1 million Seaport Economic Council grant could be used for a different location, but agreed to look into it.

The Select Board voted to hold off on purchasing the Water Street property until a maritime committee could be assembled, spearheaded by Burke, to make a recommendation on how create a safe maritime center.

The Select Board plans to discuss the maritime center again at its April 25 meeting.