UPDATE: new neighbors halt maritime center

Aug 23, 2016

The latest proposal for a maritime center location would use town-owned land at the intersection of Water and Bridge streets, and secure a $1 million grant originally slotted for a maritime center at the abutting 4 Water Street. However, since Town Meeting voters denied the $765,000-purchase of 4 Water Street for a maritime center, the property has been sold elsewhere, and the new neighbors have concerns about the project.

“The purpose and scope of what was being proposed made no sense from a community perspective and from our own perspective,” said George Leontire, who, along with Will Milbury of Milbury & Company, will be closing on the 4 Water Street property in a few weeks.

Leontire and Milbury approached the Water Street Landing Rehabilitation Committee—which has since been on the job to repurpose the $1 million grant from the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council—with concerns about the project’s design, including the building’s aesthetics and public access.

“[The current design] only helps transitory services for the existing boating community,” said Leontire. “What we hope to see is a plan that gives more access to the general public and not just a grand building.”

Despite pressures of a November 1 grant application deadline, Town Administrator David Cressman cancelled the committee’s scheduled presentation of a revised plan and budget at the August 22 Select Board meeting, saying that there was no point in presenting until a solution could be found.

“If they come to agreement, the Select Board can meet on [September 6] to weigh in. Otherwise, that’s the end of the project,” said Cressman.

The committee’s proposal for the $1.3 million project included a 10-by-100-foot floating concrete dock running parallel with the Padanaram Bridge, which would provide room for larger power boats to dock; a two-story, 20-by-40 foot visitor's center, which would also house the harbormaster and bridge tender; a 15-by-65-foot deck area to serve as an esplanade for walking; a rollout mat to assist in launching dinghies and small boats; a handicap-accessible ramp connecting the esplanade and the aforementioned floating dock; and a makeover for the parking lot.

Leontire had a few suggestions, including making the building into a one-story, so as to not interfere with views of the harbor from his property, the properties lining the east side of Water Street, and the new Farm & Coast Market, which currently overlooks the Padanaram Bridge.

Leontire said the current design also opens up towards his property, which is only 25 feet away. He’d rather see activity open up towards the water. Leontire already proposed a solution for this too.

“Move the building out of the high water area and into the parking area,” he said. He explained that by putting the building on the outer edge of the parking lot so that it overhangs the current dirt ramp, there would still be room for parking spaces, a deck, and uninterrupted views of the ocean.

This way, the visitor’s center provides public space in the front of the building, not towards his property, Leontire said.

“My goal here is not to stop the project. I think that it wasn’t fully thought through,” said Leontire, adding that he hopes to be in agreement over the project design by August 25, at the Waterways Management Commission meeting.

“The building was the wrong kind of building. It doesn’t fit in with Padanaram,” said Leontire, who would like to see a more historically significant design that increases public access to the water from the street. “I see all the time people who come to Padanaram. You get an ice cream and there’s absolutely no place to go,” he said, implying a better design would solve that problem.

The previous Water Street maritime center proposal depended on $466,000 in Community Preservation Act funds—which are raised through a 1½ percent property tax surcharge—alongside the grant. Committee members had hoped to keep that money for the revised plan.

Members of the Water Street Landing Rehabilitation Committee declined comment.

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