Waterways Commission approves a new maritime center plan

Aug 26, 2016

A third plan for the proposed maritime center will go to the Select Board for feedback next week, now that the Waterways Management Commission has approved a smaller design for the Bridge-Water streets location, and its use as a seasonal outpost for the harbormaster.

The Commission met on August 25 to decide how much involvement they would have in the center. A recently rejected proposal had offered a year-round office for the harbormaster on the second floor, but neighboring property owners quashed that plan, saying the height of the building would impede their view of the harbor.

“This committee needs to decide if they want to be there. What they decide affects this project, and may or may not affect if it goes forward,” said Deborah Melino-Wender, director of development for the town.

The reason for that is because the town is counting on the harbormaster’s office to act as security for the property, ensuring the area is safe and available to visitors, and that any maintenance and repair issues can be addressed.

The Commission voted to not only commit to using the center as a seasonal outpost for the harbormaster, but also to approve proposed changes. Changes—submitted by the soon-to-be owners of the abutting 4 Water Street, George Leontire and Will Milbury—include making the building one-story, pushing the center location out of the high water area so that it rests on the edge of the parking lot and overhangs the current dirt ramp, and changing the exterior to mimic a toll house that existed in the area in the early 1800s.

“I want to see Padanaram’s success as much as everyone else does,” said Leontire, listing more pedestrian access, uninhibited views, and Padanaram’s aesthetic as reasons for fighting the previous design, proposed by the Water Street Landing Rehabilitation Committee. Following a confrontation between Leontire and and the Landing Rehabilitation Committee earlier this week, three of the committee’s volunteers resigned.

The latest design would also offer a 14-by-14 foot multi-purpose room (to serve as an educational space, the harbormaster’s office, and welcome center), two bathrooms and showers, and racks for dinghies, kayaks, and paddleboards. A public dock for boat tie-ups and transient dinghy space, a public deck and porch area, and a handicap-accessible ramp would provide outside space for visitors.

“I like the design a lot better. I like the concept of giving back to the townspeople and voters,” said commission member Warren Hathaway.

Commission members agreed that this design was much truer to the original intent for a maritime center. The first proposal included the $765,000 purchase of 4 Water Street for a $1.7 million project that would allow public access to the harbor, provide a recreation area, and boost Padanaram’s business community by bringing in transient boaters. That purchase was shot down at Spring Town Meeting, and the Landing Rehabilitation Committee formed to repurpose the $1 million grant from the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council that would’ve paid for the purchase. Now, the committee is racing to submit a revised proposal by the November 1 grant application due date.

“The state seems like it wants to make a grant and we need to make sure it fits,” said Melino-Wender. “The grant was for a harborfront center of some kind.”

The project would also receive funding from the Dartmouth Department of Public Works (although that amount has not been settled on yet), $7,500 from the harbormaster’s office, and funding from the Community Preservation Committee (which is set to vote on September 6).

The Committee also addressed neighbors’ concerns over disturbance.

“It’s an attractive nuisance,” said Commission Vice Chairman Roger Race. The Commission agreed that the maritime center would be regularly open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Commission Chair Gerry Hickey said he is happy that the maritime center will replace the “eyesore” currently welcoming transient boaters.

“I like the fact that it fits, and it fits the grant,” said Harbormaster Steve Melo, noting that space for his office was never part of the original intent.