Plymouth sets the stage for movie studio vote

cctimes-logo.jpgcctimes-logo.jpgBy KATHI SCRIZZI DRISCOLL
May 08, 2008

PLYMOUTH — Voters here have seen the message on 1,500 lawn signs, seen it on TV ads, read it in e-mails and pamphlets, and heard it in phone and personal pleas: Say “Yes to the ROCK.”

That’s the rallying cry for a citizens’ committee that has blitzed the town with their message about Question 3, a nonbinding referendum on Saturday’s ballot in Plymouth. The referendum will ask voters whether they support Plymouth Rock Studios — a $300 million, 1.5-million-square-foot movie and TV studio — proposed for land just a few miles from the Bourne Bridge.

Saturday’s vote is a rehearsal for a binding question coming up at town meeting on June 9: Should the town sell 300 acres to the studio developers?

The studio project, led by former Hollywood studio head David Kirkpatrick, would include 14 sound stages, two backlots for outdoor set construction, a computerized special effects studio, an arts school, stores, restaurants, a performing arts center, athletic fields, a hotel and a tourist attraction with a movie theme.

The studio would be state of the art, environmentally friendly and twice the size of Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. It’s one of two proposed in eastern Massachusetts after new state tax credits made this one of the most movie friendly states in the country.

The full-court press on Plymouth voters kicked into gear after an April 15 organizational meeting for “Yes to the Rock” — which is financially independent and operates separately from the studio. The meeting attracted about 600 supporters — four times what organizers and studio staff had hoped. Organizers want the town’s 126 elected town meeting representatives to get a positive message.

“If everyone in their precinct is behind this, they’d be hard-pressed not to vote for this,” said Peter Fleury, studio executive project coordinator.

“It’s a golden opportunity. … People want this to be part of Plymouth,” said Richard Silva, a former assistant superintendent and lifelong resident who chairs the Yes to the Rock committee. He cited the potential impact on the tax rate and a promise of more than 2,000 jobs.

“I believe in this as something that will help everybody. … (Support is coming from) lawyers, union members, senior citizens and young kids who want this so they don’t want to have to move across the country to get a job.”

Some residents and town meeting members might still need convincing. Concerns have been raised, according to stories published on, about increased traffic, helicopter noise, environmental concerns, building heights, and whether the studio is forcing town officials to move too quickly on the plan. There doesn’t seem to be any organized opposition to the plan.

The key question at town meeting will involve selling up to 300 acres of a 1,000-acre town parcel of land to the studio (the rest would become conservation land), giving the studio 48 months to begin construction or the property would return to the town. The second question would create a film and TV production zoning “overlay” district requiring a special planning board permit.

Both must pass by a two-thirds vote at town meeting.

At the meeting, Kirkpatrick, who formerly ran Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney and Touchstone studios, and other officials are due to make a formal presentation, expected to include celebrity endorsements gained on a recent trip to Hollywood.

Supporters say the studio, proposed to break ground next spring for an early 2011 opening, would boost tourism and bring 2,000 well-paying, long-term jobs. (The studio has already received more than 1,200 resumes.) Fleury believes environmental concerns are allayed by the fact that more than two-thirds of that tract of land will be kept for conservation and that the studio will be the first “green” enterprise of its kind in the world.

Studio officials have tried to respond to traffic concerns, including relocating the “village center” of stores and restaurants.

The project would require an exit from Route 25 to ease the traffic on local roads, and Fleury said state officials have pledged to pay $55 million for that to be built. Designs are under discussion. Silva is confident the “yes” voters will prevail.

“It would be a major, major mistake if the town turns this down,” he said. “I believe this community would be up in arms if this … on any level, didn’t become a reality.”

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