By Sarah Shemkus
Cape Cod Times, May 11, 2008
PLYMOUTH — Voters yesterday gave an enthusiastic green light to a proposal to build a movie studio on 300 acres of town-owned land a few miles from the Bourne Bridge.
Question 3, a nonbinding referendum that asked residents whether they support the plans for Plymouth Rock Studio, as the project has been named, passed overwhelmingly, 8,530-1,118.
“We feel very honored and fortunate to have this mandate this evening,” David Kirkpatrick, a former Hollywood studio executive who is leading the proposed project, said during a celebratory gathering of project supporters and volunteers at the Radisson hotel.
“We hope to really make a difference in this community. We consider this a covenant with this town and we will not let it down,” added Kirkpatrick, who spent the cold and damp morning delivering coffee and doughnuts to studio supporters holding signs outside of polling locations.
Yesterday’s vote was intended to give guidance to elected town meeting members, who will be asked on June 9 to decide whether the town should sell the parcel of land to the studio developers.
The 300 acres being eyed by the studio are part of a 1,000-acre tract. The remaining property would become conservation land.
Town meeting would also have to pass a zoning change and a tax incentive financing plan for studio organizers to move forward with their plans.
Yesterday’s vote should send a clear message to town meeting members about how to proceed, said Richard Silva, the chairman of the Yes to the Rock committee. “People in elected positions: Open up your ears and open up your heads and vote the way the people want,” Silva said, addressing supporters last night.
Plans for the studio development 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 movie-themed tourist attraction.
Construction would begin in spring 2009 at the very soonest and would proceed in phases over the course of two years, said Peter Fleury, the studio’s executive project coordinator.
Several Plymouth voters yesterday said they thought welcoming the studio would be a smart economic move for the town. “We need a commercial revenue base for the town,” said Andrew Jamison outside the polling place at Plymouth North High School.
Others noted the studio could allow young people to find well-paying jobs in the area, rather than moving elsewhere to start their careers. “If it keeps them from moving out of town, it helps,” said Mark Barbieri, as he held a sign in support of the studio outside South Elementary School, just a few miles down the road from the proposed site. “This could keep them in town.”
Studio organizers have said the facility is likely to bring 2,000 well-paying, long-term jobs to the area.
The town’s positive response to the project is largely due to studio managers’ efforts to connect with residents, said Helen Hapgood, the chairwoman of Plymouth 1000, a committee formed to educate residents about the possible impacts of the project. “Most of (the response) has been very positive because of the way they’ve reached out to people,” said Hapgood, who declined to share her own position on the plan.
Studio boosters acknowledged last night there are more hurdles for the project to clear, but were pleased with the vote.
“It’s not over yet,” said Loring Tripp, a former Plymouth planning board member who was involved with getting the studio question on the ballot. “We’ve got a lot of hard work to do, but we’ve gotten a clear direction.”
Sarah Shemkus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.