By Tamara Race
The Patriot Ledger
Aug 16, 2008
PLYMOUTH — The site has changed, but the mission has not.
Plymouth Rock Studios intends to build a major movie and television production studio in Massachusetts. The company’s preferred site is the Waverly Oaks golf course in Plymouth off Route 3 at exit 3, but the plan hinges on town meeting’s approval of a zoning change in October.
“We want to be on the site with an as-of-right zoning bylaw in November,” studio founder David Kirkpatrick said. “We’d like to start construction next spring and be open for business in September of 2010.”
Kirkpatrick’s development partner Earl Lestz says the company has already ‘‘pre-leased’’ 100,000 square feet of office space in the proposed complex. Kirkpatrick says the potential leases are to production services companies such as equipment and costume firms and recording studios all interested in working on the East Coast. He said they are also talking to the rapidly expanding special effects company, Brickyard vfx, with offices in California and Boston.
The $422 million studio will employ about 150 full time workers, but attract more than 2,000 production-related jobs as the studio is leased to production companies for anything from major motion pictures to television commercials.
Critics say the studio’s schedule is too aggressive and will not give town meeting members enough time to review all the information and make a decision. Several object to an ‘‘allowed use’’ bylaw as opposed to one requiring a special permit process. Town meeting member and precinct chairman William Abbott says eliminating the special permit process circumvents residents rights to protect themselves from the tyranny of the majority.
Voters in May overwhelmingly endorsed the project in a nonbinding ballot question, although the vote was specific to the original site on 1,000 acres of town land off Route 25. That site was abandoned due to title problems. But studio officials say their construction schedule leaves no room for potential appeals that could tie up the project for years. “We’ve already started preleasing space for 2010,” studio development coordinator William Wynne said. “Working backward from that date through the construction process leaves us no room for approval delays. We want to take out that risk of delay.”
The company is committed to giving planning officials and town meeting members the information necessary to warrant an as-of-right zoning bylaw. They are also confident they can alleviate neighbors concerns about noise, light, and traffic. Planned improvements including a new studio access road, a roundabout at Clark Road and Long Pond Road, traffic lights at Route 3 ramp exits on Clark Road, and widening Clark Road will accommodate the expected increase in traffic and correct already failing intersections, according to studio consultants.
Proposed water and sewer work will improve environmental conditions on the site and free-up about 50 acres of nearby school property now restricted as well-protection area. The state will pay for the work with bonds guaranteed by the studio. Business leaders say the project will boost tourism and attract dozens of spin-off companies. Town officials say the project will increase the town’s current $700 million commercial tax base by more than half and help slow anticipated property tax hikes.
Tamara Race may be reached at email@example.com.
Plymouth Rock Studio plan
Highlights of the plan and what the project needs to go forward:
Property ownership: Town officials have the right of first refusal when Waverly Oaks golf course is sold because the golf course is recreational land and receives a property-tax break. That tax break will end with any zoning change to allow a movie and television production studio. The conversion will trigger a state law requiring Waverly owner Mark Ridder to notify town officials of the intended sale by submitting the purchase-and-sale-agreement with Plymouth Rock Studios stating the sale price and intended new use. Plymouth Rock Studios will have to pay Plymouth 5 percent of the property’s sale price at the time of closing.
Utilities: A water well on the course has enough capacity for the studio complex and for both Plymouth South High School and Plymouth South Middle School next door. Installing a water tank for fire suppression and running water lines through the studio complex and to both high schools would allow town officials to abandon a well on the school property. Getting rid of that well frees 38 acres of well-head protection land that could be used for future school expansion.
Roads: To accommodate increased traffic, studio officials are planning a new access road from Clark Road, running through town conservation land and school property to the golf course site. Clark Road will be widened to five or six lanes between the Route 3 south exit ramps and the new access road before narrowing to two lanes into a new roundabout at the intersection of Clark Road and Long Pond Road. Traffic lights will be installed where Route 3 south and north ramps intersect with Clark Road and at the new access road. The access road will also serve the town’s two schools reducing school bus traffic on Long Pond Road. Infrastructure costs would be paid through state bonds guaranteed by studio officials.
Zoning: Town meeting must approve a zoning change to allow studio development in a residential zone. The planning board must give site plan approval, and there must be signed agreements with selectmen guaranteeing certain infrastructure improvements or special permit approval depending upon zoning language. State environmental permitting is also required