By Christine Legere
October 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH – Town Meeting easily passed two articles last night that will allow Plymouth Rock Studios to move forward with the construction of a $400 million film studio on a 240-acre golf course, after months of negotiation between local officials and studio executives.
The votes were enough to bring the hundreds of residents who came to watch the deliberations to their feet with raucous cheers and applause.
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Plymouth Rock Studios cofounder David Kirkpatrick. “I’m new to the experience of Town Meeting so I was surprised there wasn’t a lot of debate. We were all out there giving each other high-fives.” Kirkpatrick pledged the studio campus will have the feel of a “New England village in the 21st century rather than Hollywood.”
The first article created the zoning necessary for the film operation, and made the studio an “as-of-right use,” which means no special permits are required. That concession will greatly reduce the chance of appeals being filed that could slow construction at the site on the Waverly Oaks golf course.
Town meeting representatives approved a zoning change to allow for a film studio with only three of the 116 present voting against it. An earlier vote approved the removal of a special permit requirement that was in the package, related to traffic and access, with 100 in favor, 14 opposed, and two abstentions.
The Globe had mistakenly reported the main vote on the zoning change vote had passed with 100 in favor and 14 opposed.
The second article afforded the studio a series of exemptions from local real estate taxes over the next 20 years.
The Tax Increment Financing package passed quickly on a voice vote with no debate. The package will give the studio a 75 percent tax break on its real estate taxes for the first five years. That exemption will gradually decrease to 10 percent by the 20th year of the deal.
“We knew it was going to be a good night for us because everyone on both sides had worked so hard,” said Plymouth Rock executive Thom Black. He and Kirkpatrick promised news of “some very big plans” by mid-November.
Studio officials, who will now prepare a formal site plan for Planning Board review, hope to begin construction by the spring.
A study done for the town by a consulting firm estimates the film operation will generate 3,160 full-time jobs and an annual payroll of $168.6 million. The studio is also expected to bolster tourism for the town.
“This isn’t just a great thing for the town. It will be major, from an economic perspective, for the whole region,” said Pasquale Ciamarella, executive director of the Old Colony Planning Council.
Loring Tripp, a former chairman of the Planning Board and a supporter of Plymouth Rock Studios, said, “I think the Town Meeting representatives realized the momentum was there, that the public wanted this.”
Christine Legere can be reached at email@example.com.