By Tamara Race
The Patriot Ledger
October 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH — The town is closer to being the home of Hollywood East now that town meeting voters have approved zoning and tax agreements that will allow construction of a movie and television production studio on Long Pond Road.
The $400 million project includes plans for 14 sound stages, a 10-acre back lot, a theater, a 300-room hotel in a small village center and an education center. It is planned for the site of the 240-acre Waverly Oaks golf course.
Only three town meeting members opposed the zoning bylaw.
No one opposed the 20-year property tax break agreement that starts with a 75 percent reduction in taxes and gradually decreases over the life of the deal.
Nearly 1,000 people attended the meeting, although only town meeting members could vote.
After brief presentations by planning board members and studio officials, town meeting members voted without discussing the proposals.
They overwhelmingly voted to drop a special-permit requirement from the zoning bylaw. That action will speed the permitting process and eliminate the specter of lengthy legal appeals from neighbors.
The move angered town meeting member William Abbott, who supported the studio project but was adamant about preserving the special-permit provision.
“It’s a very dangerous precedent to eliminate the special-permit process and especially without debate,” Abbott said. “Normally the spirit of town meeting is allowing people to speak. I think (studio supporters) were afraid to hear the arguments for the special-permit process.”
Town Moderator Steve Triffletti disagreed, saying town meeting members were educated about the bylaw and the amendment and were prepared to vote.
Town meeting member Pat Adelmann voted against dropping the special permit, but did not oppose the bylaw once it was amended.
“I’m very disappointed the special permit didn’t pass, but I support the studio project,” she said.
The speed of the approvals confounded Plymouth Rock Studios founder David Kirkpatrick, who expected more of the lengthy debate and discussions that have marked months of community and town board meetings.
“I’m new to the town meeting process,” he said. “I’m flabbergasted. I don’t know why there was not all the debate.”
Kirkpatrick credited all the community meetings that laid the groundwork for the vote.
“We took the town’s temperature and committed to build a New England village development of the 21st century instead of bringing in Hollywood,” he said.
In the end, Kirkpatrick said it was the industry itself that may have swayed the vote.
“Everyone loves movies,” he said.
Studio developers still need state environmental permits for road, water and sewer improvements and the Plymouth Planning Board’s site-plan approval for the studio and access road.
Plymouth Rock Studios development director William Wynne hopes to have those permits in hand by next spring and begin construction late next summer.
He will be filing design plans for site plan review early next month.
Studio officials hope to be operating by 2010.
Tamara Race may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.