Town Meeting voted 96-26 on Saturday to approve a zoning change for the Simes House that will allow it to hold a wider variety of programs at the historic home.
The vote changed the building’s zoning from residential to transitional commercial. That, according to Manomet Village Commons Incorporated President John Moody, will help generate the needed revenue to make the Simes House financially self-sufficient.
Moody explained that the annual cost of running the Simes House came to $80,000. Of that, 80 percent would come from renting the upper floors to business and residential tenants, but a zoning change was needed to allow revenue generating events to take place on its ground floor. He said that business meetings and seminars would be among the potential uses. The MVCI also wanted to make the house available to non-profit groups for free. He estimated that, if rented daily, $23,000 in additional annual revenue could be generated. More than enough to cover the building’s costs.
“This article is about positioning the Simes House for financial independence from the town,” Moody said. He added that he understand residents were not interested in subsidizing its operation.
Not everyone thought the zoning change was a good idea. Neighbors living on Old Colony Drive, which is behind the Simes House, have been vocal in their opposition during several meetings held on the zoning change. Moody said 25 percent of the neighbors had complained and that their concerns, which centered around parking, were being addressed.
The Simes House has 11 spaces in a rear parking lot, nine for its tenants and two handicapped spots. The front lawn can hold 19 cars for visitors. That total number, Moody said, “is consistent with the planned use.”
“I can’t support this,” said Town Meeting Member and Manomet resident Tom Kelley. Kelley, who voted to spend Community Preservation act money for the Simes House twice at Town Meeting questioned how it was only recently that the need for the zoning change was revealed. Renovating the Simes House, he said “was a mistake. You are compounding what you did.”
In contrast, Town Meeting Member and Manomet resident Frank Collins, who vocally opposed the renovation said it was now time to support the zoning change. “I’m a pretty pragmatic individual and if we just walk away we’ll take a $ 3 million loss.” The money already spent was a motivating factor for others as well. Precinct 15 Town Meeting Member Michael Hanlon agreed that the zoning change should have happened sooner, but “I can’t imagine voting against this and throwing that money away.”
Hanlon added that he thought the parking was not a major concern and expressed confidence in the MVCI’s ability to handle it.
Solar panel plan approved for Plymouth South
Town Meeting approved a plan to fund the installation of lighting for the ball fields at Plymouth South High School, Saturday.
A developer will pay the $4.8 million to install the lights in exchange for the right to install 900 solar panels on the roof of the school and 1,200 panels in its parking lot, Superintendent Gary Maestas said. The town would buy power from the developer at a reduced rate over a 10 period. Maestas said the solar panels would generate half the power needed for the school.
Priscilla Beach parcel passed over
Town Meeting didn’t get to vote on a proposal to turn over a small parcel of Priscilla Beach over to the Conservation Commission.
The open space committee had wanted to move the essentially unbuildable 1/5th of an acre parcel from the Town Treasurer’s office to the Conservation Commission in order to give it even greater protection from development, according to Open Space Committee Chairman Betsy Hall. However, the location was also a popular spot for launching boats and neighbors expressed concerns that the location would attract more visitors if it was conservation land.
In the end, the item was taken off the Town Meeting Warrant before it could be voted on.