Conservation Commission approves plans for marina along Main Street

Apr 7, 2021

Water-side work on the marina proposed for the old Greer Lumber site at 59 Main St., right next to Besse Park, is one step closer to moving forward, following the Conservation Commission’s unanimous approval during an April 7 meeting.

Businessman and Wareham native Danny Warren’s plan for a commercial marina along the Wareham River was the Conservation Commissioners’ focus on Wednesday night.

Commission Chair Sandy Slavin emphasized that the work brought before the board was “from the concrete walkway toward the water,” and she noted that would be the only topic of discussion — despite commissioners’ concerns about the feasibility or environmental impact of any of Warren’s plans beyond the marina.

Warren purchased the property in May 2020 for $1 million and along with the marina, he also has plans for a large events/convention building, a year-round restaurant and, seasonally, an ice cream shop and small bakery.

David Pichette, the conservation administrator, explained that Warren’s proposed marina was planned for land with various protections, including land containing shellfish, riverfront area, land within the buffer zone to a coastal bank and land within a costal flood zone.

The marina would have floating docks along the existing bulkhead with 15 finger piers extending into the river. The longest pier would extend about 48 feet into the river, Pichette said. The docks would rise and fall with the tide. The revised marina plan would involve installing 53 12-inch diameter pilings, Pichette said.

Bill Madden from GAF Engineering, who was representing Warren at the meeting, said the marina plans accounted for 14 slips, but not necessarily 14 boats. 

“There may be more than 14 boats — it really depends on the beam of each vessel,” Madden said.

Pichette noted — as he had at prior meetings in which Warren’s proposal was discussed — that the plans did not show other work that would be necessary to operate a marina such as parking and stormwater management. The plans also did not include Warren’s plans for other buildings at the site.

“In my opinion, as I’ve said before, the plan should show more elements of this project for the commission to be able to properly review the proposed project of a commercial marina,” Pichette said.

The commissioners were also presented with recommendations from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, which included suggesting a time-of-year restriction — from March 15 to July 15 — on work such as installing pilings. 

Ultimately, Pichette recommended the board hold off on approving the project until more information was provided. 

Madden countered that, saying the plans provided complete information “related to the water-dependent element of the marina.”

Although board members expressed interest in hearing more about Warren’s plans as a whole, they also acknowledged the need to review projects in stages. 

“It would be nice if we could see the whole thing at one time, but there’s so much fluidity on the land side that it would take forever and delay everything,” said Slavin. 

She said Warren would be taking a risk by investing in installing pilings, for example, when it was uncertain if the non-water-dependent aspects of the project would be approved. 

“It’s a risk that this may not be approved to do anything on the land side,” Slavin said. “I can’t justify holding up everything, waiting for [...] the full plan layout of the land side.”

Warren attended the meeting and assured commissioners that he hopes to work with the town.

“I see this as a negotiation, and I think we’ve all got some more steps to go through,” Warren said. “I want it to be good for everybody — and I know that’s just words, but I mean them when I say them. [...] We’re going to negotiate in good faith with everybody to get to where we get something we’re all happy with.”

In the end, the board unanimously voted to approve Warren’s plans for the marina, moving the project one step closer to becoming a reality.