Investor cites timeline concerns about Main Street marina project
Wareham businessman Danny Warren didn’t mince words during a hearing about his planned marina on Main Street.
“The deal breaker is there’s not enough time left now to build the thing and avoid a million dollar-plus fine from the federal government because I didn’t get the job done in time,” Warren said at Monday night’s Planning Board meeting.
“I’m worried to death about the location, too.”
Warren spoke up after about a half hour of discussion between Planning Board members and Bill Madden, a representative of Warren’s project. The discussion centered on traffic concerns and whether it would be wiser for Warren to focus his efforts on paying for a traffic study or a traffic consultant to analyze mitigation measures.
The Wareham native’s initial plans for the property at 59 Main St. included a 6,500 square foot restaurant, an open pavilion and a 1,500 square foot retail space.
Director of Planning and Community Development Ken Buckland said Tuesday that he hopes the project can move forward, but that the time window is rapidly closing.
“This is a really serious issue right now,” he said. “The town has to move ahead if we want to see this project.”
During the board meeting, several residents spoke in favor of the project, even as they voiced concerns about possible increases in local traffic. Chairwoman of the Select Board Judith Whiteside called the proposed space a “cornerstone” of the revitalization of Main Street.
Warren is financing the development through a Trump-era tax program that allows investors to avoid or defer paying capital gains tax as long as that income is spent on developments in low-income areas designated “opportunity zones” by the federal government. But if work isn’t complete within a certain timeframe, then investors are charged the taxes they owe — plus a penalty.
A combination of lost time due to covid-19 and increasing materials cost may sink the project entirely, Warren said.
Warren said he was notified on Tuesday that the construction cost of the main building on the property shot up $1 million since he made the initial deal. The cost of the interior furnishing of the main building has also increased by nearly $500,000, he said.
If the project is not completed in the next 14 months, Warren said, he stands to face a $1 million fine from the federal government.
“I think there’s still a possibility it can happen in 14 months,” Buckland said. “The project has to be done very efficiently.”
Warren was quick to emphasize that the town of Wareham has been great to work with, but that delays from the pandemic have pushed back milestone after milestone.
The businessman and a few other residents also bemoaned Verilife, the cannabis dispensary across the street from the project’s property. Residents complained about the added traffic the dispensary brings to that corner of town, while Warren said the business brought in “drug addicts” from all over the state near his new property.
Buckland said the dispensary does attract attention as one of the busiest shops on Main Street.
“I think the operation of Verilife has been done pretty well and I think they’re a good downtown business,” he said. “They have more traffic than any other business downtown.”
Planning Board members voted to continue discussing Warren’s project on Feb. 28, at which point members hope to decide whether to approve the project.