Notos Group zoning proposal to head to hearing, Town Meeting

Nov 19, 2020

Wareham voters will be asked to decide whether or not to approve a “Hospitality, Recreation, and Entertainment” zoning district at the Special Town Meeting.

That meeting is currently scheduled for Dec. 19, but will likely be rescheduled to a date in January. (See the story on Page 2.)

The proposal is being brought by the Notos Group, the company behind the proposed Wareham Park casino and thoroughbred racing track project.

The developers insisted, however, that the zoning was not tied specifically to that or any project, and is instead crafted to help the town boost its tax revenue by encouraging business development.
Will O’Connell, the senior vice president of the Notos Group, told Wareham Week that the zoning change would allow more commercial development into town, which could shift the tax burden from homeowners to businesses. He said that more single family homes — the only development currently allowed in the district — would only increase the burden on town services. O’Connell was not aware of any development interest in building new single family homes on the land.

Asked why the company requested a speedy special Town Meeting rather than waiting until spring, O’Connell said, “The urgency is that we’ve been at this for a long time and we want to keep going.”

The zoning proposal, written by the Notos Group, would create a “Hospitality, Recreation, and Entertainment District.” Although the details of the proposal are subject to change, it currently would only allow projects with a minimum lot size of 100 acres.

Any projects in the district would be subject to the town’s special permit process, which gives the Planning Board a good deal of authority over what is or is not approved.

The proposal includes a long list of potentially allowable uses, including hotels, conference centers, restaurants, retail stores, multiple family dwellings, hospitals, education, riding stables and indoor or outdoor recreational facilities. Some uses would not be allowed: manufacturing, junkyards, slaughterhouses, cemeteries and crematories, or trucking terminals.

The proposal also lays out a number of aesthetic considerations. Buildings and parking structures should be “visually pleasing” without long stretches of unbroken walls and with a consistent architectural style throughout the project.

Lighting should be minimally disruptive at night. Every project would be required to maintain at least 20 percent open space — that is, green space that isn’t covered by asphalt or a building or other structure. The proposal also mandates that projects should be ecologically-friendly.

All zoning changes must be approved by at least two-thirds of voters at Town Meeting.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing about the zoning proposal on Monday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m. at this link:

If developers continued to pursue their proposed casino and racetrack, there would still be a number of hurdles for them to overcome, including an act that would need to be passed by the state legislature, a bid process to be led by the state’s Gaming Commission and a townwide referendum vote. A majority of Wareham voters would need to vote in favor of the casino project on a ballot for it to go forward.