Those who want to preserve the historic character of old Bourne Village went head-to-head last week with those who want economic development of that village center.
Bourne Planning Board held a public hearing Thursday to discuss an article coming before Bourne’s May 7 Town Meeting filed by petition started by Bourne developer Vincent P. Michienzi. That article, if passed, would change the zoning for three lots at Five Corners from residential to village business.
After hearing from the residents who packed the room at last week’s meeting to express opinions on both sides of the controversy, the board voted its recommendation on the article, the ultimate purpose of which is to allow for more parking at the center of Bourne Village.
The board’s vote split, 4-4.
Since the zoning change article was put on the warrant by petition, the board’s tie vote, members said, meant they could report to voters that they had differing opinions on the issue, as did the residents attending the hearing. They might also take another vote on the article when their absent ninth board member, Daniel L. Doucette, is present.
Mr. Michienzi and his wife, Noreen P. Michienzi, own the Bourne Bridge Medical Center at Five Corners, home to the Bourne walk-in clinic, a C-lab, a pharmacy, and other medical and nonmedical businesses. Mr. Michienzi started his petition because finding parking at that location is very difficult.
The petition started by Mr. Michienzi asks specifically that the town vote to amend Bourne’s zoning map to add three lots to the Bourne Village Business District, allowing them to be used for parking.
The first lot is at 1 Sandwich Road. That circa 1824 building, now apartments, was once known as the Manomet Center.
It has been used variously as a stage coach stop, a grocery and dry goods store and a post office.
The second, the Keene House, at 9 Sandwich Road, was built circa 1690, but took its name after 1910, when it became the home of Betsey Keene, author of “A History of Bourne.”
The third lot, at 11 Trowbridge Road, is now owned by Franco Raponi.
Mr. Michienzi has signed purchase and sale agreements for those three lots.
Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis, chairman of the Bourne Historic Commission, told planning board members last week that his board did not object to a zoning change for the third lot, which adjoins the existing medical center parking area.
The structure on that parcel, he said, has no historic significance and using part of it for parking would have no impact on the neighborhood.
Mr. Ellis reported that the commission voted unanimously, however, to oppose the request for a zoning change for 1 and 9 Sandwich Road.
Those lots, he said, contain historic structures, and “business uses extended to those parcels would seriously and permanently detract from the character of this still charming neighborhood.”
He said the rezoning would be “the first nail in the coffin” to the destruction of two important historic properties.”
Mr. Michienzi said he thought he provided the best chance of saving the Keene structure, something he said he intended to do if it were at all possible, perhaps turning it into a coffee house.
He emphasized that he had no plans to demolish the home, as had been rumored, and said no one stepped forward to do anything to save the deteriorating property until they came forward to oppose his plans.
If the zoning change were approved, a permeable, gravel parking lot would be constructed to the rear of the property and could, perhaps, be dedicated for medical center and other employees, leaving the center’s lot open for patients and customers.
Mr. Ellis said he had nothing against Mr. Michienzi or his plans, but added that the Town Meeting article calls for rezoning, meaning that any business could replace those two historic properties in future years.
M. Elizabeth Ellis, a Sagamore resident, said that once the property was in private hands, “it would not owe anyone a public parking lot.”
George (Jay) Jenkins of the Bourne Society for Historic Preservation and Judith A. Riordan of the Bourne Historical Society also opposed the zoning change. Ms. Riordan called the request “spot zoning” and, like those in opposition who spoke before her, cited the section of the Bourne’s Local Comprehensive Plan that speaks to the preservation of the town’s cultural heritage and village character.
Mr. Michienzi said that while he might not be able to save the Keene House, he thought he could “save the neighborhood.”
Ms. Michienzi, who said she felt everyone was “getting off on the wrong foot,” said she thought a reasonable resolution could be worked out, whether the issue was preserving the historic buildings or the safety of patients and employees who need to cross the street to park.
In response to the idea that just the lot at 11 Trowbridge Road be rezoned, Ms. Michienzi said that would not allow for adequate parking. She said Falmouth Hospital wanted to expand its operation at the medical center, and that lot would be needed to help keep the clinic in Bourne.
Selectman Donald J. Pickard, speaking as an individual, not on behalf of his board, said he thought keeping jobs, and the Falmouth Hospital operation, in town was important. He noted that people crossed the street already, at the post office and the Trading Post Lounge, and putting in a crosswalk or otherwise ensuring pedestrian safety could be required.
Asked by Ms. Ellis if he would be purchasing the three properties whether or not the zoning change were to be approved, Mr. Michienzi said he would. He said if he did not buy the historic properties, they would fall down. He said he did not want to raze them, and, if it was possible, he would save them.
Joseph A. Agrillo Jr., said he thought Mr. Michienzi’s proposal was a good idea, and that it would benefit the town.
Bourne planning board member Dudley M. Jensen said he was elected to his seat on a platform that emphasized saving the character of the villages. He opposed the rezonng. Fellow board member John P. (Jack) Howarth disagreed. He said he was a builder and he would not even go in the Keene House. “It’s falling down,” he said. He said he bet that those who opposed the parking also used the medical center.
Douglas Shearer, one of the younger planning board members, had a different tack. He cited the economic development sections of the Local Comprehensive Plan, and those that favored developing the village centers.
He called for “balance” to the idea that historic preservation was the only good.
He said he thought more parking would not only benefit the medical center, but the library and the historical center, as well.
He said Bourne needs the medical center jobs, but that Mr. Michienzi’s plans might be the only opportunity to save the historic structures.
Planning board member Donald Duberger said the medical center was already squeezed into a lot that was too small, and that the board had given it a waiver for fewer parking spaces when it was built. He said he believed the use of the center was expanded after it was already too big. He suggested that the board compare the center, as built, against what was approved.
Mr. Duberger was against any expansion or rezoning.
Mr. Howarth said, however, that the area needs doctors, and the center benefits residents greatly. He agreed with Mr. Shearer that some balance was needed.
With the board’s split vote, Mr. Howarth’s last comment appeared apt: “Let the townspeople decide.”