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Plymouth housing proposal spells end of movie studio dream

Aerial view of the Waverly Oaks Golf Club property, where a proposed development would replace a nine-hole course with 113 homes.

David Kaerman/Globe Staff/File 2008

Aerial view of the Waverly Oaks Golf Club property, where a proposed development would replace a nine-hole course with 113 homes.

PLYMOUTH — The owner of the Waverly Oaks Golf Club, once the target site for a huge movie-studio complex, has submitted a plan to build 113 single-family homes on the property.

Mark Ridder says he would build the subdivision clustered on 44 acres of the 242-acre property on Long Pond Road. The proposed development would wipe out the club’s nine-hole executive course but leave the main 18-hole course intact. More significantly to those still hoping to bring movie production to the area, the housing would spell the end of the Plymouth Rock Studios project, proposed amid great fanfare in 2008.

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“It will be one or the other,” said Lee Hartmann, Plymouth’s director of planning and development. “Plymouth Rock Studios is still fully permitted, but the way the projects are laid out, only one of the two projects could proceed. They couldn’t both occur.”

Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said the studio idea appears to be dead.

“At this time, we see absolutely no resurrection of Plymouth Rock Studios,” she said. “We haven’t heard from any of the principals in some time. Although we regret it, we’re moving on with that site.”

The Planning Board expects a crowd for next month’s opening hearing on Ridder’s development, called the Residences at Waverly Oaks. A number of neighbors already are voicing concern over increased traffic from the housing area.

With current permits, Ridder can build 75 homes on his property, but his proposed land swap, under a local bylaw allowing the transfer of development rights between parcels, would enable him to boost the number to 113. His plan calls for the homes to be built in five phases, over five to seven years, but potentially starting by late this spring. 

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The clustered housing would be surrounded by natural and created open space, and feature views of the Waverly Oaks course. Target buyers are empty nesters who wouldn’t add students to local schools, Ridder said, and roads within the subdivision would be privately owned and maintained.

“What we’re trying to do is create a pedestrian-focused community where you can walk to people’s houses,” Ridder said. “It will be designed for folks ‘on the back nine’ — retired people who can enjoy amenities like golf, nearby beaches, and walking trails.”

As part of the plan, Ridder would preserve 103 acres of open space. Ridder said his proposed transfer of development rights would offer similar protection on another Plymouth property, which he has not identified, while giving him the ability to build more homes on the Waverly Oaks property. Under the bylaw, Ridder would select the property after discussions with town boards, and it would be based on the town’s formula for the amount of open space he needs to protect to get his additional housing. “It comes out to nearly 200 acres being permanently protected,” he said.

He has also agreed to pay $1.2 million into the town’s affordable-housing trust fund to assist local efforts.

Ridder first met with the Planning Board to discuss building houses on his golf course in 2008, but took the proposal off the table after negotiating a deal with a group of Hollywood executives looking to build a $500 million movie and television production facility. Later that year, Town Meeting enthusiastically endorsed a zoning district to accommodate the proposed $500 million Plymouth Rock Studios.

But the group’s plans began unravelling late in 2009 when an announced deal to borrow the $500 million for construction from a Florida company,  Prosperity International LLC, fell through. Local confidence was also shaken following a Boston Globe Spotlight investigation into Plymouth Rock cofounder David Kirkpatrick’s business activities.

The sole remaining member of the Hollywood team, Joe DiLorenzo, continues to search for financing — working from an office in his Scituate home — for a far more modest film-making facility, but Plymouth Rock Studios no longer has an agreement with Ridder for the property.

Hartmann said he expects a heavy turnout for the opening hearing on Ridder’s housing plan, tentatively set for Feb. 11. “There’s been a lot of interested people and a lot of dialogue about this site and how it would look for the neighborhood,” Hartmann said.

Neighbor Bill Abbott said Long Pond Road residents plan to fight the housing development.

“There’s considerable neighborhood concern,” he said. “Long Pond Road is very heavily traveled. It’s also narrow and winding. The traffic near Clark Road is already a disaster.”

According to a traffic study submitted by Ridder, 4,905 vehicles pass on Long Pond Road on a typical weekday. The study predicts the development would add 1,176 vehicles daily.

“That’s an increase of up to 25 percent,” Abbott said.

Joe DeSilva, who lives across the road from the golf club, agrees the increased traffic would be a problem.

“Long Pond Road is part of the state’s Saltonstall bikeway,” he said. “What’s being proposed is a very dense development, which will add traffic volume to an already stressed area. It will be hazardous for bikers, runners, and walkers.”

Ridder called traffic a legitimate concern, but said his experts “fully intend to address the issue at the hearing.”

Abbott, who was part of the committee that drafted the town’s transfer of development rights bylaw, said Ridder’s proposal “would set the whole TDR bylaw on its head.”

“The idea was to transfer development from rural areas to parts of town where there’s infrastructure,” Abbott said. “This proposal would transfer development rights to a part of town that doesn’t have infrastructure and roadwork, and is already overburdened.”

Ridder disagreed.

“We don’t interpret the bylaw that way,” he said. “Mr. Abbott is entitled to his opinion, but we think there will be a significant saving of resources.”

Ridder may also run into resistance from the Planning Board, since his proposal is the same as one he discussed with the panel in 2011; he did not submit a detailed plan to complete the application process.

“The Planning Board was not terribly receptive to the concept then, and unless the plan has changed, I think the same concerns will come out,” Planning Board chairman Marc Garrett said. “It’s trying to stuff 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag.”

Garrett said neighbors have valid concerns over traffic. “You’ve already got two golf courses there and the high school and middle school, and now you’re going to add more development,” he said. The town-owned CrossWinds Golf Club is next door to Waverly Oaks, and the Plymouth South schools complex is on the other side, just south of the property.

Ridder said he’s optimistic about his plan and has an aggressive timetable, once permits are secured.

“We want to be out of the gate by late spring and early summer, and deliver some of the homes by fall,” he said.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.

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