Davenport wants to replace four resorts with two better ones

Strong support voiced at meeting by Selectmen, Chamber and Business
Red Jacket Beach, Blue Water, Riviera Beach and Edge of Sea to be demolished

The four Davenport resorts are all on Shore Road in Yarmouth on Nantucket Sound starting at Swan River on the left to River to Bass River on the right.

By Gerald Rogovin

"This could easily be an
$80 million addition to Yarmouth's economy
       - Selectwoman McAuliffe.

Selectwoman Suzanne McAuliffe said of the proposed replacement of four resorts with two hotels on South Shore Drive in SouthYarmouth, "This could easily be an $80 million addition to Yarmouth's economy."

Speaking for her colleagues on the town's Board of Selectmen, McAuliffe was among a chorus of testifiers supporting the project at a Cape Cod Commission public hearing Monday evening(11/22/10) at the Yarmouth Police headquarters.

"It's critical to start the redevelopment of Yarmouth," she said. "This will be the largest part of Yarmouth's economic future."

She was joined in supporting the project by Wendy Norcross and Kevin Howard of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Lou Nickinello, owner of Bass River Sports World, a second-generation business in Yarmouth, Howard Onik, who manages three motels in the town, and Stephen L. Abbott, retired CEO of Cape Cod Hospital. He likened the growth of the Davenport Companies, developer of the proposed hotels, to that of the hospital in the past 30 years.

All expressed vigorous support The project is the most recent in a series of efforts by the town to upgrade its reputation as a traditional resort destination. Long considered such, Yarmouth apparently forgot its status on Cape Cod in 1984, when the Town Meeting voted to ban motel development, and allowed existing motels to fall into disrepair.

The lapse was corrected by the town meetings in 2006 and 2008, which enacted laws enabling hotel/motel owners to renovate and expand their businesses. A 2006 bylaw allowed motels on Route 28 to reverse the deterioration that stemmed from the 1984 ban.

Motels along South Shore Drive, which fronts Nantucket Sound, received the same right, with passage of a 2008 bylaw. It established a new district that accomodates 12 motels, five of which can be built up to 48 feet above street level if they get a special permit trhrough the town's Planning Board. The others can reach 35 feet.

Four existing motels in Yarmouth have since upgraded their facilities. One razed its structure, and built a new facility on the original footprint.

But the biggest development will be the one described Monday evening. Hailed by the Yarmouth Area Chamber of Commerce "as a means of stimulating reinvestment in our tourism infrastructure," in the words of Executive Director Robert E. DuBois, it has gathered support from the community, the Commission and businesses across the Cape.

The Davenport resorts -- Red Jacket Beach, Blue Water, Riviera Beach and Edge of Sea -- located at #1, #291, #301 and #327 South Shore Drive will be demolished. They were built in the 1950s and 1960s with smaller rooms, fewer amenities and private septic systems, according to Davenport's project application. As is the case in neighboring Dennis, planners were concerned that today's travelers will go elsewhere unless they can find more modern destinations.

Dennis's special Town Meeting adopted a bylaw earlier this month to overcome that concern. Yarmouth took action two and four years ago, and Davenport's proposal is the most significant response so far.

Because the project is considered a "development of regional impact," a Commission designation, Davenport was given 12 years to develop it. On Monday, the company requested a 20-year-period.

A four-story hotel building and two four-unit cottage buildings will occupy the original Red Jacket Resort footprint at #1 South Shore Drive. The second building will occupy the three adjoining lots on which the Blue Water, Riviera Beach and Edge of the Sea resorts now are located.

Davenport's project application notes that onsite photovoltaic and wind generation of electricity will produce 52,000 kilowatt hours a year. State-of-the-art construction of decks and other outdoor features will protect against storms and off-season weather.

The new hotels will accomodate the same number of guests as the current resorts -- 154 in the Red Jacket, 240 in the second building. But there will be more parking. Davenport promises architecture that will complement existing neighborhoods.

A 39,600 gallons-a-day wastewater treatment plant will be built on the grounds to serve both resorts.

Two of the testifiers spelled out their concerns, although they generally approve. Katherine Valente and Howard Wensley, both residents adjacent to the Davenport complex, expressed their fear that they would be denied access to the beach. According to Wensley, "people in the neighborhood for 70 years have been able to leave a towel on the beach. I hope the Davenports aren't going to take that away from us," he said.

DuBois credited the two Yarmouth bylaws with spurring upgrades to motels in the town since 2006. The once dilapidated Thunderbird Motor Lodge was replaced four years ago by a Travelodge in West Yarmouth. At about the same time, a group of investors purchased the former Americana Holiday Hotel & Suites on Route 28 on the Yarmouth-Hyannis line, and razed it. In its place a Hampton Inn & Suites was put up. It was the first all-new motel on the Cape in several

The former All Seasons Motel in South Yarmouth was purchased last year by the Clarion chain. Renovated and upgraded, it is a Clarion Inn now.

All of the motels used grants from a Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund created by the bylaws to promote the town as a tourist destination. Reflecting last summer's improved weather, the Fund was increased by $214,000 this year. That compares with $40,000 raised in the previous three years, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

Increased taxes on hotel stays and restaurant meals are credited with the added revenues to promote tourism, according to the town's Community Development Department, which administers the Fund.

 The subcommittee will consider the request for the 20-year development period and Monday's testimony between now and December 12, when a second hearing is scheduled at the Commission building at 3225 Main Street, Barnstable.

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