Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s plans to demolish the Beachmoor Inn and replace the historic structure with a new cadet dormitory have angered residents of Taylor Point.
Although final design of the proposed dorm has not been completed, MMA officials have said it will house 60 to 80 cadets.
Residents of the peninsula, also called Taylor’s Point, further have reprised longstanding fears of losing their property to Mass Maritime plans for future expansion.
The outcry against the academy’s plans for the Beachmoor was expressed during a meeting last Saturday, August 24, of Mass Maritime officials and members of the Taylor’s Point Improvement Association. The meeting took place at the association’s clubhouse on Salt Works Lane.
Nearly 75 people, most of them residents of Taylor Point, attended the meeting. Also in attendance were MMA President Rear Admiral Francis X. McDonald and the academy’s vice president of operations, Paul B. O’Keefe. Bourne selectmen Judith M. Froman, George G. Slade and Peter J. Meier (who is a resident of Taylor Point) also attended.
At a meeting last month of the association and Mass Maritime, the academy announced that the Beachmoor Inn was fated for the wrecking ball. The 100-plus-year building will be demolished and a new cadet dormitory is to be built in its place.
The academy bought the Beachmoor property in January 2011 for $1.6 million. Town assessor records show it has an assessed value of $1.355 million.
Along with cadet rooms, the new dorm will feature conference rooms, workout rooms, and a laundry room, among other facilities. The new building would be built on the same footprint as the current structure, with a design that will be “similar to the Woods Hole Golf Course clubhouse.”
The project still needs to pass muster with the academy’s board of trustees, and will need permitting from various Bourne town agencies.
Mr. O’Keefe has said that if the academy moves forward with its plans, construction would begin in the late spring or early summer of 2020, and should take a year to a year and a half to complete.
The decision to take down the historic structure has not sat well with Taylor Point residents. Among those who criticized the academy’s decision was Joseph N. Accardi of Buttermilk Way, the founder of Accardi Financial Group in Wilbraham.
He said that while his business is off-Cape, he lives year-round in Bourne every Thursday through Tuesday. He noted that the Beachmoor was owned by the man for whom Taylor Point was named, General Charles H. Taylor, founder and editor of the Boston Globe, who bought the property in 1896.
“People are really upset about the demolition of the Beachmoor,” he said. “We’ll be losing part of the point when that happens.”
Neil F. Langille of Wright Lane on Taylor Point serves on the Bourne Historical Commission. Mr. Langille said the town frequently loses historic structures, like the Beachmoor, to entities like Mass Maritime. He pointed out that, apart from their plans for the Beachmoor, the academy has already razed a historic structure at 10 Old Bridge Road in Buzzards Bay, off Belmont Circle.
“They had put old boats on the property,” he said. “I think they’ve removed the boats, but it’s a last vestige of the town’s history that’s gone for no great reason.”
Adm. McDonald said the Beachmoor, built in 1900, has fallen into such a state of disrepair that, regardless of what is done for additional student housing, the academy has to invest significant funds in the building. He said that currently it is not up to any modern state building code.
Students currently housed off campus in Wareham, the admiral said, could be moved closer to MMA with the new dormitory. He said that would take traffic off Main Street and Academy Drive, alleviating some of the parking concerns expressed by residents.
Mr. Accardi mentioned several other concerns and issues that he felt that the admiral and Mr. O’Keefe did not address during the meeting.
They included Taylor Point residents renting parking space on their property to cadets, with as many as 10 to 12 parked at a time; lights left on too late at the academy’s ball field; and a new parking lot installed where a home once stood. Residents, he said, also are annoyed by late-night commotion from cadets returning to their cars.
In a telephone interview, the admiral acknowledged that the ball field’s lights had been kept on late into the night on several occasions for events that were ultimately canceled. The facilities department did not get notice of the cancellation, he said.
He said the academy is looking into installing a new system that will automatically turn the lights out at an appropriate time of the evening. Of the new parking lot, he said there were measures put into place at the time of its installation, notably landscaping to block headlights. Also, drivers were told to back their cars into spaces, keeping the headlights from shining into the neighbor’s window.
“That’s something that will have to be revisited,” he said.
Mr. Accardi also noted that some residents of Taylor Point still recall when the academy took more than 100 properties by eminent domain back in the mid- to late 1960s. To this day, residents worry that the academy’s plans for expansion will mean a similar takeover.
On the phone and in a letter to Ms. Froman, however, the admiral made it clear that Mass Maritime’s plans do not include seizing of properties on Taylor Point.
“I write today to formally state that the Academy has no plans to acquire property by use of eminent domain,” the admiral wrote in the letter to Ms. Froman, chairman of the board of selectmen.
Mr. Langille also pointed out that the seizure of property by the academy took more than 100 parcels off the town’s tax rolls, resulting in a continuing loss of property tax revenue to the town.
The overall revenue loss to the town, he said, was up to speculation, but he estimated a loss of $400,000 to the town this past year alone.
“This town should be receiving enormous concessions both [money] and other considerations,” he said.
Mr. Langille said that the academy made no commitments to the residents during the course of the meeting. He characterized the get-together as a good meeting and “basically a chance to meet residents.” He said that MMA is “a great school and a great asset to the area,” but its presence comes at a cost to the town and the residents.
“We all want to be good neighbors and enjoy life on the Point with minimal threats,” he said.
Joseph J. Roy, a retired lieutenant in the Westford Police Department, owns property on Bay Drive in Taylor’s Point. Mr. Roy felt it was curious that no rendering of the proposed dormitory was presented at the meeting. He said that during the meeting, the admiral spoke in “ambiguous and vague terminology,” which suggested that no firm plans are in place.
That seemed curious, Mr. Roy said, because the project has been assigned a number by the Massachusetts State College Building Authority. The MSCBA is the agency that oversees construction projects for MMA. Mr. Roy questioned whether “there’s more going on than we’re being told.”
He criticized the admiral for not being forthcoming at the meeting, despite claims that MMA wants to keep the lines of communication with the residents open. In the end, Mr. Roy said, the academy will do what it wants to do. He said that there should have been a more honest sharing of information.
“It just would be a little more comforting if he’d been a little more direct and open,” he said.
Asked about the MSCBA issue, Adm. McDonald explained that the agency assigned the project a number only because an outside architect has been hired by the academy. The architect, he said, is helping with drafting the conceptual design of the new building. There are no renderings or formal project package that could have been presented to homeowners at the meeting, the admiral said.
“There has been no movement on drawings, there’s been no movement on final approval, and there’s been no movement on financing,” he said.