Petition Drive For Monomoy Theatre Zoning Change Continues

By: Tim Wood

Victoria Clark hands a pen to Eunice Geist to sign a petition for a special town meeting during signature collection Monday at the Monomoy Theatre property. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – Owners of the Monomoy Theatre are tallying signatures collected during the past week on a petition to call a special town meeting to alter zoning to allow redevelopment of the historic Main Street property.

After a drive-through signature collection Monday, owner Greg Clark of Alexandra Properties said about half of the 200 signatures necessary to call a special town meeting had been collected. “We're hopeful” that enough people will sign the petition, he said.

“It seems like we have good support,” he said. “No one said anything bad about the project.”

Another drive-through collection will be held at the theater on Saturday, Aug. 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Alexandra Properties purchased the 2.7-acre property at 776 Main St. and 70 Depot Rd. last year for $3.65 million. The theater, which hosted summer productions for 80 years, has been closed since, and many residents are anxious for it to reopen. Clark has proposed a redevelopment plan that includes restoration and renovation of the historic theater building and the adjacent Washington Taylor House, as well as additional construction which would house a wine bar, new rest rooms and dorms for theater students. The plan also calls for 24 condominiums at the rear of the parcel. Details and draft plans for the project are posted at mstoverlaychatham.com.

Under current zoning, the redevelopment plan would not be allowed. Clark is proposing creating a Main Street Theater Overlay District for the property which would incorporate its current zoning for commercial uses with allowances for housing and additional density to accommodate the proposed project.

Amending the zoning bylaw to incorporate the overlay district requires a two-thirds vote of town meeting. A petition article for the overlay district proposal was scheduled to go before voters in May, but selectmen decided to postpone all but necessary articles when town meeting finally convened in June. A fall special town meeting that was to include several petition articles — including the Main Street Theater Overlay District proposal — was tentatively scheduled by the board, but earlier this month officials decided push everything off until the fall.

Waiting that long to know if the zoning change will be approved will push the start of the project back by at least a year, Clark said, so he decided to collect the signatures required to call a special town meeting. If the drive is successful, selectmen will have 45 days from the time the signatures are certified by the town clerk to hold the meeting.

But collecting the signatures is the first big hurdle, and that's not easy these days because of the pandemic. On Monday, Victoria Clark and Jackie Greene collected signatures from drivers who pulled in to the former theater property on Main Street. As drivers pulled in, Clark and Greene, wearing face masks and gloves, handed out pens and a clipboard with a petition attached.

Clark said a number of residents called and requested that petitions be dropped off at their homes. He acknowledged the end of summer might not be the best time for a petition drive, pandemic aside. “These two weeks are busy for a lot of people,” he said.

Petitions will continue to be available at the Gibson Sotheby's office at 409 Main St. and at Chatham Jewelers at 532 Main St. Anyone wishing to have a petition dropped off at their home can email chatham@alexandrapropertiesllc.com.