July 2, 2022

Essex Planning Commission to Address Foxboro Point Plan on Thursday, July 12

Present water view from Croft property on Foxboro Road

For the fifth time, this Thursday evening, July 12, the Essex Planning Commission will have on its agenda a plan to develop eleven acres of sweeping water front property on Foxboro Point.  The plan before the commission was submitted by a prominent New York City real estate developer and builder, Frank J. Sciame, Jr.

Among Sciame’s completed projects are the redevelopment of the Pierpoint Morgan Library, the Harvard Club in New York City, the Pratt School of Architecture, the Main Branch of the New York Public Library, and the exterior renovation of the Guggenheim Museum. Locally, Sciame has also refurbished the former home of Katherine Hepburn in Old Saybrook. The trademark of Sciame’s firm is, “Where Building is an Art.”

At the Foxboro point site Sciame has proposed the renovation of the existing Croft estate on the property, as well as the building of six new luxury houses constructed in a traditional New England style.

A “Berlin Wall” of Hedges at the Site?

Presently, joggers, bicyclists and walkers along Foxboro Road can enjoy sweeping views of the waters of North Cove and the Connecticut River below. A major bone of contention at recent meetings has been that no matter how tasteful the design of the new houses, soon enough the new home owners would plant monstrous, dense hedges, which would completely obstruct the water views from along the road.

This could mean a veritable “Berlin Wall” of high, thick hedges, as a result of the Sciame development.  A number of private homes, presently, along Foxboro Road have thick high hedges which restrict water views from the road.

Present high hedges with obstructed water views from Foxboro Road

At the commission’s June meeting, the builder’s local counsel, Terrance Loome, Esq., submitted a plan for a “pocket park,” which he said would give viewers from the road, a visual outpost from which they could see the waters below. However, this proposal was greeted with a singular lack of enthusiasm.

The Essex Land Trust Proposal

Also, proposed at the June meeting of the commission was an alternative development plan offered by the Essex Land Trust, which was presented by the group’s President, Bob Nussbaum. Nussbaum first noted that zoning regulations require that developers are required to set aside 20 percent of their development property as “open space.” Nussbaum suggested that to fulfill this requirement that Sciame not build the sixth new house that he is proposing, but rather that this land should be designated as open space.

To date neither the developer nor the commission has commented on this suggestion offered by the Land Trust, although at the June meeting there was a discussion among commission members about converting one of the housing sites in the developer’s plan to open space.

Public Not to Be Heard at July Meeting

One feature of the upcoming July 12 meeting is that the general public will not be allowed to speak, as they have been able to do at previous meetings. Only the commissioners themselves can do the talking this time. However, certainly, attorney Loome will have something to say at the meeting on behalf of the developer.

As for future options, the commission could come up with an alternative plan in place of the developer’s proposal, and give the developer a choice of either accepting it or not. If the developer, Sciame, refused to accept the commission’s plan, that would be the end of the matter, unless the developer wanted to introduce a new proposal, which he could do “without prejudice.”

Or, the commission could negotiate with the developer to see if some common way forward were possible. If this way was chosen, there could be many more meetings with the development of Foxboro Point on the agenda.