Located in Historic Downtown McKinney

Monday, July 24, 2006

Opposition to the Galleon Dobrovnik ship raised by homeowners

A group of Stonebridge residents are concerned about changes in the zoning that would permt construction of a replica of the Galleon Dobrovnik in Adriatica, a development on Stonebridge Lake modeled after a European fishing village on the Island of Brac, Croatia.

The McKinney Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday will conduct a public hearing on Pogue Engineering and Development Company's request -- on behalf of SB Harbor Market Joint Venture -- to modify the development standards for three tracts within the development: one for a small office building at the northeast corner of Stonebridge Drive and Mediterranean Drive, one for the harbor district and one for a veterinarian's office along Virginia Parkway, as well as several other standards that would apply to the overall development.

The proposal involves a replica of a galleon docked permanently within the harbor. The structure, no more than 90 feet in height, will house a coffee shop or ice cream parlor.

“Staff supports this request, as it will help to create the character and feel of a Croatian fishing village,” according to a report by city planners.

However, nearby homeowners believe the boat will pollute Stonebridge Lake, and that taller buildings will disturb their view of the lake.

Kathryn Gonia, who lives in Autumn Ridge, wrote a letter to the city calling for denial of the proposed changes to Adriatica.

“I do not believe that the developer has given enough consideration to his proposed changes. I would like to better understand how he plans to handle the disposing of raw sewage from the restrooms on the galleon, the grease and garbage from the kitchen, the run-off from all the plumbing, including dishwashers, sinks, general cleaning and maintenance of the ship, its decks, the sails, etc., so that it will not end up in our Lake Stonebridge,” Gonia wrote. “What about the fire potential and other safety precautions (such as drowning and safe evacuation) that come from having a building on the water? How will the noise from the ship, which is amplified over water, affect the neighbors across the lake, especially in the evenings? And then there is the issue of the sea galleon's masts and sails. Under the current (and even the proposed) height restrictions, how can he be permitted to have masts that are 128 feet and contain a full set of sails?”

The maximum height of the ship will be 90 feet and it will not include sails, according to city documents.

Planning director Brian James said that city planners have known about plans for the Galleon Dobrovnik, though the city has never formally received submitted information asking for permission for it until recently.

“It didn't come as a surprise to me,” he said.

And while many of the other requested changes are minor “clean-up” items, he said, others are “adjustments we didn't think would have much of an impact.”

Many of the building height increases are for architectural ornamentation, and others are to screen a parking garage from public view.

Though building height increases are major changes, James said, “what we've seen develop so far is clearly in keeping with the zoning and the designs he laid out initially.”

“I think McKinney has always prided itself on being a unique community, having unique developments, and this is in keeping with that,” James said. “Clearly it's a one-of-a-kind projectÅ I think that's why there was initial support for it.”

City officials have long lauded the project as a development that fits well with the vision of McKinney.

The 45-acre development will include shops, entertainment, a hotel, townhomes and lofts, a bell tower, a harbor and chapel.

The $200 million investment is modeled after Supetar, a Croatian fishing village that is centered on a harbor.

In addition to intricate carvings ornamenting the cobble stone buildings, art and sculptures have been imported from Europe for use in the development. A central fountain of a dove grasping an olive branch is being hand-carved on site.

Adriatica developer Jeff Blackard could not be reached for comment.

Dan Hoff, who has followed closely the construction of Adriatica and has sent e-mail updates to dozens of area residents, said he believes the site will be developed responsibly and has set about trying to dispel misinformation being circulated via fliers throughout Stonebridge.

Hoff has been in contact with city planners and said he was told that the hull of the galleon is designed so it would not require maintenance for 20 years. To facilitate maintenance, should it be required, individual planks would be removed and replaced while in the water. There will be no restrooms on the galleon, he said, and all trash will be contained on the ship and moved manually to land-based trash compactors.

“The entity most interested in keeping our lake pristine is the developer and businesses/residents within Adriatica,” he said. “The developer is committing resources to make sure our lake remains free of trash.”

Residents do not realize that had The Blackard Group not developed the property, it could have become a generic retail center, Hoff said.

“Personally, I do not see a downside to Adriatica. What does it matter if a building is 50 feet or 68 feet? As elevations go, many nearby residents and buildings rival the elevations of buildings within Adriatica,” he said. “Would you rather be looking at another sea of rooftops? I, for one, would like to see some variation and look forward to this village. I am convinced this development is good for McKinney and its citizens"

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