Update:NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) A plan to build a welcome center on the Rhode Island grounds of The Breakers, the historic Vanderbilt family mansion, has won a critical endorsement. Newport zoning officials Monday endorsed the proposal that the Preservation Society of Newport County, which owns the national historic landmark, says would offer the mansion's 400,000 annual visitors better restrooms, ticketing and snacks.Opponents say the center should be built across the street in a parking lot so the 13-acre estate is not irreparably damaged. But the Preservation Society says that plan is not workable.The zoning board 4-1 vote overturns an earlier decision by the city's Historic District Commission, which rejected the plan. Once the board issues a certificate for the project, opponents could still appeal. - Associated Press
An important meeting to discuss the future of a Newport landmark is scheduled for Monday night.
The city's Zoning Board is scheduled to meet at 7pm to discuss an appeal concerning a proposed welcome center at the Breakers mansion.
The Newport Preservation Society wants to build the $4.2 million center. The project has been approved by the state preservation commission but was rejected in a 4 to 3 vote by the Newport Historic District Commission over the summer. The Preservation Society appealed that decision.
"What we are asking the Zoning Board to do is to recognize that there were technical mistakes in the earlier review," said John Rodman, the Director of Museum Experience at the Preservation Society.
Currently on the grounds of the mansion is a seasonal welcome tent and portable toilet trailer.
The 3,700 square foot proposal would include restrooms, pre–made food for sale, a space to learn about the history of Newport and the ability to buy tickets.
"It's actually part of the way that you ensure that people want to keep coming back," said Rodman.
Opponents have many issues with the current proposal. James Moore who testified at the August hearing says the project resembles a Greenhouse that Cornelius Vanderbilt specifically ordered removed. He also takes issue with the fact that food would be sold on the property saying that no restaurants are allowed in the historic district. He says he would be open to a different kind of proposal.
"Hopefully this will end the process in a positive way and we can go forward and talk about a redesign of this concept," Moore who is the President of the Bellevue Ochre Point Neighborhood Association.
There may be a vote by the Zoning Board at Monday night's meeting, but either way officials say the issue is far from over. Zoning Officer Gui Weston says that depending on the outcome of the board's decision either side may choose to appeal the decision to Superior Court.