Waterford to begin deliberations on controversial Seaside condo plan

Waterford - The Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday closed the public hearing on zone changes that developer Mark Steiner is seeking for the former Seaside Regional Center.

In doing so, it began what could be several weeks of deliberations.

Steiner is seeking zone changes that would eliminate the provision that any new development be restricted to people aged 55 and older and would add language allowing the demolition of one or more of the historic structures on the site.

The commission has 65 days from the close of the public hearing to vote on the application. There is a regular meeting scheduled for Sept. 12, two days before the 65-day deadline.

The hearing, held at Town Hall, began with a summary statement from Steiner's attorney Louis Wise, who recapitulated Steiner's arguments for elimination of the age restriction and for permission to demolish buildings.

Steiner, who has an agreement with the state to purchase the property for $8 million and hopes to build between 80 and 120 luxury condominiums on the site, has said 55-plus housing is no longer viable.

Wise said the four Cass Gilbert-designed structures on the campus would be inspected by historians and engineers before any decisions are made on their fate.

"We're the first to say that we hope the buildings turn out to be salvageable," Wise said. "But no responsible developer would proceed unless the regulations are changed."

Wise reiterated that Steiner has no plans to build a marina at the site and rebutted what he called rumors spread by neighbors of Seaside that Steiner wants to include a restaurant open to the public.

"It's going to be a dining facility and one of the amenities to the owners of the units," Wise said.

The meeting grew contentious when commission Chairman Edwin McGuire attempted to close the public hearing without allowing the public to speak.

Several people shouted out from the audience: "This is democracy!" and "I haven't had a chance to speak!"

McGuire eventually allowed members of the public, who spoke at the two hearings held last month, to comment but to limit their comments to new information brought up by Steiner's team since the last hearing.

Jon Chase, an attorney representing Seaside neighbor Kathleen Jacques, objected, saying that his client had not had a chance to review relevant documents.

Wise also discussed a letter sent to the commission on Friday from the Northland Investment Corp., which said they would be willing to develop Seaside without any zone changes. Northland submitted a proposal in March 2010 for the property.

"It's a classic disappointed bidder," Wise said.

Allan Jacques, a neighbor, said the commission should consider Northland's offer.

"Mr. Steiner's plan is nebulous," Jacques said. "(The commission) doesn't know what it's voting on."

The commission Monday briefly discussed the age restriction clause but did not take any action. McGuire said he supports the zone changes.

s.chupaska@theday.com

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