'Gateway Commons' Developers Submit New Plan

East Lyme — Developers proposing a major retail village and residential neighborhood on land just off Exit 74 of southbound Interstate 95 are back for a second try.

The town's Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on an application to clear the way for the “Gateway Commons” development. The meeting has been moved from Town Hall to East Lyme Middle School.

The two developers, SK Properties and KGI Properties, are first asking for a zoning amendment that would allow them to submit an application for the overall project that includes a detailed site plan and traffic information.

The commission denied the team's first application last June, citing the density of housing and size of the proposed commercial buildings as their main concerns. SK Properties was known at the time as Konover Properties Corp.

Since the denial, the developers have met with neighbors and held two workshops with the Zoning Commission. The new application trims the number of residential units from 400 to 275, eliminates single-family houses, and increases the buffer between the proposed neighborhood and existing ones.

The commercial element remains the same and seeks to allow an anchor store of up to 140,000-square feet — the size of a typical Home Depot — though a tenant is not yet determined. It would also allow as many as five “junior anchor stores” ranging from 25,000 to 90,000 square feet. No more than two of the junior anchor stores could exceed 50,000 square feet, according to the proposal.

The maximum commercial square footage in the proposal is 425,000 square feet. While that number is the same as proposed in the first application, SK Properties attorney Theodore Harris said the revised plan specifically caps the number.

Existing zoning regulations refer to the area as a “Gateway Planned Development District.” The district currently limits commercial buildings to 20,000 square feet and encourages high-tech businesses with highly skilled workers.

The Gateway Commons application proposes a master development plan for the parcels, stitching them together into one swath rather than the piecemeal approach the land currently falls under.

A sketch of the proposed development shows a swath of land where the developers had previously sought to change the zoning and build a higher density of residential units than is currently allowed. This time, they propose to leave that land, which abuts an existing neighborhood, alone.

The sketch also shows a soccer field and a patch of about 4 acres the developer has designated as a “municipal site.”

As with the first application, the latest application includes a sketch that shows revamped exit and entrance ramps both northbound and southbound off Interstate 95 at Exit 74.
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