Seaside developer: Zone change critical

Farmington-based developer Mark Steiner, developer of the former Seaside Regional Center, addresses the Waterford Planning and Zoning Commission during a public hearing at the Waterford Town Hall on Monday.

Waterford - Roughly 200 people showed up Monday at the Town Hall auditorium for a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on zoning amendments to the former Seaside Regional Center grounds sought by Farmington developer Mark Steiner.

Steiner has entered into a contract with the state to purchase the property for $8 million. But the final sale is contingent upon the elimination of the provision that the development be housing for people ages 55 and older. Steiner also wants to add new language that would permit the demolition of one or more historic structures on the 32-acre former state facility for the mentally disabled.

The board took no action on the application for a zone change to eliminate the age requirement and add the new language in and continued the public hearing to June 27.

Steiner has plans to build between 80 and 120 luxury units to be marketed as vacation homes that would cost a minimum of $500,000.

"I don't see how we could do it without these changes," Steiner said.

The hearing began with a two-hour presentation from Steiner's legal, planning and design team, which was followed by public comment.

Brian Miller, a planning consultant hired by Steiner, said the market for age-restricted housing has shifted since the provision was put in place and argued that the development could generate as much as $1.7 million annually in property taxes for the town if the age restriction was lifted.

If approved, the elimination of the age restriction would not cause a significant increase in the number of children in the public school system, Miller said.

"We estimate about 11 kids," he said.

Mike Cegan, the landscape architect hired by Steiner, said the majority of the original zoning regulations for the development would not change, including those on population density, building heights, minimum setbacks and landscape buffers.

Cegan said there would be no changes to the open-space provisions or to the proposed 4-acre public park with access to Long Island Sound.

Cece Saunders, a historic preservation consultant, said the development would follow state historic preservation guidelines when determining if the structures, which have not been maintained by the state, could remain, she said.

Saunders said she would recommend Seaside's distinctive brick patterns, cupola and archways be replicated in a possible new structure.

Robert Corriveau, a resident, spoke in favor of the zone change, saying that "times have changed and the economy has changed."

"It would be an asset to the town," Corriveau said.

Resident Philip Antupit was concerned that new development would cause taxes on neighboring homes to rise and objected to Steiner's plans to add dining space on the site.

Ingrid Macesker, who lives in the area, was outraged that Cass Gilbert-designed buildings could be torn down.

"That's just unbelievable to me," Macesker said.


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