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Residents continue attack on Seaside plan

By Stephen Chupaska

Publication: The Day

Published June 28. 2011 4:00AM   Updated June 29. 2011 10:31AM
Foes at Waterford hearing fear loss of historic buildings

Waterford - A majority of residents at the meeting Monday spoke out against proposed zone changes for the former Seaside Regional Center during a continued Zoning Commission public hearing at Town Hall.

Farmington developer Mark Steiner, who has an $8 million agreement to purchase the former sanitarium from the state, is seeking zone changes that would eliminate the provision that the new development be only for people 55 and older. Steiner also wants the zoning rules to be amended to permit the destruction of one or more of the historic buildings on the 32-acre site and allow new buildings to go up.

The development, which would include 80 to 120 luxury condominiums priced between $500,000 and $1 million, would not be feasible without the proposed changes, he said. The state expects to settle the purchase with Steiner on Thursday.

The hearing was continued to July 11.

Before the public spoke, Louis Wise, Steiner's attorney, asked that the commission add additional language to the proposed zoning changes that would have state and local historic preservation commissions review the condition of the Cass Gilbert-designed buildings. But at the hearing, which began June 13, many nearby residents objected to the changes.

John Chase, an attorney representing Kathy Jacques, whose property abuts Seaside, argued that the provision to allow the buildings to be torn down would violate state laws protecting historic structures.

"What this zone change says is, 'Trust us, allow us to do what we want to do, and we'll come back later with a site plan,' " Chase said.

Allan Jacques, who also lives near the property, said it's not the commission's job to consider the profitability of the project.

"That's not the concern of the zoning board," Jacques said.

Others drew pointed out that a proposed change that would allow "dining facilities" on the property might cause delivery trucks to pass through the neighborhood.

Steiner has said the dining facility would not be a commercial restaurant.

Robert Nye, the town historian, said more attention should be paid to the historic nature of the buildings.

"Any replacements would be farcical and a mockery of Gilbert's genius," Nye said.

In response to a citizens' petition, the commission has voted that any approval of the zone changes would require a two-thirds vote from the board.

Monday, Steiner said he would not be seeking a change that would have allowed a two-tiered approval process, as he had proposed earlier. The two-tier process would have allowed the zoning board to first approve a special permit, then a site plan.

In other action, the commission denied a petition from Kathy Jacques, who requested to be intervening party on the zone change.

s.chupaska@theday.com

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