Waterford commission gets it right on Seaside

The Waterford Planning and Zoning Commission showed good judgment in lifting age restrictions for the proposed redevelopment of the former Seaside Regional Center, while retaining rules protecting the architectural integrity of the buildings during their conversion to condominiums.

Developer Mark Steiner has spent years pursuing the project on the 32-acre site that once served as a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis and later housed the mentally disabled. The state abandoned the property in 1996 and has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the would-be developer.

Given the weak real estate market, Mr. Steiner sought to lift a restriction limiting the planned 80 to 120 units of high-priced condos to people 55 and older. Project opponents expressed concerns about increased school attendance. But realistically, we don't see this development attracting many families with school-aged children. And the few who have children may well send them to private schools. Mr. Steiner expects the units will be secondary housing for many buyers.

The commission also made the right decision in not letting Mr. Steiner out of the requirement to maintain the historical integrity of the once beautiful, but now severely deteriorated neo-classical buildings. The developer had sought the option to raze them and build replicas if restoration costs prove too high.

But those buildings, a testament to the beauty earlier generations felt those in need of help were entitled to, deserve preserving.

Next step for the developer is submitting a site plan. But regulatory approvals aside, the big question remains whether Mr. Steiner can get the necessary financing for the ambitious project.

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