Published August 29. 2013 4:00AM
As it developed from a rural town with a coastal community to a modern suburbia, Waterford leaders used its vast tracts of open land with easy highway access to attract commercial development. It has made the town a retail destination. Along with the Millstone Power Station, Waterford's large commercial tax base provides residents with impressive municipal services and recreational choices for a relatively small town. It funds a strong public education system with new and renovated schools; all while keeping taxes relatively low when compared with some of its neighbors.
Now town leaders could do well by focusing attention on one of the small forgotten sections - Mago Point.
As noted in the Aug. 26 article, "Mago Point business owners say time is right for renewal," this small coastal enclave found itself physically separated from the primary flow of traffic when Route 156, which had run through it, was shifted south in 1991. The reason was construction of a higher, wider bridge, requiring fewer openings to accommodate boat traffic on the Niantic River. It replaced the old, swing bridge that hung low over the water, resulting in frequent traffic stops when it had to open.
From a transportation perspective it was a wise change for both drivers and boaters. But it means the traffic that once flowed through Mago Point goes by it. The large bridge looming over the point provides another physical barrier. On the western end of the bridge retail businesses continue to flourish in the Niantic section of East Lyme, still traversed by Route 156.
There was never an after-bridge plan for Mago Point. Now a group of business people are investing there and seek the town's support in encouraging its renewal. Instead, they say, they have confronted a bureaucracy more interested in nitpicking about land-use regulations than working on practical solutions to planning and zoning issues.
They appear, however, to have a supporter in new Planning Director Dennis Goderre. He sees the potential for developing Mago Point as on off-the-path destination. With dock improvements, the right mix of retail, restaurant and marine businesses, and with signage and amenities to attract visitors, Mago Point could well be viable again.
Mr. Goderre has scheduled a Sept. 11 workshop with the Mago Point Business Association to discuss how the town and its land-use agencies can help, while staying true to the regulations necessary for wise development. It's a good start.