Alternate Seaside project proposed in Waterford

Waterford - In an effort to encourage state and town officials to think "outside the box" when it comes to development of the state-owned Seaside Preservation District off Shore Road, a Seaside neighbor has resubmitted an alternative proposal of development to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The "Seaside House" proposal by Woodsea Place resident Debby Green, which Green originally circulated in 2006, envisions a cooperative living facility on the shore where residents work 20 hours a week in exchange for free room and board on the property of the former Seaside Regional Center for the mentally disabled.

"My main interest is that it be used as something for the benefit of a lot of people," Green said Wednesday. She said that the site could house mentally ill, disabled and homeless people.

Green said she also plans to submit the proposal to the office of Gov. Dannel Malloy. She said one reason she submitted it to the commission in Waterford is because of turnover in the commission's membership since she last submitted the proposal.

Department of Administrative Services Staff Counsel Jeffrey Beckham said that the state is unable to consider new proposals for use of Seaside at this time due to the state's contract with preferred developer Mark Steiner, who has proposed turning the site into a high-end resort.

Green said she first sent her proposal in 2006 to Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford; Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-20th District; the Office of Policy and Management, and the office of Gov. Jodi Rell. She said she later submitted it to the town and then resubmitted it, making the most recent submission her third to the town.

The proposal submitted May 21 calls for the superintendent's house to be restored first so that residents may move in. Once residents moved in, they would work with a nonprofit contractor to restore the remaining buildings.

Steiner previously commissioned an engineering report that state officials say rules the property unsound. The State Historic Preservation Office has said it approves of demolition of buildings on site, which sits on the National Register of Historic Places and contains two buildings designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert.

Green said her proposal is predicated on her belief that the buildings are sound, and in a new cover letter to the proposal she asks that the commission hire an independent structural engineer to assess the property at Steiner's expense.

Seaside neighbor Kathy Jacques said Wednesday that Green's proposal is "a good idea."

"I think what's more significant is the idea of exploring any other uses," said Jacques, who has also submitted alternative proposals in the past. She said she thinks the public will be more interested in alternative proposals now that demolition of buildings is proposed as an option.

The proposal does not appear on the agenda of the commission's meeting tonight. Green said Wednesday that she also plans to resubmit the proposal to the state.

t.townsend@theday.com

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