Patience for Seaside developer 'running low'

Waterford - Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Gwen Hughes said Wednesday during the second public hearing on proposed changes to the zoning regulations of the Seaside Preservation Zoning District that patience was "running low" for Mark Steiner, the state's preferred developer for the property, and his consulting team.

The meeting marked the end of the period during which the commission would accept new materials to consider in its vote on Steiner's application. The commission will discuss the proposed zoning amendments further at its next regular meeting, at 7 p.m. on July 28 at Town Hall.

"This board has been very diligent in all the years of listening to Seaside," Hughes said at around 9:30 p.m., about half an hour from the end of the three-hour-long meeting. She later commented that Steiner habitually would come back, "and then we're back changing the rules."

She asked town attorney Robert Avena, "When is there a limit, that nothing is developed, that we have to continue to listen?"

"The law is silent as to what happens to any piece of land," Avena said.

He said Steiner's requests for changes to zoning on the property of the former Seaside Regional Center for the developmentally disabled have made this the longest running project he had encountered since starting as town attorney in the year 2000.

He commented during a meeting break that it was rare for a development project to drag on for so long, saying that private land owners, in contrast to Seaside's owner - the State of Connecticut - usually want to "get a property moving."

Steiner's lawyer, Lewis K. Wise, responded to Hughes' comment by saying that actions by the neighbors had extended the time.

"I just have to remind you that there have been two appeals filed by the neighbors," he said.

Seaside neighbor Kathy Jacques, who in the past sued over a set of zoning changes proposed by Steiner, presented during Wednesday's hearing a timeline of Steiner's involvement in Seaside.

In 1999, Steiner presented a conceptual development plan to the state. In 2003, he proposed zoning changes to the Waterford Planning and Zoning Commission. He proposed further revisions in 2010 and, in 2012, presented a master plan but did not leave the plan on record with the town.

The current proposed changes are the third set Steiner has presented to the town.

After the hearing, Seaside neighbor Debby Green was quick to say that she believes it was Steiner's repeated requests for zoning amendments that have led to delays in the property's development, not neighborhood responses to the requests.

Steiner has proposed changing the zoning regulations of the property off Shore Road to allow for construction of an inn with a maximum of 40 lodging rooms and privatizing the roads inside the prospective condominium and resort development. His current master plan includes 104 units, and he plans on adding to at least one building on the property.

t.townsend@theday.com

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