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Groton approves first application under new Mixed-Use Village Center zone for Poquonnock Bridge area

Groton — A developer is planning to convert a former commercial building on Poquonnock Road into a small housing development, as the first application approved under a new zone to encourage pedestrian-friendly and village-type development in the Poquonnock Bridge area.

The Planning and Zoning Commission last week approved an application from Rodgers Development of Groton to convert a building that formerly housed the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy, on Poquonnock Road east of Buddington Road, into five, two-bedroom apartments.

Groton created a Mixed-Use Village Center zone for the area, as part of a major rewrite of the town’s zoning regulations in 2019. The town began looking at new design guidelines and zoning for Poquonnock Bridge after the 2016 Plan of Conservation and Development recommended enhancing a “sense of place” in the neighborhood.

The zone is intended to promote pedestrian-friendly, small-scale, village-type development that include public space, said Bruce Lofgren, a planner for the town. The zone encourages the restoration and reuse of historic buildings.

The original structure at 1154 Poquonnock Road was built in the early 1800s, Lofgren said. “It was a really good way to preserve the structure and reuse it and create much-needed housing.”

The application from Loureiro Engineering, which represents the developer, says the proposed development, within the "Poquonnock Bridge Village Special Focus Area" is consistent with the Plan of Conservation and Development.

"The proposed development maintains the historic character of the site by keeping the façade of the existing historic building intact and limiting renovations to the interior only," the application states. "Minor exterior alterations will be made to the more recent addition in the rear of the historic building. Frontage sidewalks connect this site to the neighboring Downtown Groton Special Focus Area."

The developer is proposing a community/recreation area for residents at the rear of the building and bike racks along the front of the building, Seamus Moran, a professional engineer for Loureiro Engineering, said at last week's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

Under the new zoning standards, the developer will set aside a portion of the property for public space, Lofgren said. The developer presented a plan that called for walkways, benches, lighting and additional landscaping on the public space.

“They had to show us a plan to accommodate pedestrian and public use onto the property,” Lofgren said.

The proposal currently calls for setting aside 10% of the roughly 500,000-square-foot site for public space, or about 50,000 square feet. Moran said it’s likely that the developer will submit a modified site plan based on a text amendment approved by the commission last month to reduce public use requirements.

k.drelich@theday.com

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