Stonington PZC approves reuse of former Mystic armory

The former Mystic armory building, seen Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, on Summit Street is being proposed to be renovated into a technology and light manufacturing center. (Joe Wojtas/The Day)
The former Mystic armory building, seen Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, on Summit Street is being proposed to be renovated into a technology and light manufacturing center. (Joe Wojtas/The Day)

Mystic — The Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved a special use permit that will allow a local small-business owner who has purchased the abandoned armory on Summit Street to turn the building into a technology, business and light manufacturing center.

The commission’s decision came after several residents and officials spoke in support of the plan by Harrison Macris, who owns Macris Industries.

Macris purchased the abandoned building and overgrown site from the state for $490,000 last year and has since removed 20 tons of trash and debris from the property and made repairs to the building.

He plans to use part of the building for his company, which designs, manufactures and assembles underwater boat lighting, while possibly renting space to small emerging companies looking for light manufacturing and technology space.

“Our goal is to preserve the property, not develop it,” he said.

Peggy Roberts, the president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, told the commission the chamber would like to see an influx of more projects that promote light manufacturing, like the one proposed by Macris. She said the chamber also likes his plan to nurture entrepreneurs in town and create jobs for residents.

Resident Tim Murray of Geiser Street said Macris has taken a tax-exempt property and put it back on the tax rolls.

“This is everything we want in Stonington,” he said, referring to providing jobs in light industry.

Economic Development Commission Chairman Dave Hammond said the project will help diversify the town’s economy and assist like-minded entrepreneurs such as Macris.

Bob Petersen, who lives on Summit Street, said he has watched Macris transform a property that had become an eyesore back into a viable one.

A group of residents expressed concerns at Tuesday’s public hearing about lack of landscaping and lighting plans and cutting of trees on the property.

Carlene Donnarummo cautioned the commission that approving a project without a landscaping plan sets a bad precedent for other businesses coming into the community.

Macris told the commission that he plans to continue cleaning up the site and creating “a lush campus environment.”

“We’re trying to do the best we can,” he said.

Commission member Shaun Mastroianni recommended keeping the public hearing open and not making a decision until Macris submits a landscaping and lighting plan for the commission to review.

Member Gardner Young disagreed, saying, “I can’t see tying this whole thing up for a bunch of trees.”

The commission, however, attached a stipulation to its approval that requires Macris to submit a landscaping plan to be reviewed by the town’s planning staff and then the commission.

The 7,000-square-foot building had been used by the Connecticut National Guard through the late 1980s, as well as for a community center. It was then used through the 1990s and into the 2000s by Connecticut Light & Power and various construction firms for the storage of equipment and office space. After that it fell into disrepair, with the 4.4-acre site full of trash and debris.

In 2016, the state announced it was going to sell the property. The town expressed interest in possibly using the site for affordable housing but balked at the asking price of $485,000 and a stipulation the town would be responsible for the cleanup of any possible environmental contamination. Neighbors opposed plans for housing.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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