Stonington development panel supports Seaport Marine project
Mystic — With Chairman Dave Hammond calling it a “fantastic project,” the Stonington Economic Development Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to support the Smiler’s Wharf project planned for the Seaport Marine property.
The commission now will send a letter of support to the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission, which has slated a May 28 public hearing on the project’s master plan. There it is expected to face opposition from neighbors concerned about increased traffic, parking and how the project fits into the character of their neighborhood.
On Wednesday night, Harry Boardsen, who co-manages Noank Shipyard, which owns Seaport Marine, and his team again outlined the plans to demolish much of the 11.5-acre site and redevelop it with a second restaurant, a marine services building, a 50-room boutique hotel and a mix of 47 apartments, townhouses and single-family homes.
Plans for the project off Washington Street also call for a large boat basin to accommodate additional docking space and an 800- foot-long public-access boardwalk, event building, plaza and kayak pavilion. The plan has no retail space.
“We know our place in town. We want to bring people to town to stay and eat and patronize the shops on Main Street. We want our project to be complimentary, not have an adverse component,” said Boardsen, who called the uses and design in character with those of Mystic.
Don Poland, who prepared the project’s economic impact study, said it would result in a net positive tax impact of $120,000 a year. He added that figure could be higher, as he was very conservative with his figures regarding the cost of town services and the number of school-age children the project would bring in.
He said the project also would generate $600,000 for the town in permit fees.
Meg Lyons, the project architect, told the EDC that plans call for 55,000 square feet of building coverage on the site, 12,000 square feet less than what exists now. She said this would open up the site and create space for a 6,500-square-foot plaza.
Jackson Avenue resident Joan Durant told the commission that she and her neighbors oppose the “massive proposal,” which she said does not conform to the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development recommendation for village development and character.
Hammond reminded Durant that his commission was only considering the economic impacts of the project, not the zoning issues.
Durant also was concerned about the 63- and 72-foot height of two of the proposed buildings.
Lyons pointed out several other existing downtown buildings that range between 50 and slightly more than 60 feet and said the decision was made to add height instead of lot coverage, as that would have made the development more dense.
The PZC public hearing on the master plan was slated for May 7 but the hearing was continued, as Seaport Marine wanted to address concerns and questions posed by town officials who have reviewed the plans. Now scheduled for May 28, the hearing is slated to begin at 7 p.m. at Mystic Middle School.
The only building that will remain on the site will be the popular Red 36 restaurant. Boardsen said that Angela Kanabis, who runs Red 36, also will operate the new 200-seat restaurant.
One hurdle the project faces is that the Mystic sewer treatment plant is nearing its capacity to process sewage. But there is a total of $1.7 million in the 2019-20 Stonington capital improvements budget and a planned $865,000 in the 2020-21 budget for upgrades to send sewage from the Mystic plant along an existing pipeline to the borough treatment plant, which is operating at 50 percent capacity. This would create extra capacity at the Mystic plant and allow new projects, such as the Seaport Marine project and two hotels proposed for Coogan Boulevard, to tie in to the system.
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