Pulling up the welcome mat won't win friends

The principals behind the failed Smiler’s Wharf project in Mystic have pulled up their own drawbridge, metaphorically speaking. That bit of retribution probably felt good. It is hard to see it as other than counterproductive, however, if the would-be developers hope to return with a new project proposal.

Harry Boardsen, a co-owner of Seaport Marine where the Smiler’s Wharf project was planned, recently informed the organizers of the annual Mystic Eats Riverside Food Festival that the property would not be made available. In past years the property hosted music performances and a beer tent.

Without access to Seaport Marine, the organizers announced the cancelation of the three-day event planned for Sept. 7-9.

In a letter sent to Mystic Eats organizers, Boardsen made it clear the decision had everything to do with the opposition his project faced from folks associated with Mystic Eats or who stand to benefit from the roughly 10,000 people the festival brings into Mystic.

“Our aspirations to continue to improve our Mystic business this year was met with much resistance form local residents and more importantly, local downtown businesses,” Boardsen wrote. Some of those in opposition, wrote Boardsen, “blindly take advantage of our generosity year over year within Mystic and our community.”

No more, it appears.

Boardsen and his partners have every right to make this move. After having contributed to the community in this and in other matters, and after having invested heavily in preparing their Smiler’s Wharf project, it had to be tough to face such strong and, at times, nasty opposition.

But it sure feels like the kid who takes his ball and goes home because the game didn’t play out like he hoped. No one likes that kid.

The scale of the Smiler’s Wharf project drove much of the opposition. The plan called for rezoning 7.5 acres of the 11 acres off Washington Street from marine commercial to a Neighborhood Development District. To be built in phases, it included a 200-seat restaurant; 16 townhouses; a six-story, 25-unit apartment building; a five-story, 45-unit hotel; 120 boat slips; and a nearly 17,000-square-foot pavilion.

Critics argued buildings as high as 72 feet tall were out of scale to the surroundings.

Facing the likelihood of seeing the zone change denied, the developers withdrew the application.

Our expectation has been that they would return with a scaled-down proposal and seek to build support. That job just got harder due to this rash decision.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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