Neighbors' opposition prompts Noank marina to withdraw zone change application

Groton — After an hour of passionate testimony at the Noank Fire House on Tuesday evening, Spicer's Marina LLC decided to withdraw its application for a zone change to a parcel between the Amtrak tracks and Marsh Road.

"They have listened and they have heard from their neighbors, and we'd like to go back to the drawing board," said Bill Sweeney, the attorney representing Spicer's Marina.

Zone changes are rare in Noank. More than 40 people turned out to the meeting, most in opposition to the application. Sweeney was the only person to initially speak in favor.

After the public hearing was adjourned, John Gardiner of Spicer's Marina told The Day, "The amount of opposition, especially with the local Noble Avenue residents, for us to continue putting everybody through stress, I guess for the little property we could actually get usable, we'd rather have good neighbors and work with the neighbors in the future."

Only a little of the property is usable because most of it is tidal wetlands.

The New London-based law firm TCORS, on behalf of Spicer's Marina, had filed an application with the Noank Fire District Zoning Commission to change the zoning of a 4.56-acre parcel in Noank from partly low-density residential and partly waterfront commercial, to fully waterfront commercial.

The parcel is bounded by the Amtrak tracks to the north, Groton Long Point Road to the west, and Marsh Road to the south and east, according to the meeting agenda.

Sweeney noted that the marina purchased the land "two years ago with the intent of creating some additional boat storage and parking area to accommodate clients' demand."

The Zoning Commission last year approved a lot on the eastern end of the parcel, which provides for parking and boat storage, and then the lot was constructed.

Representing abutting neighbors, attorney Robert Avena said he already was opposed to the existing parking lot and didn't want the parking lot expanded further.

"I think that's enough intrusion, and I think it's enough of a revolt against what I consider the comprehensive plan," he said.

Avena said he has a protest petition signed by more than 20 percent of property owners within 500 feet of the parcel. The owners of 10 properties were present at the meeting.

Allowed uses for waterfront commercial include a yard for building or storing boats, yacht clubs, boat docks or piers, offices, yacht brokers or marine insurance brokers, boat rental, retail sale of fish or shellfish, and retail sale or rental of boating, fishing, diving or baiting supplies and equipment.

Avena feels there are "far, far too many uses" that can be applied to the parcel, and he thinks those uses are far beyond what anyone would envision living directly next to.

"The majority of the cases would say: Take the majority of the zone and make it all that zone," he argued, meaning the parcel would become entirely low-density residential. But Avena noted that's not realistic, considering a parking lot already was approved and built.

"What about the noise, the smell, the dumpings, the power trucks, the power equipment, the marine and land engines?" questioned Noble Avenue resident Lynn Anderson, in opposition to the proposal. "What about the visual impact?"

Other Noble Avenue residents spoke against the zone change, along with Sidney van Zandt, one of the founders of the Groton Open Space Association.

If the application had not been withdrawn, and if it had been granted, Spicer’s Marina would have had to come before the Zoning Commission again for approval of any expansion.

Sweeney stressed that the zone change application was not an application for a specific project or development but had said, “It is the intent of my client that in the event this zone change is approved, they would want to modestly expand that parking and boating storage area to the west.”

e.moser@theday.com

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