Second Stonington farm seeks new zone to expand uses

Stonington — A second property owner is seeking to take advantage of the town’s Agricultural Heritage Reuse District to add uses such as hosting events like weddings and opening a bed and breakfast operation as a way to help preserve land historically used as a farm.

Robert Valenti has submitted an application to the Planning and Zoning commission to change the residential zone of his 78-acre property at 1189 Pequot Trail, known as the Deans Mill Farm, to the Agricultural Reuse District zone.

The commission now will set a public hearing on the application.

The application states the zone change will allow the owners to preserve the historic farm, farmhouse and outbuildings while developing it in accordance with a master plan.

The plan calls for raising livestock, mostly horses and chickens, and a 17-stall horse barn with an attached indoor riding range that will be used for horse boarding, riding lessons and educational seminars.

The circa-1750 main house would be renovated into a bed and breakfast, while outbuildings would be used as farm stands, and possibly craft microbreweries and for wine tastings.

The application states Valenti also would like to hold weddings, community fundraisers, farm-to-table dinners and other events on the property.

The application states the project will generate tax revenue for the town with no impact on schools or creating other burdens on the town.

The application states the farm, which contains two other homes, is located a half-mile from the road and contains 20 acres of field for ample parking. It also states that the topography of the land and trees would mean light would not affect neighbors, the closest of whom is 2,000 feet away.

The application also states that expanding the uses will help preserve much of the farm as open space, as opposed to developing it into a housing project. The current GBR-130 zone would allow about 26 homes to be built there.

In 2017, the commission approved the first Agricultural Reuse District zone for the 65-acre Stone Acres Farm on North Main Street.

The commission approved phase one of that project, which includes infrastructure work, renovation of a carriage barn for use as a farm stand, and a path leading to a tent that hosts events such as weddings, food and educational programs with 50 to 250 guests.

Vegetables, hay and flowers continue to be grown on site.

Future phases at Stone Acres could include repurposing existing buildings and constructing two new ones. There would be space for a vegetable market, cheese making, bakery and butchery, a restaurant and cafe that would feature farm-to-table offerings using produce grown on the farm and other locally sourced food, a new barn that would have cold storage facilities, a large open area for food cleaning and packaging, and a commercial kitchen and another new building to house a creamery, brewery/brew pub and classrooms for educational programs. Two existing homes could be rented by those participating in events on the property.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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