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Stonington commission approves agriculture uses in light industrial zone

Stonington — The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a zoning amendment Tuesday that would allow agriculture and related uses in the town's lone light industrial zone along Taugwonk Road just north of Interstate 95.

The change was sought by property owner Susanne Toczko of Bradford, R.I., and Chris Pacheco, the owner of Seacoast Mushrooms, which operates out of a 2,400-square-foot building on Farmholme Road and is looking to expand. 

Pacheco pointed out that the town's Plan of Conservation and Development recommended updating the 232-acre zone to allow agricultural uses. He also said his application has been supported by the town's Conservation Commission, Economic Development Commission and the state agriculture commissioner.  

"It seems to be the right thing to do for the town and allow agriculture like we do in other parts of town," Pacheco said.

Commission Chairman Dave Rathbun pointed out there is already a large amount of farmland in the area and cows are raised there.

EDC Chairman Dave Hammond told the commission that the change would return the zone to its historical agricultural use. He said the land will never be for industrial use because it has no sewer or water service. Three businesses are located there.

Pawcatuck resident Carlenes Donnarummo pointed out seven problems she had with the application and recommended that the agricultural use not be allowed by right but require a special permit, which calls for a public hearing. She also pointed out that property owners could raise livestock and store manure, which she said would be detrimental to homeowners across the street.    

Any application to create an agricultural use in the zone would need to be approved by the commission.  

Board members Lynn Conway and Gardner Young suggested changing the zone to allow just for indoor growing of mushrooms. This would have given the town an opportunity to complete its upcoming revision of its zoning regulations over the next two years and avoid any conflicts that could occur. Conway, who later voted to oppose the change, said the commission's approval motion was not clear.   

"We shouldn't be holding up people, I don't think its harming people to allow agriculture in that area," Rathbun said, adding neighbors in the area support the change.    

j.wojtas@theday.com   

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