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Groton City Planning & Zoning Commission denies mixed-use proposal for Five Corners area

Groton — The City of Groton Planning and Zoning Commission has denied a master plan application for the redevelopment of several properties on the corner of Benham and Poquonnock roads in the Five Corners area of the city. The application had been the first step in a plan to create a mixed-use development at Five Corners, within walking distance of Electric Boat.

GBU Capital LLC of Scottsdale, Ariz., had applied for approval of a mixed-use design district “floating zone” and master plan for 2 Benham Road/91 Poquonnock Road, 8, 22 and 46 Benham Road and 1 Mariani Court. If the developer received approval, it then would apply for site plan approval for a building with commercial space on the first floor and apartments on the upper four floors. Parking was proposed on site and at 46 Benham Road.

The developer had proposed the development as “a cornerstone” of the Five Corners District that would promote pedestrian and bike access and help the city meet its goal of creating a sense of place in the Five Corners neighborhood, which refers to the area around Poquonnock Road, Mitchell Road, Benham Road and Chicago Avenue, according to a statement in the application from Seamus Moran, project manager of Loureiro Engineering Associates.

“With the retail/commercial space on the ground floor, along with other neighborhood attractions, such as Washington and Fort Griswold Park, numerous restaurants and Electric Boat just minutes away, this new development will serve to greatly enhance this neighborhood and help create a sense of space for the Five Corners,” Moran wrote.

Some neighbors had expressed concerns about traffic, parking, noise, and the size of the building in a neighborhood with predominantly one- and two-story homes.

The Planning and Zoning Commission denied the Five Corners master plan application by a 4-3 vote last week after three evenings of public hearings, said City Planner Leslie Creane. The applicant had responded to comments and made some revisions.

Commissioners Jim Streeter, Irma Streeter, Aundré Bumgardner, and David Rose voted in opposition, while Commissioners Susan Bergeron and Girard Keeler and Chairman Paul Kunkemoeller voted in favor, according to Creane.

“The reasons cited by commissioners that opposed the application included the incompatibility of the character of the architecture with the neighborhood, specifically the height and intensity of development, and parking concerns,” Creane said. 

She said that as with any application, the applicant is always able to re-apply.

During last week’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Keeler said the application is consistent with the city’s Plan of Conservation and Development, and Five Corners has been an issue going back more than a decade ago to the previous Plan of Conservation and Development.

“I think that this is going to be a good thing for the City of Groton and the residents,” Keeler said. 

Rose, however, said that while it meets some criteria, the purpose of the Five Corners District “is to reinforce and enhance the Five Corners area as a mixed use and pedestrian friendly focal point within the City of Groton to establish opportunities for a new development at an appropriate scale and intensity.” 

He said in his opinion, there’s no way that the proposal is of an appropriate scale or intensity for that neighborhood. 

GBU Capital could not be reached to comment. 

k.drelich@theday.com

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