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Stonington looking to create small historic district in downtown Pawcatuck

Stonington — Town and state officials will hold a June 24 virtual conversation on a proposal to designate a small area of downtown Pawcatuck a historic district.

The effort is aimed at further spurring revitalization by exempting four property owners from having to comply with costly flood zone regulations.

The town has proposed that the Pawcatuck Bridge Historic District be placed on the State Register of Historic Places. The district would include the following properties: 5 West Broad St., which contains the Riverwalk condominium development as well as businesses such as Mia's Cafe and Bogue's Alley deli; 29 West Broad St., a two-story commercial and residential building across the alley from Bess Easton; 34 West Broad St., which is the vacant Laura's Landing mixed-use building where a renovation has started, and 38 West Broad St., a three-story commercial and residential building.

The community conversation, which will include representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Information about how to join the meeting can be found at bit.ly/pawbridgedist.

The effort originated from the town's Economic Development Commission, which has made the continued revitalization of downtown Pawcatuck a priority with a number of projects approved, under construction or being discussed.

Several years ago, the EDC led a successful effort to change a regulation that prohibited property owners in flood hazard zones from making improvements worth more than 50% of the value of their property over a five-year period if they wanted to avoid complying with flood zone requirements such as raising or flood-proofing their buildings. This limitation discouraged developers from investing in a property. The town then lowered the time period to one year, which means developers can now invest 50% of the value of their property in successive years and still avoid making the costly flood zone improvements.

The historic district designation builds on that effort.

Dave Hammond, chairman of the EDC, said the advantage of creating a historic district is that the properties within it do not have to comply with flood zone regulations. This not only makes the projects more economically viable but ensures their historic character is not altered, such as by building a wall.

Town Planner Keith Brynes said the designation also would assist property owners with obtaining tax credits for proposed renovations.

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