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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    Colonel Ledyard School apartment plans presented to Groton commission

    Groton ― An attorney for a developer proposing 65 apartments at the former Colonel Ledyard School property, which is within walking distance of Electric Boat, said Tuesday that creating “attainable housing” is a driving force for the project.

    Bill Sweeney, who represents Bellsite Development LLC of Manchester, the developer of the former school site on 120 West Street, said at a public hearing that while the proposed development calls for market-rate housing and not deed-restricted affordable housing, it targets people who are part of a growing workforce in Groton and want to live in the community.

    He said the proposed housing ― a mix of one and two bedroom apartments as well as three-unit townhomes — caters to many different types of tenants and creates a diversity in the neighborhood being created on the site.

    Bellsite, the developer for the town-owned site located in the city, presented its plans Tuesday to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to convert the former elementary school building into 29 apartments and construct 36 additional apartments on site.

    William Bellock, principal member of Bellsite Development, has said the development is geared towards Electric Boat and Pfizer employees, as well as to meet the overall demand for housing in Groton.

    Bellsite Development was recommended as the developer of the site, after the town issued a request for proposals in 2019 for the 8.3-acre property which houses a 20,378-square-foot, 60-year-old school building that closed in 2008. Bellsite is seeking a special permit and site plan approval from the commission.

    Bellock said the project would substantially preserve the original school building. The first phase of the project calls for renovating the school and adding a second story to it. This phase would create 27 one-bedroom units and two 2-bedroom units.

    The second phase includes the construction of six attached three-bedroom townhome units to the east of the front parking lot, as well as a 30-unit apartment building — with 20 one-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom units — to the rear of the school building.

    During the public hearing, commission members raised questions, including about traffic from the site and whether a traffic study was done. Sweeney said a study was not done and the traffic impact of a school is greater than 65 apartments. He added he would provide standardized traffic numbers for schools compared to apartments to the commission.

    Sweeney said the plan evolved over the past three and a half years as the developer worked with the city to interpret regulations and avoid impacting wetlands on the rear of the site.

    The commission is awaiting a third-party engineering study of the property.

    During Tuesday’s meeting, a letter from the Colonel Ledyard Association, an abutting property owner, was read aloud. The association has concerns about tenants crossing its cemetery property to gain access to Mitchell Street and beyond and about children using the cemetery as a playground, increasing the cemetery’s liability. The cemetery recommended a chain link fence along the property boundary.

    Sweeney said he was concerned that installing a fence could require additional permitting due to wetlands, and also did not want to block off access for residents to a walking path, but he said he would reach out to the cemetery association to accommodate its concerns.

    Paige Bronk, the town’s economic and community development manager, was the only person who spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. He supported the project on behalf of the town, which owns the property. He said a committee of both town and city representatives jointly had reviewed proposals and selected Bellsite.

    He said studies have indicated that the housing demand between now and before 2030 is between 3,000 and 5,000 units.

    Bronk said the demand is not simply due to increased hiring at Electric Boat alone as there are also empty-nesters, people looking for a different housing style, and Pfizer employees. He said 82% of jobs in Groton are held by commuters, and with less than a 3% vacancy in its existing housing stock, “we have incredible housing demand.”

    He said the project not only provides housing, but would help alleviate parking issues in the city if Electric Boat employees lived there and walked to work.

    The public hearing was continued to the commission’s June 21 meeting.


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