Zoning board denies New London lighthouse owner's request for tours
New London — The Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday denied a request by the New London Maritime Society to modify zoning regulations to allow tours and events at New London Harbor Light and other historic properties located in residential zones across the city.
Maritime society President George Sprecace said the commission voted 5-2 against the proposal.
He expressed disappointment in a written statement and promised a renewed legal effort to the keep the lighthouse and other historic sites open to “meaningful public access.”
“This is again a ‘Tale of Two Cities,' a New London of ‘great potential,' always giving way to a city of disappointing actuality,” Sprecace said in the statement. “A city of ‘why’ instead of ‘why not.’ A city of ‘constant pie,’ where someone must lose, instead of an ‘expanding pie’ where everyone can win.”
The maritime society had sought the zoning change in reaction to a cease-and-desist order by the city last year that barred tours of the historic lighthouse on Pequot Avenue.
The city’s zoning enforcement officer had cited the increase in number of visitors while neighbors complained of trespassing on their properties.
Under the maritime society's proposal, “events and tours for historic preservation” would be a new allowed use in residential zones by special permit.
The proposal also had implications for parking and use of signs.
The maritime society had unsuccessfully appealed the cease-and-desist order, but still has a pending lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeals in New London Superior Court.
Randy Waesche, whose property abuts the lighthouse, has a pending federal civil suit against the maritime society over a property line dispute and fought the zoning changes.
“I’m thrilled,” Waesche said of the decision. “I know the zoning board spent an enormous amount of time on this and I’m appreciative of it. It was not in the best interests of the city of New London to have the potential for so many historic properties be open to tours and events. It was going to be unmanageable for the city to enforce.”
Sprecace expressed his confidence in winning the federal case, and said the society will not only "question abuse of process," but assert federal pre-emption of local zoning laws.