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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    Stonington board OKs plan to allow expanded uses on farms

    Stonington — The Planning and Zoning Commission approved a proposal late Tuesday night to create a floating zone that would allow an expanded list of agricultural-related uses in certain areas in an effort to preserve working farms.

    The commission approved the application by Stone Acres LLC, a group of about a dozen residents who have purchased the historical Stone Acres Farm on North Main Street, just north of Route 1.

    The Agricultural Heritage District could be used by farms that are 35 acres or larger and have been in continuous operation for 25 years or more. The land would have to be in a residential district. A total of 40 properties would be eligible for inclusion in the district.

    In its decision, the commission adopted a host of clarifications and technical changes suggested by town planning staff, none of which altered the intent of the plan.

    Any farm seeking to take advantage of the new zone would have to obtain master plan and site plan approval from the commission, all of which require public hearings. Stone Acres is now expected to begin that process.

    In addition to traditional agricultural uses such as growing crops and raising livestock, the zone would allow bed and breakfast operations with no more than 12 rooms, craft and artisan manufacturing, production and processing of food products, wineries, microbreweries, craft distilleries, event facilities, farm markets, museums, passive recreation, small-scale educational activities, residential uses not to exceed five units, and restaurants and retail sales as an accessory to a principal use.

    The commission also has the discretion to allow other uses if it determines they are compatible with the zone and are not listed as a prohibited use. Banned uses include gas stations, theme parks and retail sales not associated with the farm. Buffer zones and screening requirements also are spelled out in the proposed zone, which also was endorsed by the Conservation Commission.

    Director of Planning Jason Vincent said Wednesday morning the new zone implements a recommendation made in the updated Plan of Conservation and Development to promote agricultural uses. The potential of unwanted uses on a property will be mitigated because the commission first will have to approve the master and site plans, he added.

    j.wojtas@theday.com

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