Resort commercial zone considered for Route 2 in North Stonington

Resort commercial zone considered for Route 2 in North Stonington

The Westerly Sun

NORTH STONINGTON — A proposal to create a Resort Commercial Zone on the west end of Route 2 met with mixed reactions at a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing Thursday.

The new zone, proposed by the commission, would change a portion of the Residential Zone along Route 2, starting at the Ledyard town line, extending approximately 1.5 miles and ending about 2,000 feet from Swantown Hill Road. A total of 369 acres would be rezoned: 254 on the north side of Route 2 and 115 to the south.

About 200 acres of the proposed area are owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino. The casino itself is on Route 2 in Ledyard.

The proposed new uses include Vacation Resort Complex, Luxury RV Park, and Commercial Indoor and Outdoor Recreation. In 2012, the Plan of Conservation and Development and the Economic Development Action Plan identified this as a potential planning area, said Juliet Hodge, planning, development and zoning official for North Stonington.

“We talked about the need for deliberate planning in order to diversify our economy — really deciding where do we want growth and where do we not want growth,” she said.

During the development of the plan for conservation, the No. 1 concern residents identified on surveys was expanding the tax base and diversifying the town’s economy .

Hodge also said she thought it was important for the town to propose the zoning changes rather than respond to a developer.

“The goal I had was to attract some investment, not only in this area, but that would help spark some investment in the rest of town as well,” Hodge said. “We can feed on our tourism base and also help the casinos stay solvent — they’ve had some financial issues and they’re critical to the regional economy.”

The parcels would be 5-acre lots so that developments would be clustered; smaller lots might bring about strip malls, which would be less desirable, she said.

Resident Dan Spring, former chairman of the town Board of Finance, said he was in favor of the change since it would grow the town’s grand list.

“We’ve had no growth since 2008 and we need to be strategic in how we shape the town,” he said. “You’ve got to widen your vision — we’re not changing town, we’re enriching the town.”

First Selectman Shawn Murphy echoed Spring, saying that unless the town goes forward with these initiatives, there would be no growth in the grand list.

Beth Tillman, of Firefly Farms, a cow and calf operation, said she was concerned about the rights of abutting property owners who will need to come up with counter-arguments against lawyers, engineers, and traffic consultants

“We are not equipped to deal specifically with all of these issues so we are at a huge disadvantage when we come into this room,” Tillman said. “I would hope, considering there are many of us who would be affected adversely, that the commission would take into account and weigh very heavily how the impact would disrupt those of us who are close by these potential changed areas.”

Several residents wanted the commission to remove any possibility of an amusement park or a motocross from the proposal.

Resident Brad Borden said the public needed more clarity on what would be allowed, such as one-page list, but Hodge said it was dangerous for economic development to be too specific. “You want to allow economic investment,” she said.

The public hearing will continue on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.


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