New zone designation approved to help spur downtown Pawcatuck economy

New zone designation approved to help spur downtown Pawcatuck economy

The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — Downtown Pawcatuck will soon have its own zoning district known as Pawcatuck Village or PV-5.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the creation of the new district in a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday. Commissioners David Rathbun, chair; Curtis Lynch, vice chair; Ben Philbrick and Gardener Young voted in favor, and Lynn Conway voted against the zone.

The new zone, effective Oct. 9, will comprise downtown Pawcatuck, which was zoned as DB-5, or Development Area Zone; it will also carve out a portion of the LS-5, Local Shopping Zone, located west of downtown Pawcatuck, bordered approximately by Lincoln Street, Lester Avenue, Mitchell Street, and Mechanic Street.

The zoning change is intended to revitalize the downtown area, which had been held back from redevelopment by some of the DB-5 regulations. Currently, Mystic, downtown Pawcatuck, and a small area outside Stonington Borough are zoned DB-5.

On March 27, the Department of Planning and the Economic Development Commission held a neighborhood meeting with property owners and abutters to discuss the concept of the PV-5 district. During a mapping exercise, the majority of participants indicated a preference for extending the new zone to replace all of the current DB-5 zone and the adjacent LS-5 commercial zone.

According to planning department staff, the three most significant development opportunities in the PV-5 zone are the former grain elevator building at 27 West Broad St., a 1.7 acre parcel; 17-21 Liberty St., comprising 1.3 acres; and the Jameson Court residential subdivision comprising 2.2 acres, which was approved but never built.

The area’s largest property, the 5.7 acre “Circus Lot” located at the end of Noyes Avenue and owned by the Town of Westerly, cannot be developed because it is limited by deed to water production purposes and contains mostly wetlands.

The zone change will not affect the Prospect Place condominiums on Mechanic Street, which are zoned NDD or Neighborhood Development District; the Mechanic Street Mills, which were rezoned to the new HM district earlier this year; any other DB-5 or LS-5 areas in Stonington; and, any residential zone.

Approximately 88 percent of the properties in the new PV-5 district were built prior to 1961, the same year zoning was adopted in Stonington, according to the planning department.

The Economic Development Commission looked at potential tax revenue that could be gained in the PV-5 zone and found that if 25 to 50 percent of the properties were redeveloped, the town would see an increase of about $226,000 to $470,000 of potential annual tax revenue.

Kevin Bowdler, economic commission member, told the planning commission that the 99 properties in the new PV-5 zone represent less than 1 percent of Stonington’s grand list.

“That’s an indication of how depressed the area is,” Bowdler said. “There is not a silver bullet for having downtown Pawcatuck become as vibrant as Mystic, but we should give Pawcatuck an opportunity to [do so].”

Carlene Donnarummo, of Pawcatuck, asked the commission to delete the LS-5 portion of the proposal because she was concerned about the PV-5 height allowances of 50 feet with the possibility of 70 feet by special permit.

Conway said she was against the proposal because it would allow staff administrative approval for a number of uses.

“It does not give the public the ability to comment to the commission and state their pros or cons about a particular use and I think that’s something that wherever you live, you should have the right [to do],” she said. “It’s taking the right of due process away from residents in that district; fundamentally it’s not a good thing.”

Young said if the need arose, changes could be made to the PV-5 zone.

“We’ll get redevelopment going and if we don’t like it in three to five years, we can revisit it and change it,” he said.


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