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New plan for North Stonington is strong on visuals

NORTH STONINGTON — Imagine what the town could look like if it was developed in the way residents have said they want. There’d be no racetracks or amusement parks or big-box stores, only businesses that look like they belong in a rural New England village.

When town planner Juliet Leeming presents the proposed 2013 Plan of Conservation and Development to the public Thursday night at Wheeler Library, she’ll not only tell the public how the plan could change the town, she’ll show them.

The proposed plan, which Leeming has been working on for more than a year, is a departure from past plans in that Leeming has commissioned drawings of what the town’s undeveloped and underdeveloped areas could look like.

“The town has never been presented with pictures of the future that were this easy to get your mind around, and I think that has been a stumbling block in the past,” Leeming wrote in a press release. “Residents could not envision change so they were kind of afraid of it. With these new pictures, people are intrigued because they can really understand what’s being proposed. We’ve already had some good responses from the owners of properties we’ve re-visioned.”

Among the re-imagined places in town is the vacant commercial building at Exit 93, which is drawn as a farm stand. The open land by Green Onion Pizza would become a mini-village that ties into the adjacent historic village, a shopping area that surrounds a courtyard instead of the highway. Town-owned land on Wintechog Hill would become an art center, community farm, and a starter-home neighborhood.

The property owners had no input in these designs, but Leeming said they were excited when they saw the ideas.

To make the images a reality, the town would need to develop plans for these areas and then shop them to developers, Leeming said, instead of waiting for developers to come to the town with their own plans.

“We want to take control of the future,” Leeming wrote. “This plan is different because we are committed, not just to doing master planning ourselves, but to follow up by marketing what we come up with to developers and getting projects built.”

Copies of the plan are available now at Town Hall, Wheeler Library, and on the town’s government website. The plan will also be available at the meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. Leeming is encouraging residents to come a half hour early for refreshments, and to give those interested time to look at the plan, see large copies of the images, and ask questions. There will be a public hearing after the presentation, and anyone who cannot make the meeting who wants to make a comment can drop off a letter to Leeming at Town Hall, or email her at Wheeler Library is located at 101 Main St.

The Plan of Conservation and Development was last updated in 2003. The state requires towns to update their plans every 10 years.

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