April 24, 2017 10:21AM
By Brooke Constance White
Sun staff writer
STONINGTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission continued a public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed 18,000-square-foot expansion at the Mystic Aquarium, citing concerns with drainage and a desire to see how the $3.5 million addition will fit into the existing campus on Coogan Boulevard.
The hearing will continue at the commission’s meeting on May 2.
Commissioners Fran Hoffman and Curtis Lynch expressed a desire to see a three-dimensional model or superimposed photo showing what the addition will look like and how it will fit into its surroundings.
“We have no assurances that this fits in with the current property,” Lynch said. “A 3-D model would be an important component and I don’t think we should end this until we’ve gotten answers to these questions.”
After learning that Town Engineer Scot Deledda had numerous concerns about the drainage, most of which were addressed just before Tuesday’s meeting, the commission requested more information about the aquarium’s permit from the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which allows it to discharge holding tanks into stormwater drains rather than into the wastewater system.
Hoffman said she wanted more details on the quality of the water the aquarium is discharging. “It’s our responsibility to really make sure we’re looking out for the overall welfare and make sure we understand the context of this project,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of context here and I really think we need it before we make a decision.”
The proposed two-story facility would be called the Milne Center for Ocean Science and Conservation. If all goes according to plan, aquarium officials hope construction will begin next year. The main component of the first floor is supposed to be a large area with holding tanks where new animals would acclimate before moving into the aquarium’s exhibits. The second floor would include a mezzanine overlooking the animal holding area along with three classrooms and offices. The building would be connected to the existing Aquatic Animal Study Center and would have viewing areas and exhibits.
The project is part of the 2020 strategic plan and interdisciplinary model called One Ocean, One Mission.