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An artist's rendering shows the proposed four-building, 55-unit development on Harry Austin Drive in Mystic.

Commission questions revised proposal for Mystic condos

STONINGTON — A public hearing on changes to a proposed 55-unit condominium complex on Harry Austin Drive has been continued to Jan. 28 in order to give the developer time to address questions posed by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Tuesday night’s hearing concerned a project to be located at the site of the former Mystic Color Lab near Masons Island Road. Developer Edgewood Mac LLC was represented by attorney Theodore Ladwig of Pawcatuck.

The developer already has approval from the commission for a two-building development containing 55 units but is now seeking to build four smaller buildings with the same number of units.

“In 2005 and again in 2007 the commission specifically found that 55 residential units is an appropriate use for this site. That fact has been found,” Ladwig said. “We are not looking for an increase in density or units.”

The commission requested a better comparison of the new plan versus the approved one, including scale drawings to compare building heights, a three dimensional model and renderings of how it will look from different locations in the area.

Commission Chairman Ben Tamsky also questioned if the property should be classified as falling under Industrial Heritage Re-Use District regulations. “They are making a new application to apply for an IHRD zone on this site. If there is no mill building, how does it qualify for IHRD designation?” he asked.

Tamsky and commission member Frances Hoffman also noted that the new development lacks a commercial component to tie it into the community, something that is implied in the regulations. Tamsky said, “The original approval barely met those requirements.”

Ladwig noted that with the exception of the Mystic Branch of the Ocean Community YMCA at 1 Harry Austin Drive, the area is residential and the proposal meets this use.

One wall and a brick tower are all that remain of a mill and both are scheduled to be removed as part of the new design. Project architect Timothy Wentz of Pennsylvania said the concept of the tower will be a design element in the new plan.

The new proposal calls for four residential buildings along with a central courtyard that contains a pool and a cabana building. The development sits on 5.5-acres. Each building would have a first floor parking garage at grade and then three additional stories. Some sections could also have an additional loft space. Three of the buildings would have 15-units and one would have 10-units. One exterior wall remains from the Mystic Color Lab but it will be torn down.

There would be two types of two-bedroom units, both approximately 1,500 square feet. The architectural design includes steep roofs, New England-type architecture in stick style, with very large windows, long balconies and a variety of exterior materials such as shingles, planks and bricks.

Wentz said the distance from the parking slab to the midpoint of the roof is 51 feet, and the tower will be at least 62 feet. He also noted that the roof is pitched steeper than originally proposed, a more suitable grade for New England weather. The gross floor area is now 162,000 square feet, an 8 percent decrease from the approved 177,373 square feet.

According to Ladwig, the new design will easier to build and more marketable. It will also allow the developer to build it in smaller portions, making it easier to finance. He also said the proposal has already been seen by the town’s Inland Wetland and Watercourses Commission, the Architectural Commission and the Conservation Commission.

New flood regulations have caused the project to be built at an elevation beginning at 13 feet rather than the original 8.5 feet. A traffic study conducted for the presentation found no significant impacts.

The Jan. 28 meeting will be at 7 p.m. at a location to be determined, possibly Mystic Middle School. If the hearing is not completed at that time it will be continued on Feb. 4.

If the commission ultimately denies the application, the 2005 approval will still be valid.

About 25 members of the public attended the three hour hearing, which was continued before they had a chance to speak. In January 2013, the commission denied a highly contested application for a dental office on a vacant lot on Masons Island Road and Harry Austin Drive.

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