STONINGTON — The Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee voted unanimously Monday to send the park’s master plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a public hearing that would likely take place in February.
In September 2016, voters approved a $2.2 million bond to purchase the 1.2-acre property, and the town purchased the land for $1.67 million in January 2017. Located at 123 Greenmanville Ave., the site was formed by coal slag dumped from the J. Rossie Velvet Mill, which opened in 1898 across the street.
The vote moves the plan for the physical site to its next approval phase, but leaves the design of the boathouse as an empty space, said Jason Vincent, director of planning, who attended the committee meeting at the police station Monday.
“If you can, picture a three-dimensional box on the property that at a future date will get colored in,” he said.
Public opinion of the contemporary boathouse design created by Anmahian Winton Architects of Cambridge, Mass., has been met with some public disapproval as not fitting in with the historic neighborhood. After receiving feedback at a public meeting Saturday, Representatives of Friends of Stonington Crew, the nonprofit that is funding the $2.5 million boathouse, said the modern design may be changed to reflect the area’s maritime and New England heritage.
On Wednesday, Chad Frost, of Kent+Frost Landscape Architecture, the firm designing the park, will meet with representatives of the state Historic Preservation Office and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The historic office will evaluate and determine the future of a house and a warehouse located on the site, which is in a historic district. The two buildings are classified as “contributing factors” to the district, but both are in dilapidated condition.
“We’ll get a feel for how significant or not significant the structures are,” Frost said.
Last week, the town submitted its application to the historic office detailing a plan to either demolish or move the two buildings, Frost said.
“There’s not an ironclad answer; it will be a discussion,” he said of how the historic office may rule on the two buildings.
The discussions will also help define the cost of the project, he said.
“We will have a better idea of what the state will reimburse,” he said “Along with the anticipated costs, it will let us narrow in on the numbers.”
Resident Paul Sartor, who attended Monday’s meeting, said he was in support of the project but the public had a right to know the costs up front.
“I don’t see any reasonable reason why you don’t have those costs yet,” he said. “The public has no idea, is it $500,000 or $1 million or $2 million? That’s something that we should know. There’s no way your architect doesn’t know the costs. The public can handle it.”
The project has a number of moving parts, including environmental remediation of the coal slag that created the park itself, but the master plan is the linchpin for beginning the process, said Frost.
“We cannot open to the public without remediating coal slag, and couldn’t start that without the master plan,” he said.
Dovetailing the remediation with construction of some of the park components is a money- and time-saving idea that Frost and Vincent hope to implement.
“We’re combining a two-step process, making the final design part of the solution,” said Frost. “Parking is part of the cap for areas of contamination and the slab foundation and fill are all part of the cap. We’re hitting two birds with one stone.”
Vincent said using the master plan as a vision for remediation was an unusual and innovative approach.
“It’s not the typical way of doing things with DEEP,” said Vincent. “This way we will not build and redo and rebuild again.”