STONINGTON — Next month’s Mystic Eats Riverside Food Festival has become a casualty of the Smiler’s Wharf controversy.
Organizers of the event announced Friday that they were “no longer permitted use of the Seaport Marine property, which includes our ‘beer shed’ and live music tented area.”
“We have explored other options and were unsuccessful at finding a replacement venue with such short notice that could accommodate the many moving parts that make up our event,” the organizing committee said.
The developers of the proposed Smiler’s Wharf project at the downtown Mystic waterfront withdrew their application for the project on July 16, and a hearing before the Stonington Planning & Zoning Commission was canceled.
At the time, applicant John Holstein said that his company was “caught off guard” by the vehemence of public opposition to the project, which called for transforming most of the 11-acre Seaport Marine site into a hotel-apartment-townhouse development with a new boat basin, boardwalk, public parking and other amenities. To do so, Seaport Marine needed to have its zoning changed from marine commercial to a neighborhood development district, but there were objections both in its immediate neighborhood and from some local businesses.
“We especially feel that the comments of some select opponents, which have been fundamentally unfair and directed personally, are divisive and damaging to the reputation of our close-knit community,” Holstein wrote.
Harry Boardsen and Abbey Holstein, who manage Noank Shipyard and Seaport Marine, had proposed the project south of Cottrell Street in May 2018. The businesses are owned by the Holstein family of Stonington. Much of the Stonington property is taken up by old warehouses.
In an email to the committee on Thursday, according to a report in The Day, Boardsen singled out opposition from the Downtown Mystic Merchants group, which runs Mystic Eats and other events such as the Pirate Invasion and Holiday Stroll. He also stated that critical “commentators” could be found on the Mystic River Park Commission and Stonington Community Forum, alluding to “a venomous vocal minority.”
In addition to canceling its involvement in the Sept. 6 to 8 event, Boardsen’s message said the owners had also decided not to allow charities such as the Knights of Columbus to use its property for parking.
In its announcement, the Mystic Eats committee said, “We appreciate the support from our community of hardworking volunteers, vendors, sponsors and devoted attendees through the years and hope to re-imagine the event in time for next summer.”