STONINGTON — The Stonington Architectural Design Review Board on Monday conditionally approved a site plan for two new hotels proposed off Coogan Boulevard in Mystic.
The applicant, J&H Hospitality LLC, is asking for site plan approval and a zoning change to construct the hotels, which would have 217 rooms and a footprint of 142,170 square feet.
J&H plans to build the first Homewood Suites hotel with 97 rooms as soon as it gets all the approvals. The second hotel, which is not yet in the design stage, would be built in five to six years, according to ZDS of Providence, professional consultants for the applicant.
J&H is asking for a zoning change from TC-80, Tourist Commercial, to NDD, Neighborhood Development District, which is a floating zone. A floating zone can be used only in conjunction with a master plan and is intended to give flexibility to the plan and allow neighbors to work with the development team for a mutually beneficial outcome.
The board specified conditional approval of the site plan because members were dissatisfied with the facade of the structure as presented.
“This will fit in Wichita Falls, where I was last month,” board member Leslie Driscoll said. “I don’t know why we have to default to something like this in this town off the coast here. We’re not just some town off the highway … we’re a destination here.”
“There’s a building boom in this town,” Driscoll added, “and there’s just not a lot of room downtown for all the tourists who want to stay. We can’t just be indefinitely building hotels.”
Board members agreed that the facade needed more interesting features, such as texture changes with stone.
“I think the addition of more stone in the frieze is good because it generally has more of a bland look to me,” board member Ellizabeth Brummund said, “which in a way is better than the hotel in front of it. But maybe something with just a little more visual interest.”
Driscoll said, “I don’t mind a hotel being there, but throw some clapboards on it and some gables, so you can make it look a little more New Englandy. It doesn’t have to look like something off a highway in Anywhere, USA.”
Chris Henderson, a project architect with ZDS, said that expensive changes could affect the price of hotel rooms. “If we drive too much stone into this, we may drive the cost up a little bit, then they might go elsewhere.”
After the discussion, Vice Chairman Christopher Thorp made a motion to approve the site plan “with stipulations that alternative elevations be submitted that respond to the elements of vernacular expressed by the board.”
Town Planner Keith Brynes said after the meeting that the NDD zone change gives the project more flexibility than the current zoning, such as not requiring a 50-foot buffer zone and relaxing restrictions on the number of hotel rooms. He also noted that a regulation allowing a TC-80 zone to be changed to NDD was approved last year.
The site, which borders McQuade’s Marketplace and Coogan Nature and Heritage Center, has already been cleared. The developer also owns the Holiday Inn Express on Coogan Boulevard, to the north of the proposed project.
A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 18. The plan must go before the Planning & Zoning Commission for final approval.
A Coogan Boulevard Streetscape was included in a capital improvement request by the Town of Stonington Planning Department in December 2018. The project, estimated to cost $1.2 million, would involve “developing a new roadway design and streetscape that properly accommodates and encourages pedestrian and bicycle modalities.”