STONINGTON — Different venue, same result.
It was another packed house at Stonington High School Monday night to hear a presentation of the proposed Smiler’s Wharf project to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
The meeting had to be postponed and moved to the high school after too many people showed up at Mystic Middle School for the May 28 meeting. As was planned for the previous meeting, designers of the project made a presentation, which was followed by public comments. Monday’s meeting ran to 11 p.m. but due to the large crowd, many who signed up to speak did not have the opportunity, so the meeting was continued to July 8 at 7 p.m. at the high school.
Smiler’s Wharf applicant Harry Boardsen said Tuesday that it was “overall a good meeting.”
“We got through our presentation and then they moved into public comment,” Boardsen said. “We walked away with a positive feeling.”
“Technically this was our sixth public hearing, but our first commission hearing,” Boardsen said. “There’s been a lot of mischaracterization of the project by the press in the last weeks.”
Boardsen manages Seaport Marine and Noank Shipyard along with his wife, Abbey Holstein. The couple initiated the project about seven years ago, completing its first phase with construction of Red36 restaurant at 2 Washington St., about five years ago. The next phase of the project, which includes a hotel, restaurant, residences and a boat basin, would be phased in over the next five years.
The plan also includes an 875-foot boardwalk that would connect with the Mystic River Park boardwalk and would provide over 300 new on-site parking spaces. It has been controversial because it could affect downtown traffic patterns and require added sewage capacity. There has also been debate over the heights of the buildings.
Last month, in a letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Brian Thompson of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the project as proposed does not comply with coastal management law or the town's development plan, and would pose a potential threat to life and property in the event of storms or rising sea levels.
The project is still seeking approval for a zoning change from MC-80, or Marine Commercial, to NDD, or Neighborhood Development District.