Mystic — The Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission opened a public hearing Tuesday night on plans by Noank Shipyard, which owns Seaport Marine at the end of Washington Street, to construct an 8,340-square-foot, two-story building that would have a 100-seat restaurant, retail store and other uses such as bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities for marina patrons.
The commission ended testimony at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday. The hearing continues Aug. 21.
The restaurant, which would sit along the Mystic River, would be open until 2 a.m. but would not have any live music or entertainment, according to project attorney William Sweeney. Angela Kanabis, who owns the restaurant Bravo Bravo, would help run the restaurant.
“We run restaurants, not bars. We want a family-friendly restaurant and attract boaters to downtown Mystic. It’s an untapped market,” Kanabis said when asked about the 2 a.m. closing time. In reality, she said, dining would be over by 10:30 p.m. or so.
Sweeney said the gambrel-roofed, cedar-sided building would be a dramatic enhancement to the marina and be an attractive and valuable addition to the Mystic waterfront that would be compatible with the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
He said an 8,000-square-foot warehouse on the 12-acre property has been torn down to provide better access to the property and offset the addition of the new building. While Sweeney said he recognizes there are concerns about traffic, a study has found there would only be a modest increase in traffic during peak periods.
While more than 60 people attended the hearing, the steamy conditions inside the Mystic Middle School cafeteria and the late hour drove many to leave before they had a chance to speak.
A large group of people told the commission they supported the project, which they said would be an asset to the town.
John Johnson, who owns the recently renovated Allen Spool Mill, said he could not endorse the project enough.
“We’d be foolish not to approve it,” he said, adding that it would benefit both his residential and commercial tenants.
Scott Zelken, who owns property one block from the site, said the project would increase access to the water for both tourists and locals and extend the downtown area to the end of Cottrell Street. Tricia Cunningham, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, said her board unanimously supported the project.
Project Manager Harry Boardsen said the development team carefully addressed every detail of the plan after talking to town officials and residents over the past year.
Seven residents of the Washington Street-Jackson Avenue neighborhood where Seaport Marine is located told the commission they were worried about the effect an estimated increase of 260 cars a day would have on narrow Washington Street, which many people use to walk, run, bike and take children to the Mystic River Park playground.
“This is not a place for a restaurant that will increase traffic that much,” said Washington Street resident Michael Crowley.
Paul Sartor of Jackson Avenue said he appreciated the marina owners’ investment in the property, which he said benefits all residents, but said he was concerned about the scope of the project.
Pawcatuck resident Carlene Donnarummo pointed out that the state Office of Long Island Sound Programs has raised concerns about wetlands and water-dependent uses and the commission should address those concerns before making any decision.