Mystic - For the past decade, Mystic Aquarium researchers have been crammed into several trailers next to the Aquatic Animal Study Center.
Now, they're going to get a spacious new building.
On Tuesday night, the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a special permit needed to build the long-awaited facility.
Tracy Romano, the aquarium's vice president for research, has said the 3,600-square-foot, two-story research center building will help the aquarium expand its extensive research program and consolidate it under one roof. The trailers are not only too small but require researchers to travel between them and the study center. Once the new building is open, the trailers will be removed.
The $1.2 million project calls for erecting a pre-engineered metal building in the gravel lot on the northern end of the 18-acre property next to the Aquatic Animal Study Center.
The commission had delayed closing the public hearing and making a decision after it opened testimony July 17 because members wanted information about the project's water supply and a report from the Old Mystic fire marshal. The aquarium has since presented the commission with a letter from the Aquarion Water Co. that said there is adequate water supply for the building and a letter from the fire marshal who had no concerns except to inspect propane tanks when they are installed.
Aquarium researchers primarily study the effect of environmental stressors such as climate change and noise on animals in the wild and in controlled environments such as the aquarium.
They also study the blood samples and immune system of animals and are cloning the immune system genes of beluga whales and dolphins.
Also at Tuesday's commission meeting, Mystic Seaport requested that its public hearing, slated for Tuesday night, be continued to Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Mystic Middle School.
The museum is seeking to revise its Marine Heritage District master plan to allow construction of a 20,000-square-foot exhibit building on the north end of the museum grounds overlooking Anchor Square, where the annual Christmas carol sing is held.
The application states that the Seaport needs more exhibit space because it is limited in its ability to display items from its vast collection and traveling exhibits.
To make room for the building, the museum would demolish the Packard Cabin and North Boat Shed as well as a portion of the G.W. Blunt White Library, which has extensive moisture damage from basement flooding. A portion of the library building would become part of a new visitor entry and ticketing pavilion at the north entrance.