Published October 17. 2012 4:00AM
Mystic - A group seeking approval of a controversial plan to build a dental clinic on land zoned for manufacturing in front of the Ocean Community YMCA at Masons Island Road and Harry Austin Drive outlined its proposal for the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night.
After listening to the two-hour presentation, about 20 opponents of the project told the commission they were worried about the impact it would have on traffic and on the character of their residential neighborhood, and that the clinic appears to be three floors, not two.
Summit Street Development LLC of New London is seeking a special use permit to build the 9,290-square-foot clinic. Although opponents have argued that the 28-foot-tall building actually is three stories, project architect John Walsh told the commission that the building is two stories and that the second floor would not be finished, but would be left open for storage. Commission Chairman Rob Marseglia said he was trying to understand why the building was being constructed with such a large second floor when it won't be used.
The architectural design review board has given a favorable recommendation to the project, which calls for cedar shingles and a pitched roof to give it a residential look. Although zoning regulations require a minimum lot of 80,000 square feet, this lot is about half that. Project attorney Theodore Harris said that because the lot existed prior to zoning, it can be used as long as the project meets other requirements such as setbacks and buffers, which it does. But attorney Harry Heller, who represents a neighboring property owner, disagreed, saying a variance is needed from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The commission also said it would get a legal opinion on that issue and how several other zoning regulations affect the project.
Plans call for 11 exam rooms and 28 parking spots. Three part-time dentists and two hygienists would work in the building, which would be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
The traffic engineer for the project said it would generate 90 vehicles entering and exiting the property each day, a volume he called innocuous.
One resident said the traffic survey does not reflect reality because it was performed in the fall, not during the much busier summer when the intersection of Route 1 and Masons Island Road is very congested.
Masons Island Road resident David Bishop, who lives three houses away, said he cannot see how the lot can accommodate the building because a 100-foot buffer is required from the middle of the two roads that border the site.
Bishop added that the project also is not in keeping with the town's plan of development and the character of the neighborhood.