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What is the Milltown Commons project summary?

The vision of Milltown Commons is for the creation of a community where people may leave their homes and be within walking distance of workplaces, shopping, recreation, and other community activities within a traditional New England village setting. The new "Hamlet" will include retail, services, office space, restaurants, a hotel or Inn, apartments, townhouses, single family homes, village greens, natural open spaces and recreational facilities. The wide variety of residential types and sizes is intended to appeal to a diversity of age groups, family types and incomes. As much of the natural environment as possible will be preserved as open space with existing and new hiking trails developed for access within the site and to the adjacent state forest. Sustainability and conservation will guide the development of the site and the selection of landscape materials.

How was the concept of Milltown Commons developed?

The plans for a multi-use village on the northwest corner of the rotary were originally developed by Robert Hayward in 1998 culminating with a submission to the Planning & Zoning Commission in 2000. At that time, the Plan of Development was not finished and the Commission felt that all the ideas had merit, but more time would be required to optimize the design and zoning. Robert was joined in his project by Skip Hayward and Alan Pesch in 2005. Multiple submissions to the Planning and Zoning Commission were attempted to write a text amendment allowing multi-use and floating zone applications. Some of the language has been written by the Town Attorneys and Town Planners, and some by the developers. In 2007, progress was made by working with the town, town planner, staff and the commission through several meetings to devise a text amendment of the zoning regulations. However, it was not until September of 2010 that a final text amendment was approved, allowing for the submission of a master plan for the Milltown Commons project.

What is the zoning process for this design?

A text amendment to the zoning regulations enables an applicant to apply for a specific project, which is termed “landing the zone”.  The zone is designed to be in the northwest corner of the rotary for .8 miles from the center of the rotary. The advantages to the Town and the developer of this type of approach are that it allows a two step process.  The developer will present a Master Plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission.  At this stage, the Planning and Zoning Commission has legislative authority to approve or not approve this master plan. It is not bound by the zoning regulations although they form the framework and guidelines for the applicant. When the applicant varies with a creative design from the zoning regulations, the Planning and Zoning Commission has complete authority to simply say no. This is an open design process which is interactive with the zoning commission and the townspeople in the public meetings, and provides a creative environment that is interactive and participative with everyone in the town. That is where you come in. Your attendance when we apply for a master plan, and our eventual site plans, is participative. You have an ability to state your opinions and provide guidance and/or concurrence with the master plan design. We are attempting to build a multi-use village for the town of North Stonington , in the town of North Stonington , with the people of North Stonington .

Are there any other towns utilizing this type of regulation?

The mixed use design and two step process is perhaps the newest type of performance zoning occurring in the United States today. It represents a trend of living together versus apart.  It addresses the multifaceted population for young single people, to those just married, to those raising a family, to the empty nesters, and finally those requiring assisted living. In brief, it’s a community representing all the people across their life span. This design avoids strip zoning and multiple curb cuts as presently exist on Rt. 2, and the internal circulation is walking, bikes, and golf carts, via walking paths. The concept is recently approved by the CT state courts and a similar application is occurring in Storrs , CT.   Groton, CT and Storrs, CT have recently approved similar mixed use floating zone regulations. North Stonington will be one of the leading examples of modern performance zoning through the actualization of this program. See Hartford Courant article dated 11/28/2007.

Why do you believe this agrees with the Plan of Development?

The Plan of Development is an all encompassing plan and it addresses different lifestyles for various areas of the town. We believe there is some confusion when people look at the Plan of Development for their area of town and don’t carefully read with interest how other areas of the town were envisioned to be developed. The mixed use application is explained and advocated on page 22; the multiple levels of housing, available and pricing diversity, providing seniors access to services on page 26; integrating commercial development and retail to be able to balance the tax impact while having a primarily residential village environment, page 27-28; and page 56 the mixed use zone overlay application that we are proposing to utilize and congregate care for our elderly, all located within the same community.

Why have you selected the rotary as a development area?

Again if you read the Plan of Development pages 36-37 and 53, “that mixed use is advocated in Industrial and OR zones near I-95. It should be pedestrian oriented, have a variety of housing, its uses should include OR, light manufacturing, retail and housing and the development concept should use performance standards and general design guidelines”; all of which we are utilizing. The previous Town Planner and current Town Planner have advocated the site in testimony before the Commission and the studies by experts of the various town commissions shown in the references section of this website also advocate the development at the rotary. Finally, over approximately 40 acres of Milltown’s 180 acre application is in the present OR zone.  The integrated commercial development of Milltown Commons is primarily in that underlying OR zone in any case.

Can you explain the benefits to the Town from this project?

We can offer a brief list of factual references as we view them.

1. We intend to develop a true community in a New England setting, not just a bedroom community of independent households. The advantages of this are the integration of commercial and residential, where the places to shop, work, and recreate are all integrated in the same setting, not requiring vehicle access. The concept goes beyond a sub-division in the sense that the other aspects of our lives are integrated within the same setting.

2. This type of application generates a low school age population as opposed to single family housing. A child in the school system costs a little over $12,000 a year and single family housing is a far greater generator of school age population than in our mixed communities with apartments and seniors. This is well demonstrated in studies of similar applications in Norwich and Groton by experts who have studied the demographics of these types of developments. We have approximately 21 single family homes within the development, however the majority are in condominium, town house, and apartments and individual smaller homes in a village setting. The balance of commercial and residential context will provide an benefit to the tax burden and, by our calculations, generate a $1 million dollar tax surplus over expenses for this development to the town.

3. Part of this development is a congregate care facility for our seniors in town. The facility is on a major bus line and care services and retail applications are all available within a walking environment. The seniors in North Stonington will have a place to remain within the community and yes, you too may end up being a senior, if not already.

4. Recreation. The facility has multiple town greens and over 60 acres of open space, walking paths that connect to the Mashantucket Land Trust through our property to the State forest leading to the fire house and on to the Blue Trail. Walking paths and access will continue to be available and improved use of the State forest will result from this project.

5. This design counters the strip development currently found on Rt. 2. Each of the businesses on Rt. 2 have a curb cut with the increased potential for accidents, congestion, and, while the businesses have visibility from Rt. 2, they simply are common strip developments that no one wants, but are a reality of our present zoning. The development of the retail and commercial internal to Milltown Commons will have three curb cuts: one on Rt. 2 and two on Rt.184.  This type of circulation was advocated by Wilbur Smith Associates and their study of traffic and Rt. 2 as commissioned by the Town. It provides a bypass around the rotary and, more importantly, eases the congestion of development in the region.

6. Finally, civic facilities are intended to be developed in Milltown including town greens for meetings, and potentially the location of town facilities.

Does this mean we’re going to have a Wal-Mart in the village?

Quite the contrary; no large box development is allowed in the zoning.  Instead, small retail, a grocery market, a small 50+ room boutique hotel, outdoor cafes, all New England village architecture pre-approved through the submission of a pattern book in the master plan phase, will characterize the design of Milltown Commons.

How can I participate in the design?

There are a number of ways you can participate. You can ask us questions, come into our offices, look at the design, and give us your comments. Or, you can attend a public hearing when we present the master and site plans. There is a small contingent of townspeople who are represented at these meetings and they control, through their attendance and outspoken opinions, what the Town of North Stonington will look like. If you don’t have the time to attend theses meetings as they do, and have a firm opinion on what should be developed and how it should be done, you can write a letter to the Commission in support of our design guidelines. But, the bottom line is that the only way you will change the face of North Stonington to a town that you want to live in and is economically sustainable in it’s tax base is to come to the meetings.

What are our alternatives to Milltown Commons?

We have looked at the alternatives for the development of this site for almost a decade. The zoning allowed single family housing on the majority of the property and additional OR and light manufacturing on approximately 40 of the 178 acres. Build out in single family and duplexes, very similar to the Milltown design without the tax benefit of commercial and retail development, will result in approximately 175 to 200 homes. This is very similar to the density proposed by Milltown Commons but without the tax generating benefits of the retail and commercial or the village environment, town greens, walking trails and senior housing that Milltown brings to the table. Another alternative is affordable housing which, while seeming a bad word, is not really that horrendous. It basically would allow developers to build out the housing allowing approximately 30% of it to be utilized by people with incomes slightly less than the state average of $60,000 a year. Our view is that includes a lot of people. The advantage to the developer is that there are literally no rules with respect to approvals and zoning other than health and safety issues. The town would have little or no control of the design, and would end up with the additional burdens of road maintenance with both single family and affordable housing. We, as developers, are most interested in doing something on a scale that represents our reputations and what we have done in the past. Certainly, the development of the buildings in the Northwest corner of the rotary have been a benefit to the town architecturally and has generated millions of dollars in tax revenue with very little town tax impact. The design and development of Foxwoods, whether you like the gaming or not, is a beautiful facility and very well done. Alan Pesch, Skip Hayward, and Bob Hayward are the people that are developing Milltown Commons. We are not interested in a poor quality development and, historically, we have done nothing but demonstrate to the town our capability to do exactly the opposite; quality building. This represents our interests today, and we only hope that it is shared by the community.  We are local people with a track record of quality and will continue to adhere to our principles of quality. Milltown Commons is the best use for this site, and the site is the best place for Milltown Commons.

What are the design concepts?

Higher density-mixed use development vs. typical sub-division under current zoning.

  • New Urbanism as a response to current planning
    • Cohesive architecture
    • Community oriented
    • Pedestrian friendly
  • Increased commercial tax base
  • Increased open space
  • Community-neighborhood atmosphere
  • Sense of "Place"
  • Appeals to diverse age groups, family types. incomes
  • Multiple housing types
    • Single family residence
    • Multi-family condominium
    • Apartment

New England Village Setting

  • Tree lined streets of varying widths
  • Consistent and appropriate architectural character
  • Placement of buildings in blocks
  • Compact scale/density
  • Village greens
  • Driveways, garages, and public parking generally at rear of buildings or internal to block

Pedestrian Friendly

  • Walk to work, shopping, restaurants, community activities
  • Tree lined sidewalks
  • Hiking trails
  • Village greens

Sustainable Design

  • Higher density development
  • Preservation of open space
  • Pedestrian friendly - encourages foot and bike traffic
  • Encourage sustainable building strategies where technically and economically feasible