Norton Auto & Marine Services has been a fixture at 185 Main Street in Niantic for years but that's about to change. Last night, the East Lyme Zoning Commission approved a special permit to allow Tim Norton to demolish the existing structures to create a new mixed use development of housing and retail space on the site.
The plan is to build a three-storey building, with eight two-bedroom and two one-bedroom units on the top floors that will have windows and balconies offering unobstructed views of Niantic Bay. The ground floor will offer four new commercial spaces and a carport for residents, with a total of 41 parking spaces on the site accessible from an entrance off Grand Street.
The plan more than meets the town's zoning regulations, exceeding the minimum requirements for parking, lot size, and square footage for residences. The proposal was unanimously approved by the commission and by neighbors, who had nothing but praise for the new development.
The design was planned specifically to blend in with Niantic's Streetscape project, with comparable sidewalks and the same kind of street lights to extend Main Street toward the Niantic River Bridge. That sat particularly well with Dan Walsh, president of Niantic Main Street, who spoke in favor of the idea.
Construction is slated to begin in the spring and should be completed within 12 to 14 months.
"I'm an avid supporter of mixed use," said Zoning Chairman Marc Salerno, adding that more people living downtown help support local businesses. "It's a well thought-out project. It's going to be a nice addition."
A New Store Moves Into The Former Home of Holdridge Nursery
The Zoning Commission also approved a special permit to allow a wholesale/retail building supply company to operate at 206 Boston Post Road, the former home of Holdridge Nursery Company which closed last year.
The company, Crotur LLC, is currently based in Essex but is looking to expand and make East Lyme its permanent home. Crotur sells cabinets, windows, shingles, and siding, predominently to contractors but it plans to use the space as a showroom and does sell directly to homeowners.
Company owners told the commission that they expect very little traffic, however, as their stock arrives prepackaged and is typically sent directly to contractors who buy from them wholesale. This low-impact operation won't involve any major structural changes to the site but the company does plan to revamp the building, which has deteriorated since Holdridge moved out.
Cosmetic improvements will include a new roof, new windows, and new doors. As this is what the company sells, the owners noted they're in a pretty good position to make that happen fast.
Businesses Booming, Housing Expanding
East Lyme Zoning Official William Mulholland said his phone is ringing on a regular basis these days, as existing businesses look to remodel and new businesses seek to move into town.
At the previous Zoning Commission meeting, members approved plans for a drive-through operation at what will be a newly-remodeled gas station at the existing Henny Penny on Route 156. The gas station will be completely remodeled, with architectural details such as gable ends for the roof over the gas pumps. The newly-expanded facility will also include a drive through restaurant.
The Commission also approved a permit to allow a new fast-food restaurant, the Lazy Burrito, to move into an existing space on Flanders Road.
Mulholland and First Selectman Paul Formica say the Gateway Project, which is a public-private partnership involving the Department of Transportation and private developers, is also kicking back into gear this year. The goal of the Gateway is to reconfigure the on and off ramps at Exit 74 to improve the traffic flow and to create a largescale mixed use development of residential housing and retail space around it.
Affordable housing developments are also pending before the Zoning Commission. At its next meeting, scheduled for January 17, the Commission will hold a public hearing on an application for a special permit from Theodore A. Harris, agent for JAG Capital Drive, LLC, which proposes to develop 69 residential units of affordable housing in the current light industrial zone at West Main Street/Capital Drive in East Lyme.
All in all, it seems that business is booming in East Lyme.