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At the March 2 Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, the Station’s Landing developer pulled one of two applications before the commission. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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With the clock running out on an application that had several gaps, the developer behind the proposed redevelopment of the former Unilever property has pulled—for now—the application to put a brewery in a portion of the former headquarters building. A separate application for apartments on the property has been continued to another public hearing on Monday, April 6 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.
At the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) public hearing on March 2, developer Michael Massimino informed the commission that he was withdrawing his application to construct a brewery on the former Unilever property due to the timeline for the state to review an application for historic building preservation. Massimino said that review is expected to last into the summer, which would go beyond the allowed duration the PZC is able to keep an application open for.
“I want to assure you we will be coming back,” Massimino told the commission regarding the brewery application.
The application had opened for public hearing in February, but was continued to March because the application was lacking information such as studies related to the septic system, traffic flows, and lighting. The lack of the required information had alarmed some members of the commission as well as the land use office.
Massimino said that the some of the needed documentation was dependent on the pending historic preservation application and thus could not be submitted until that application was reviewed. If the required studies were not yet completed when the public hearings were closed, the PZC would have been forced to deny the applications as incomplete.
The commission has 35 days from the opening of a public hearing to close the application, and 65 days following the closure of a public hearing to render a decision. However, applicants have 65 days of possible extensions that can be requested at any time.
Clinton’s consultant planner John Guszkowski explained to the Harbor News why a developer would want the historic preservation review.
“If the building is deemed to be historic—i.e. it is on the National Register of Historic Places—then some of the cost of improving/restoring the building can be reimbursed through tax credits. There are many conditions about the materials allowed to be used and the specific architectural character of the building to be maintained, but many developers believe that the tax credits are worth the cost and time of that documentation,” said Guszkowski.
The now withdrawn application listed Kinsmen Brewing Co. as the potential tenant. Plans for the brewery showed a taproom, banquet hall, brewing area, and kitchen on the first floor in addition to offices and storage areas. The proposal featured a large outdoor patio on the first floor and an upstairs with a mezzanine and lounge area. Massimino said that he had met with the brewery operators and kept them in the loop with the process and that they were on board.
At the same public hearing, Massimino addressed the PZC about his application to build 41 apartments in an old office building on the former Unilever property. The building is currently two stories, but the developers would build an additional floor per the application.
The apartment application public hearing was also continued from February and also lacked septic and traffic studies. A traffic study was submitted to the PZC in time for the March hearing and a septic plan is being reviewed.
The traffic study considered the entire future development of the site, not just the impacts the apartments would have. Christopher Gagnon, an agent for the development, said the apartments themselves would not generate much traffic.
The public hearing initially had a large crowd at the start, but due to a packed agenda, more than three hours had passed by the time the Unilever applications were brought up. By that time,most of the crowd had dissipated and thus there was limited input from the public.
No members of the public spoke in favor of the application. Attorney Keith Ainsworth spoke in opposition to the application. Ainsworth has been retained by resident Judy Rasmussen who lived on John Street and directly abuts the property. Rasmussen has intervened on the application due to concerns she has that future development could affect her property and the neighborhood.
Ainsworth noted that while he spoke in opposition to the application, he and the developer had held “very collegial and productive conversations” over the application. While Ainsworth did say that some of the materials turned in by the developer such as the lightning plan had satisfied his initial concerns, he still was worried about the traffic flow, particularly on John Street.
Phil Sengle spoke against the application but did say he was in favor of the development of the site. Sengle’s objections were that he felt more information regarding the overall site plan was needed and that apartments would not generate as much tax revenue as other types of development.
The PZC asked the developer’s representatives if they were comfortable with continuing the meeting until April so that the commission could review more information related to stormwater systems and the septic design. Massimino agreed to the request. Massimino declined to comment on the public hearing.
Massimino has become a familiar face in front of the PZC since summer 2019. In fall 2019, the developer was granted permission from the PZC to use a portion of the property for an indoor turf field after several public hearings. In January, the developer announced his plans for the withdrawn brewery application and the apartments. The project was then officially titled Station’s Landing. The total proposed development consists of a brewery, a recreation area, residences, and a commercial work area.
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