The has plans to turn the maritime museum into a year-round destination through a series of upgrades and renovations to the northern part of its campus.
Representatives from the Mystic Seaport and attended the Tuesday night meeting of Stonington’s Planning and Zoning Commission to talk about their upcoming plans and receive clarification on the submittal process.
Official plans will not be submitted until May at the earliest, but the Seaport is hoping, if approved, to construct a new gallery building and enhance the entrance function at their north gate.
The plans will allow the Seaport to tear down the north boat shed as well as the two side wings of the G.W. White Blunt building. The Seaport would renovate the middle head section of the Blunt Building.
The Seaport hopes those changes will transform the north campus into a winter museum where visitors would come to see permanent and traveling exhibitions.
The biggest potential change is a plan for new a vehicle drop off section. While PZC members as a whole seemed to like the idea of a designated drop off space for special needs and handicapped visitors, members raised initial concerns about what it would mean for traffic.
“You’re considerably changing the traffic plan,” PZC Member Ben Tamsky said.
According to the Seaport the state Department of Transportation has already seen the plans for the drop off location off of Route 27, which is a state-owned road. While the Seaport said the CT DOT seemed to approve of the plans the Seaport made it clear those plans were dependent on fundraising.
The PZC agreed Tuesday to let the Seaport proceed with the process by submitting changes to their . The Seaport will submit a site plan at later date and the commission would approve or deny the plan as a separate item. The Seaport said they expect the approval process to take about a year. Submitting the applications separately will allow the Seaport to finalize their plans for the use of the buildings.
About thirty Seaport neighbors showed up to a meeting on Monday night for a sneak peek of the multi-million dollar plan. The Seaport said they invited about 100 neighbors to the meeting in order to get their feedback on the plan.
While neighbors were mostly in support of the plan they did have a number of questions including concerns about the traffic flow, ticket prices for the winter versus the summer season and the design of the buildings.
One neighbor spoke against the design of new gallery building saying "it’s like your dropping the modern museum of art in Sturbridge village."
The Seaport said they want the process to be as open as possible and will continue to hold neighborhood meetings and expect their applications to go to public hearings. According to Mystic Seaport President Stephen White if the commission approves their plans the first shovel won’t hit dirt until late 2013 or early 2014.