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Somers seeks $10 million in state money to help campaign donors

May 18, 2019

I’m sorry to say that, after two days of reporting on a tip that state Sen. Heather Somers is trying to secure 10 million request for the Mystic project, she said she didn’t know what I was talking about.

She then said she was in a meeting, would call me back and hung up.

But of course her name is on Senate Bill 638, which broadly proposes bonding up to 10 million request and suggested it was pending before the Bond Commission.

She asked an aide to help, but he wasn’t able to learn the status of things before the end of the day Friday.

You would think Stonington Director of Planning Jason Vincent would know all about a General Assembly bill seeking a 100, while five members of the Holstein family, which owns the Smiler’s Wharf property, each gave Somers 10 million would be spent on, but I would guess it includes the expensive bulkhead that would have to be built anyway for the project. A public access component might also make the state permitting easier.

I believe the development team has been disingenuous for suggesting that they are offering a public access component, without ever disclosing that they are trying to get the public to pay for that.

“Smiler’s Wharf turns private property into a public access,” project architect Meg Lyons was quoted as saying in one meeting. Yes, but there is a price tag on it.

Presumably the state won’t get a cut from all the money that is made on the project.

There are already public paths along both sides of the Mystic River, a public lawn at the Mystic Museum of Art and a wide public park in Stonington. If the Smiler’s Wharf developers want to provide public access, as other developers on the river have done in the past, that’s fine. Let them pay for it, too.

A public hearing on the developer’s request to change the zoning for the sprawling 7-acre project site is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 28, at Mystic Middle School.

I got an email at 5:30 p.m. Friday from Sen. Somers’ press aide which answered some questions and finally acknowledged a pending 10 million in state funding for the town, how about sidewalks in Pawcatuck? That’s a public improvement we all could get behind.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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