In a boisterous meeting Monday night held at the Shoreline Community Center on Hartford Ave. Old Lyme, more than 60 people gathered to hear the latest information on the Sound View Improvement Project. With her fellow members of the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen, members of the Sound View Improvement Committee (SVIC) and representatives of the engineering firm of BSC of Glastonbury seated behind her, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder made a presentation covering where the project stands currently.
Noting that construction is expected to begin after Labor Day this year and continue through early December 2016, then “shut down [and re-start in early 2017] and finish in early spring ,” Reemsnyder noted that the final design is “close to going out to bid.” She anticipates a town meeting this summer on July 16 to approve the Town of Old Lyme’s 20 percent share of the cost of the improvements estimated at $148,000. The remaining 80 percent of the cost is being funded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT).
The improvements, which originally included a park (named Sound View Green) and upgraded restrooms that have both now been removed from the plan due to budget overruns, comprise the reinstatement of horizontal parking on Hartford Avenue, sidewalks expanded from 3 ft. to 6 ft., lighting, plantings, bike racks and the addition of curbs and bump-outs. The proposed plans do not include the much discussed bike path on Rte. 156 that is planned to connect the Baldwin Bridge with Sound View because Rte. 156 is a state road and therefore, the state must carry out those upgrades. Reemsnyder noted, “It is likely the town will finish their portion before the state.”
Reactions to the project ran the gamut from those who were delighted with the proposals to those who expressed anger and frustration about them. Mary Hyland – a seasonal resident of Portland Ave., which runs parallel to Hartford Avenue, whose family has been in Sound View for 70 years – said, “You’re doing a great job,” adding that she was, “Very, very pleased with what’s going on.” In contrast, Deb Corto, whose son, Lenny, operates, “Lenny’s on the Beach” at the southern end of Hartford Ave., complained she would likely lose $72,000 in business “over the season” due to the reduction in the number of parking spaces resulting from the proposed plans. She demanded forcefully, “I want the [eliminated] 22 spaces reinstated.”
Frank Pappalardo, a member of the SVIC, countered Corto’s comments pointing out that the owner of the ‘Lenny’s on the Beach’ property, Frank Noe, had written to the committee in support of the proposals. Pappalardo quoted from Noe’s letter, saying, “The street is in dire need of new sidewalks, better lighting, … these streetscape improvements are well overdue after many years of neglect.” Noe concluded in his letter that Pappalardo read, “I urge everyone to strongly support the efforts by the Sound View Improvement Committee.”
In contrast, a town resident opposed to the reduction of parking spots complained that on busy summer days at the beach, even with the current number of parking spots, “I can’t park at my own beach.” He questioned why the committee had not presented any numbers regarding bike usage at Sound View and stated, “[At} Every meeting, if you don’t like what we say, you shut us down.”
Lenny Corto, who operates “Lenny’s on the beach,” asked Reemsnyder, “How can you maintain a new streetscape when you can’t maintain the current one?” continuing, “It’s clear what you’re doing … it’s totally against all commercial business.”
Reemsnyder responded, “I have to disagree with [Corto’s comment about] Public Works’s ability to maintain things,” adding, “This really was an effort to improve the area.”
Dino Dinino questioned why the sidewalk was being increased from 3 ft. to 6 ft. to which Reemsnyder responded that it was a requirement in order to receive the state funding.
Jim Lampos, another member of the SVIC, expressed his support for the proposals saying, “There is incredible potential here. The Town hasn’t invested here for years. This [the proposal] is going to benefit everybody.” He commented, “Right now, parking is an issue 10 days a year,” adding, “The parking is half empty the rest of the time.”
When Reemsnyder called for a motion to close the meeting, some members of the audience objected with one shouting, “We’re not done,” but the motion was successfully seconded and approved.
After the meeting, Lenny Corto told LymeLine that he agreed, “The street needs work,” but commented, “They’ve cut out the bathrooms, the park, the lighting and they’re still over budget. All we’re getting is sidewalks, bike paths and trees.” Meanwhile, Hyland expressed a different opinion to LymeLine about the proposed plans, saying simply, ”It’s about time.”