March 24, 2017

Letter to the Editor: Old Saybrook Town Officials Says First Priority is Re-Employment of Fortune Plastics Employees

To the Editor:

The announcement by Fortune Plastics of their intended closure in April has left the Old Saybrook and Shoreline Community concerned and disappointed.  Our concern is first and foremost for the over 90 employees of the company who will be losing their employment.  It is also disheartening to see what was once a locally-owned family business leave the State.

Upon hearing the news, our offices began marshaling state and regional resources to work with the company in finding new employment for the workers.  Within a week, the Connecticut Department of Labor Rapid Response Unit organized a Job Fair at Fortune Plastics on March 4.  We also contacted local and regional manufacturers, many with positions to fill.  We will continue to partner with Fortune Plastics to make available any and all human resources in the coming months. 

Fortune Plastic’s 75,000 sf manufacturing facility will also be available for repurpose.  The Town and the Economic Development Commission plan to market the availability of this and other industrial properties so they will be put to back into full and productive use. 

While this is indeed difficult news for all affected employees and the Town, we will continue to be a town that seeks out new business opportunities to benefit workers and residents.

Carl P. Fortuna, Jr. and Susie Beckman
Old Saybrook.

Editor’s Note:  The writers are respectively the First Selectman of Town of Old Saybrook and the
Economic Development Director of the Town of Old Saybrook.

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Town of Old Lyme Sends 82 Pages of Comments on High Speed Rail Proposal to FRA

This past Monday, Feb. 13, Bonnie Reemsnyder, Old Lyme First Selectwoman, sent comments to the NEC Future Policy Advisor, Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, opposing the Old Saybrook, CT to Kenyon, RI bypass. The comments include in-depth remarks about many areas of concern, including

  • Environmental Issues
  • Geologic Features
  • Noise and Vibration
  • Artistic Significance of Old Lyme
  • Old Lyme Historic District
  • Historic Structures
  • Economic Issues.

As the proposed bypass can cause irreparable harm to the economic, cultural and environmental resources of Old Lyme and the other towns along its route, a strategy team was formed that tapped experts on all of these concerns.  The team comprised:

  • Bonnie Reemsnyder, First Selectwoman, Town of Old Lyme
  • Bennett J. Bernblum, Resident and Attorney (Old Lyme Board of Finance)
  • Michael Brown, Resident and Attorney
  • Jack Collins, Resident and Attorney (Town Attorney)
  • Catherine Frank, Executive Assistant to the First Selectwoman
  • Susan Saltonstall Duncan, Resident & Consultant (Rain Making Oasis)
  • David Duncan, Resident and Architect
  • John Forbis, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
  • Sam Gold, Executive Director, Lower CT River Council of Governments
  • Russ Todd, Acoustical Scientist and Engineer, A∙ʹku∙stiks Consulting
  • Claudia Weicker, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

The document includes a lengthy list of references to acknowledge these experts.

Read the cover letter from the Old Lyme First Selectwoman at this link.

Read the 82-page supporting report at this link.  Regarding the report, Reemsnyder notes, “We believe that this document will be a guide for the FRA and NEC Future Team to assure that all areas of concern are fully addressed in Tier 2 of the process.”

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High Speed Train Route Dominates Our 2016 Stories. LymeLine Opinion: Now It’s 2017, What Happens Next?

Rendering by Robin Breeding of the high-speed train in Old Lyme drawn/created to scale.

It’s a New Year, which brings an opportunity to review and reflect on the previous year, and to make plans for the new one. We have covered so many topics throughout 2016 that we decided to enlist the help of Google Analytics to determine which have generated the most interest among our readers.

Our ‘Top 20’ of “Most Viewed Stories” included those covering

But far and away the highest number of pageviews generated in 2016 came from stories related to the proposed high speed rail track. Seven of our ‘Top 20’ stories in 2016 were about one aspect or more of the Federal Rail Authority’s (FRA) high speed train proposal with our 2016 #1 story being Greg Stroud’s Op-Ed piece back in January, which, in our mind, really sparked the whole general awareness of the situation.  That single story generated almost 6,000 pageviews.

This widespread interest in the high speed train route culminated on Dec. 19, 2016 with the announcement by the FRA that, despite more than 1,000 letters of protest from residents of Old Lyme, their Preferred Route was, after all, through Old Lyme … but now in the form of a tunnel. The FRA has, however, also refused to eliminate the possibility of the aerial track that it originally proposed, which seems a likely fall-back position for the FRA since the organization, as far as we know, has done no — yes, that’s zero — research into the practicalities of digging a tunnel under the Connecticut River estuary.

The announcement of the Preferred Route on Dec. 16, 2016 brought with it a 30-day deadline for raising comments, but unlike the comment period that accompanied the initial draft proposal announced back in December 2015, the FRA has no obligation to respond to any of the comments raised.

We know that SECoast.org, the non-profit “organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley,” and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation have together filed for an extension of the 30-day Comment Period by an additional 60 days taking it from Jan. 31 to April 1.  The extension is critical to allow more people to contact the FRA to express their concerns about the route and for more detailed analysis of the proposal to take place.  It is patently clear from the timing of the announcement of the Preferred Route (nine days before Christmas) that the FRA is hoping only a very limited number of people will bother to file comments this time, especially since the FRA is not required to respond to them.  Then they (the FRA) can argue that Old Lyme is not only placated but probably supportive of the proposal.

We also know that our elected representatives US Sen. Richard Blumenthal, US Congressman Joe Courtney, State Sen. Paul Formica (R- 20th), and State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) have all been fully supportive of efforts to persuade the FRA to reconsider the Preferred Route and we are greatly appreciative of their actions.  Similarly, the first selectmen of Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and East Lyme along with some other local state senators and representatives have all publicly denounced the proposal and we much appreciate that too.

There has also recently been a considerable surge of interest and active concern expressed by organizations in Rhode Island.  These include The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island and the Westerly (R.I) Land Trust.

But what has happened here in our own backyard in terms of specific actions to express concern to the FRA regarding the Preferred Route?  We are fully aware that a great deal is surely happening below the radar regarding train route negotiations and respect the need for that, but in the interests of our readers, we have some questions.

  • Have the boards of selectmen of Old Lyme, East Lyme and Old Saybrook also filed for a 60-day extension to the Comment Period and/or approved motions expressing their deep concerns about the proposed route?
  • Have the Connecticut branches of The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Society, the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center or the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and the Old Lyme Land Trust issued any sort of statement regarding the proposed route and/or requested an extension to the Comment Period?
  • And what about the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce and the numerous art and other non-profit organizations in town — have they each written and requested an extension to the Comment Period?

We do know that a team has been appointed by the Old Lyme First Selectwoman to study the impact of the Preferred Alternative, but we do not know who its members are or the nature of their work. We sense a Town Meeting in Old Lyme might be helpful for residents to come together and hear from the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen (BOS) about the work currently being undertaken by the team and how the BOS intends to respond to the FRA Preferred Alternative.

We continue to be passionate supporters of high-speed rail but each one of us is currently watching as, to quote State Rep. Carney, “a dark cloud” hangs over our beautiful and irreplaceable environment, our property prices drop and our town population declines. Therefore our overarching hope for 2017 is that we all pull together to defeat the current route proposal by openly sharing information and acting as a cohesive, effective force against what Sen. Richard Blumenthal has so aptly described as a, “frankly half-baked, hare-brained notion.”

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Groundbreaking Ceremony Celebrates Start of Long-Anticipated Sound View Improvement Project

From left to right, Sound View Improvement Committee members Bonnie Reemsnyder, Frank Pappalardo, Jim Lampos, and MaryJo Nosal dig a ceremonial shovel in the sand at the groundbreaking on Hartford Ave. held Oct. 3.

From left to right, Sound View Improvement Committee members Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo, SVIC members Angelo Faenza, Jim Lampos and Rob Haramut (from RiverCOG), and Old Lyme Selectmen Mary Jo Nosal and Skip Sibley dig a ceremonial shovel in the sand at the groundbreaking on Hartford Ave. held Oct. 3.

The sun shone brightly as town officials, Sound View Improvements Committee (SVIC) members, design and construction personnel and a handful of Sound View residents cheerfully gathered at the flagpole at the foot of Hartford Ave. for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on the long-awaited project to upgrade the street.

Old Lyme residents originally approved $877,000 for the project back in July of this year but this past Tuesday (Sept. 27) increased the amount approved to $911,100 to allow for the bids having come in higher than expected. The improvements 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.

A view up Hartford Ave. looking north prior to the start of the project.

A view up Hartford Ave. looking north prior to the start of the project.

The town expects to receive 80 percent reimbursement on the current project and is still exploring ways to fund the reinstatement of a park (named Sound View Green) and upgraded restrooms, which were originally included in the plan but have both now been removed due to budget overruns.

Construction is scheduled to start Monday, Oct. 10.

Construction is scheduled to start Monday, Oct. 10.

Asked how she felt now that the start of construction is finally imminent, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who also served on the SVIC, responded enthusiastically, “I’m delighted and can’t wait to see everything accomplished.  It’s going to be wonderful and also a great place to walk.”  She commented, “People have been talking about this since I became a Selectwoman in 2003,” adding, “For decades, we’ve talked about this [Sound View] being a ‘diamond in the rough.’ People are tired of talking about it – they want to see some action.”

The theme that the groundbreaking represented the culmination of years of work by many people was echoed repeatedly with Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo saying, “It’s been a long time coming … it’s tremendous that we’re actually starting the project.”  He noted that the project represented, “A lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated people.”

From left to right,Ken Golden from B&W Paving and Landscaping, Sound View Commission Chairman and SVIC member Frank Pappalardo, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Kurt Prochorena Principal and Civil Engineer from the engineering design firm The BSC Group, Stuart Greacen and Ed Steward from WMC-the project inspection firm.

The design and construction project personnel gathered for a photo, from left to right,Ken Golden from B&W Paving and Landscaping, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Kurt Prochorena, Principal and Civil Engineer from the engineering design BSC Group, and Stuart Greacen and Ed Steward from WMC, the project inspection firm.

The project’s designer was the BSC Group of Glastonbury, Conn., and its principal Kurt Prochorena, a civil engineer, also noted the evolution of the project had taken a long time but pointed out, “It’s going to really improve the character of the area.”

Recalling that the eight-member SVIC had started meeting every two weeks back in 2014, SVIC Chairman and Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal said, “I am extremely gratified by all the efforts of the [SVIC] committee, the Sound View Commission, residents, town officials and the BSC Group, who have brought this project to fruition. It’s hopefully the start of other great things in this area.”

Sound View residents (from left to right) Frank and Patty Pappalardo, Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing are all smiles at the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Sound View residents (from left to right) Frank and Patty Pappalardo, Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing are all smiles at the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony.

Sound View residents Shirley Annunziata and Joann Lishing, who have both lived in Sound View for many years, were on hand to enjoy the celebrations.  Annunziata mentioned that her family has owned in property in Sound View for some 95 years and was the first of Italian descent to buy in the area. Lishing repeated the much used phrase of the day, “This has been a long time coming,” before noting with a broad smile, “I’m so excited. It’s going to be beautiful!”

 

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Old Lyme Registrars Hold Voter Registration Session Today

The Old Lyme Registrars of Voters, Sylvia Peterson (D) and Don Tapper (R), will hold a Voter Registration Session Tuesday, Oct. 4, from 10 a.m. to 4p.m. in their office at Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall. The purpose of this session will be to complete the Preliminary Registry List for the upcoming Nov. 8 Presidential Election.

Normal office hours for the registrars are Monday 1 to 4 p.m.

People can register to vote Monday through Friday in the Town Clerk’s office if Registrars are not available.
Absentee ballots are available through the Town Clerk’s office, not through the Registrars. For more information, call the Town Clerk at 434-1605, ext. 221

There are two special voter-making sessions before each election: the third Saturday in October from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Tuesday one week before the election from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. This is the last day a person can register and be able to vote in the election.

The only people who can register and be eligible to vote in the election after that date are those turning eighteen, becoming U.S. citizens, and those who have just moved into town.

For more voter registration information, call (860) 434-1605 x 226 or email registrars@oldlyme-ct.gov

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Old Lyme Residents Approve Additional Funds for Sound View Project by 26 Votes; Joining Ledge Light Health District by Just Three Votes

Tonight Old Lyme voters approved additional funds for the  Sound View project by 102 to 74 votes. They also approved the town joining the Ledge Light Health District by just three votes, 82-79.

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Old Lyme Selectmen Host Public Hearing on Whether to Join Ledge Light Health District

Ledge_Light-Health_District_logoThe Old Lyme Board of Selectmen has scheduled a public hearing next Monday, Aug. 29, at 7:30 p.m., in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium at 53 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, to receive questions and comments from the public regarding the possibility of the Town of Old Lyme becoming a member of the Ledge Light Health District.

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All Three Items Approved at Old Lyme Special Town Meeting; Sound View Construction to Start Later This Year

From left to right standing, Rob Pinckney of the BSC Group, meeting moderator Attorney Marylin C. Clarke and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder listen attentively to a question from the floor.

From left to right standing, Rob Pinckney of the BSC Group, meeting moderator Attorney Marylin C. Clarke and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder listen attentively to a question from the floor.

More than 200 people crammed into the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium Monday evening for the Old Lyme Special Town Meeting called by the board of selectmen to consider three agenda items. Under presiding moderator Attorney Marylin C. Clarke, all three were subsequently passed on voice votes, but not without leaving some residents questioning the result of the first motion.

That motion was to authorize approval for the construction cost of Rte. 156 Bikeway/Sound View Improvements Project in the amount of $877,000.  This total comprised $595,000 for construction; $151,000 for a combination of inspection and municipal services, plus a contingency amount; $65,500 for Department of Transport materials testing, administrative costs and audits; and an additional amount of $65,000 as a buffer to allow for higher than expected bids.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder explained that a federal grant being administered by the State Department of Transportation will cover 80 percent of the project construction costs of approximately $701,600, leaving a total cost to the town of $175,400.

In a presentation preceding the vote, Rob Pinckney of the BSC Group that served as project designers, noted the project would “employ the ‘complete street’ concept to accommodate all users and enhance safety.” He said it would provide 6 ft. wide sidewalks to the south of the bocce court on Hartford Ave., which are both safe and ADA compliant, adding that it would also allow for improved stormwater drainage and inclusion of “Sharrow BikeWays” for the whole length of Hartford Ave. These latter are lanes on which road markings are used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles, which indicate, in Pinckney’s words, that “a bicycle has the right to be on the road.”

Pinckney said the proposal also provides for bumpouts, landscaping, banner poles, benches and bike racks.

Reemsnyder stressed that if the project were not approved, the Town would then be responsible for reimbursing $108,000 for charges the Town had already incurred for planning and design work on the project.  The Town had received a grant from the state that reimbursed 80 percent of these costs, but it was contingent on the project being passed.  She noted that if the project were approved, construction would begin in the fall of 2016.

When the moderator opened the floor to questions, the first was whether the project still included a bike route on Rte. 156.  Reemsnyder said that was not the case. The second question was how the implementation of sewers would affect the project. Reemsnyder replied that “new technology” would allow sewers to be installed without damaging the upper surface and that the engineer responsible for their implementation would “have to get the road back to how it was.”

Another questioner asked whether bathrooms were included.  Reemsnyder responded, “We thought they were when we started,” but she went on to clarify that it had transpired that the grant did not cover them to the extent originally envisaged.  Reemsnyder confirmed the committee was still “trying to find ways to address the issue,” which included discussions with the private beach associations.

A question was raised as to whether the vote would be by paper ballot or hand-count, to which no response was given. There were further questions regarding speed limits on Rte. 156 and Hartford Ave. and then Barbara Crowley asked, “What is the town going to do to encourage growth [in Sound View]?  Are there going to be any incentives to promote businesses?” Using the example of a recent report in Mystic where changes to sidewalks have promoted business growth, Reemsnyder stated, “I think this is supporting a better environment down there — both business and environmental.”

Some confusion reigned when the moderator took a voice vote on whether to call the question while a resident was indicating she still wished to ask a question.  With the voice vote approved to call the question, Clarke then rapidly moved to a voice vote on the proposal, which she immediately deemed a victory for the “Ayes.”

A significant number of those present left after the first vote, many pleased with the result but some unhappy about how the voting process had been handled.

The other two motions on the agenda — to authorize the acceptance of Queen Anne Court as a Town road and to appropriate an amount not to exceed $60,000 to cover excess costs of the Resident Trooper Department from the already approved municipal police budget — were both passed by voice votes.

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July 1 Update: Aquatic Treatment Planned for Rogers Lake, July 5

We received this updated information from the Old Lyme Selectman’s office at 11:05 a.m. this morning:

In accordance with the Connecticut DEEP, Pesticide Division notification requirements, Rogers Lake in Old Lyme & Lyme will be chemically treated on Tuesday, July 5, with the USEPA/CT DEEP registered aquatic herbicide Clipper (flumioxazin) to control the non-native aquatic plants fanwort and variable watermilfoil.

The designated treatment areas will be closed to swimming on the day of treatment as an extra precaution.

Warning posters depicting the treatment areas and the associated water use restrictions will be posted at points of access around the lake.  Additionally, use of the lake water for irrigation purposes will be restricted for a period of five days or until July 11, following treatment.

The work is being performed under contract to the Towns of Old Lyme & Lyme, CT pursuant to a permit issued by the CT DEEP (Permit # AQUA-2016-352). Information regarding this treatment may be obtained from the state licensed firm SOLitude Lake Management. Contact: Keith Gazaille, Regional Director (508) 865-1000

Funding provided by the Aquatic Invasive Species Management Grant and Prevention and Education Program administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

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Old Lyme Tree Commission Celebrates Arbor Day

Members of the three groups gather around the new oak tree. From left to right are Kathy Burton, Joanne DiCamillo, Joan Flynn. Anne Bing, Emily Griswold and Barbara Rayel.

Members of the three groups gather around the new oak tree. From left to right are Kathy Burton, Joanne DiCamillo, Joan Flynn. Anne Bing, Emily Griswold and Barbara Rayel.

“One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade” – Chinese proverb

The Old Lyme Tree Commission is pleased to announce the partnership of three community groups who combined their energy and experience to organize and implement the planting of five new trees in town to celebrate Arbor Day and to enhance the landscapes at Town Woods Park and Lyme Street.

Offloading a tree.

Offloading a tree.

Two red maple trees and one copper beech tree were planted behind the playground at Town Woods Park with a goal of providing some much needed shade to the area as they mature. The Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club ‘Love Your Playground’ Project provided the funding for the trees.

From left to right, Emily Griswold, Joanne DiCamillo and Barbara Rayel shovel soil around the beech tree.

From left to right, Emily Griswold, Joanne DiCamillo and Barbara Rayel shovel soil around the beech tree.

The Duck River Garden Club participated in The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut ‘Plant a Connecticut Native Oak’ project. The oak is our state and national tree and one of the finest for sustaining wildlife. The oak tree is located behind the concession building where it will grow into a large, stately specimen. In addition, a new columnar maple tree was planted in front of Town Hall by the Old Lyme Tree Commission.

River End Nursery crew plants a maple at Old Lyme Town Hall.

River End Nursery crew plants a maple at Old Lyme Town Hall.

After two disappointing postponements due to cold and rain, Mother Nature provided a beautiful, cool, sunny morning last week, perfect for tree planting. There was excitement in the air when the carriers from Millane Nursery and Canterbury Nursery arrived at the park with the trees. River End Landscape was onsite to unload them, remove the shipping materials, prepare the holes and set them into the ground. After the last tree was planted in front of Town Hall, they staked and mulched all of the trees.

The Junior Women’s Club and the Garden Club have established a watering schedule at the park. The Tree Commission will water the tree at Town Hall.

It was wonderful to work together on a noteworthy project that brings beauty and longevity to the landscape. The Old Lyme Tree Commission encourages all community members to celebrate this Arbor Day. Plant a tree!

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Presentation of Sound View Improvements Draws Praise, Criticism at Lively Meeting

From left to right, Selctwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Sound View Improvement Committee member Angelo Faenza, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (standing), SVIC member Pappalardo and a memebr of engineering member BSC listen to a question from the audience at Monday night's meeting.

From left to right, Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, Sound View Improvement Committee (SVIC) member Angelo Faenza, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (standing), SVIC member Frank Pappalardo and a member of engineering firm BSC listen to a question from the audience at Monday night’s meeting.

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 [2017],” 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.”

Question time was lively at Monday's Sound View informational meeting.

There was almost a full house at Monday’s Sound View informational meeting.

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.”

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Old Lyme Historic District Commission Hears Bee & Thistle’s Application for Outdoor Seating

The Old Lyme Historic District Commission (HDC) will hold a Public Hearing on Monday, May 2, at 9:45 a.m. in the upstairs conference room at the Old Lyme Memorial Town Hall when members will hear and act on a Certificate of Appropriateness application from the Bee and Thistle Inn at 100 Lyme Street. The application is to install a patio on the south side of inn.

The public is invited to attend and express its views. Letters may be sent to the Historic District Commission at 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme CT 06371.

Supporting material will be available at the May 2 Public Hearing.

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Old Lyme’s Open Space Commission Hosts Talk on Sea Level Rise, Salt Marsh Advance

The Town of Old Lyme’s Open Space Commission invites all interested parties to a workshop by Adam Whelchel, PhD, Director of Science at The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut Chapter.  The workshop will be held on Friday, March 11, at 9 a.m. in the Old Lyme Town Hall.

The title of Whelchel’s workshop will be, “Salt Marsh Advancement and Sea Level Rise in Old Lyme Parcel by Parcel — Introducing the New Coastal Resilience Online Tool.”

The workshop will review:

  • Where and how much conflict will there likely be in the future between the existing built environment (roads, schools, churches, neighborhoods, businesses) and daily tides?
  • Where and how much salt marsh advancement will there be?
  • Where and how much salt marsh advancement occurs on existing protected and unprotected open space?
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Lyme P & Z Hosts Public Hearing on Zoning Regulation Amendments

Grape-picking at Sunset Hill Vineyard. On Monday evening, Lyme's Planning and Zoning Commission will consider amendments to its zoning regulations addressing wineries, along with farms and agriculture.

Grape-picking at Sunset Hill Vineyard in Lyme. On Monday evening, Lyme’s Planning and Zoning Commission will consider amendments to its zoning regulations addressing wineries, along with farms and agriculture. Photos by Frank Cabb.

Next Monday, Feb. 29, Lyme Planning and Zoning (P & Z) Commission will host the Public Hearing/Regular Meeting that was previously scheduled for Feb. 8, but had to be cancelled due to the snowstorm that day.  The Feb. 29 meeting will be held at Lyme Consolidated School starting at 7:30 p.m.

The agenda opens with an application by Richard and Kathleen Pfannenstiel for a special permit to construct a boat dock at 65 Cove Rd. in Outer Hamburg Cove, for which there will be first a Public Hearing, and then the application will be considered in the Commission’s Regular Meeting.

But the part of the meeting almost guaranteed to draw a large crowd comes in the next agenda item when the P & Z Commission considers, “Proposed changes to the Lyme Zoning and Subdivision Regulations, which address principally farms, agriculture and farm wineries.” These have been published on the Town’s website at this link.

Lyme’s Zoning Enforcement Officer Bernie Gigliotti explained to LymeLine.com that the Commission has been talking about updating the regulations for a couple of years.  He noted that some two years ago the Town of Lebanon had introduced new regulations to protect and enhance farms and farming, and consequently the Town of Lyme “had been talking about making changes [to its own] regulations ever since.”

Gigliotti commented, however, that the event which really “triggered the action” was the application by the owners of Sunset Hill Vineyard in Lyme for a Special Exception Permit to offer tastings and sell wine at its Elys Ferry Rd. farm.  When the P & Z Commission discussed the application back in November last year, more than 175 residents attended the hearing, but the Commission did not end up rendering a decision on the vineyard’s application.  Gigliotti explained that the reason no decision was taken was many of the speakers — both for and against the proposal —  contended that the Town’s zoning regulations needed to be updated before the application could be considered.

Gigliotti, who freely admitted, “Our regulations were very deficient in how we treated vineyards,” described the combination of circumstances as “A Perfect Storm” in terms of providing a catalyst to move forward with the process of updating the regulations. When the P & Z Commission agreed at the end of the November Public Hearing that the update should be done as soon as possible, vineyard owners Matt Caruso and Donna Moore withdrew their application to await the revision.

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At Monday night’s P & Z meeting, the Commission will first host a Public Hearing on the proposed amendments to the Town’s zoning regulations.  Speakers for and against the proposal can again be expected since Laura and Kieran Mooney, who live immediately opposite Sunset Hill Vineyard, had issued a statement on behalf of the Lyme Rural Protection Group (LRPG) prior to the postponed Feb. 8 meeting.  The statement said in part, “We do not encourage the re-zoning of residential areas to permit commercial and retail enterprises nor do we support tourism … the group opposes several of the proposed changes and additions to the Town of Lyme Zoning Regulations as they have been currently drafted because we believe that they will fundamentally change the character of the town.”

Gigliotti commented to LymeLine.com that if the changes to the regulations are approved by the Commission Monday evening, Sunset Hill Vineyard will then be able to re-apply for a Special Exception Permit.  He noted the regulations will then be in a much improved form to deal with the application and that the issue seemed to have come down to the sale of wine on the premises. Gigliotti said, “People don’t seem to have a problem with them making wine.”

Those objecting to the proposal contend that it will be allowing a retail business in a part of town that is now solely residential and farming in character, while vineyard supporters have argued that Lyme has successfully retained its rural identity in part precisely because it has encouraged farming enterprises.

Caruso, who moved to Lyme in 1974, told LymeLine.com that selling wine has always been part of the business plan to make the vineyard viable.  He stressed the vineyard would not be hosting weddings, accommodating buses nor opening a café and that tastings will be restricted to ‘Appointment Only’ events from May to October and occasional holidays.

One of the vineyard’s most vocal supporters and a farm owner himself is Chip Dahlke of Ashlawn Farm on Bill Hill Rd. in Lyme. He wrote in a Facebook post prior to the cancelled Feb. 8 meeting, “The Town of Lyme has rewritten its regulations to allow vineyards to operate within the town.  I urge everyone to attend this meeting and support the change of regulations.”  Dahlke continued, “[It] is important to keep the town open for agriculture and maintain its character, not simply to be another elitist community along the shoreline.”

Gigliotti noted that an “overwhelming” number — 91 percent — of respondents to the survey related to the 2014 Lyme Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) were “in favor of promoting and enhancing farms and farming in Lyme.”  He commented that operating a farm requires generation of income and is not something done for “altruistic value.”

The LRPG also cited the POCD in their statement saying, “We would encourage the town to maintain those regulations that currently support farming, agriculture and open spaces,” but points out, “[The POCD] discourages tourism and the development of commercialism, including retail, outside the existing commercially zoned areas in Hamburg and Hadlyme such as those proposed by the change in regulations.”

Gigliotti said he did not know whether the Commission would hold a vote on whether to approve the regulations at next Monday’s meeting.  He said the Commission could vote, but that decision would likely depend on members’ reactions to comments from the public.

 

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Encouraging Signs Detected for Old Lyme Regarding High-Speed Railroad Proposal

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

It might seem that things have gone quiet since we published an Op-Ed by Dr. Gregory Stroud on Jan. 29 about the proposals made by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding possible routes for a new high-speed rail track in the Northeast Corridor. 

Alternative 1 of the three presented by the FRA stirred a riot of emotions in the residents of Old Lyme when they found out that the plan called for a route through the center of Old Lyme’s Historic District — one that Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder succinctly described as a route that, “would kill our community.”

But while on the surface everything seemed quiet, underneath that veneer of passivity, a flurry of activity — led by Reemsnyder — has been taking place. 

In a phone conversation Saturday afternoon, she told LymeLine about the numerous avenues being pursued to ensure Old Lyme’s opinions regarding Alternative 1 are heard, “loud and clear,” noting that she has focused her efforts on reaching officials, “who can advocate for us.”  And the results of those efforts are looking, at this point, decidedly positive.

Reemsnyder reported that a meeting of all the major stakeholders impacted by the proposal took place last week.  These stakeholders included the Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, Old Lyme Open Space Commission, Old Lyme Conservation Trust, Connecticut River Museum, Connecticut Audubon Society, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, Old Lyme Historic District Commission, Old Lyme Historical Society and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation with one representative from each organization present, along with town leaders. Reemsnyder said the group is currently working on a joint statement forcefully expressing their shared concerns about Alternative 1, adding that the statement is near to completion and will be released early this coming week.

Reemsnyder said she has also reached out to state and federal congressmen.  State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) and State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) had already issued a statement declaring their opposition to the proposed route.  At the federal level, after Reemsnyder had a conversation with local US Representative Joe Courtney, he and his colleagues  US Senator Chris Murphy and US Senator Richard Blumenthal drafted a letter to the Administrator of the FRA, which fundamentally questioned the process that FRA had followed in the development of its alternative railroad routes.  The letter also urged the FRA to provide opportunities to allow communities being impacted by the FRA proposals to express their views … and then listen carefully to them.

Reemsnyder also told LymeLine that she contacted Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, who is also currently chair of the board which is overseeing the whole FRA project.  She said that Redeker confirmed to her that the board had asked the FRA to improve the existing train track rather than develop a new route and moreover, he intended to remind the FRA of that point.

Finally, and in an extremely important move, Reemsnyder managed to connect with the Senior Vice President of the FRA project, who works for a private company. He not only gave reassurances to Reemsnyder that the concerns of the Old Lyme community were being clearly heard but also offered to come and meet with Reemsnyder “to allay the community’s concerns.”  This meeting has not yet been set up but is in the works.

Most significantly for all town residents, Reemsnyder told LymeLine that she heard from the project manager that, “This [Alternative 1] is not going to happen.”  Stressing that “This doesn’t mean that I will stop making sure it doesn’t happen,” Reemsnyder is clearly encouraged at the general direction of the discussion and stated, “People who have influence are taking note.”

Finally, she noted that a press conference is being organized at a date and time yet to be determined in the coming week to bring the public up to speed with developments.  

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Old Lyme Selectmen Express Strong Opposition to Proposed Rail Project

Updated 02/01, 17:37 — We are trying to keep up to date with all the commentary occurring regarding the NEC high-speed railtrack proposals.

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder submitted the following letter dated Jan. 13, 2016 to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Draft Plans:

“To Whom it May Concern,

My name is Bonnie Reemsnyder, First Selectwoman of the Town of Old Lyme. I have come here today to express my concern with and opposition to the Alternative 1 of the draft EIS for the NEC plan to improve rail service.

First and foremost, this plan would decimate the heart of our community. The path of the railroad would completely change according to this plan, cutting through the heart of our community. We are a small town with very little “central community” area, and what we do have is extremely important to our history, economy, character and sense of community. This plan would impact our only commercial area, which houses our grocery store, pharmacy and many small businesses. Our village center, which is directly off of the commercial area, houses the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the famous Florence Griswold Museum and the Lyme Art Association. All are sites of historic significance and the individual organizations have worked diligently to continue with their legacy and maintain the physical structures. It is beyond comprehension that these buildings would be considered of little importance as this project moves forward.

But the plan also impacts many properties along the way, as it is an entirely new track, cutting through several neighborhoods, not to mention wetlands, open space and areas of archaeological significance. Our community maintains our character through strict zoning regulations, considerate planning, and support of our historic treasures, including the museums, colleges, library and various art organizations.

I am equally concerned that the Federal Rail Administration did not contact the First Selectman’s office personally to solicit feedback and comment. Hearing about plans that have a major impact on our community through the grapevine is unacceptable.

I am vehemently opposed to Alternative 1 of this plan and urge you to look at other, more reasonable solutions for reducing time travel between major cities. Thank you for your time.”

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal submitted the following letter also dated Jan. 13, 2016 to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Draft Plans:

“To Whom it May Concern,

My name is Mary Jo Nosal, Selectwoman from Old Lyme, CT. It is with great concern, anxiety and in total opposition to the Tier 1 draft EIS for NEC, Alternative 1 that I comment.

It appears that this Alternative focuses on meeting some of the regional goals of the NEC by addressing the chokeholds along the southern part of the existing route. However, by adding new track through the heart of our town our local needs are not addressed and therefore the objectives of the Tier are not met.

Specifically, the proposed section of new track from Old Saybrook to East Lyme, CT will adversely affect our entire community, will cut-off the established tourism lifeline of our region and will not provide a meaningful improvement in efficient rail service.

No data was provided in the EIE to demonstrate that our local commercial, residential and environmental concerns were considered.

A new track through Old Lyme provides no local economic benefit or advantage to local commuters or residents, while the extreme destruction it will cause to an environmentally sensitive area is irreversible.

As proposed, Alternative 1 will be strongly opposed by the community.”

Old Lyme Selectman Arthur 'Skip' Sibley

Old Lyme Selectman Arthur ‘Skip’ Sibley

Old Lyme Selectman Arthur “Skip” Sibley submitted the following letter dated Feb. 1, 2016 to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the Northeast Corridor (NEC) Draft Plans:

“To whom it may concern,

My name is Skip Sibley and I’m writing to you both as a citizen and an Old Lyme Selectman. I echo the comments already submitted by my two fellow BOS colleagues: Ms. Bonnie Reemsnyder & Ms. Mary Jo Nosal. I strongly object to the proposal as outlined in “Alternative 1”, in which the current train tracks would be relocated through the center of Old Lyme.

Additionally I find it incredible that a $30 million study using taxpayer dollars was already conducted producing a 1000 page report without any correspondence to the impacted towns. It was only a “tip” given by an outsider that Old Lyme even became aware of this initiative by the NEC corridor agency. I’m glad that an extension was given for folks to post their comments.

The rail path for Alternate option # 1 cuts through the heart of our historic district, potentially causing a devastating impact to residents, businesses, museums and schools. And I can’t imagine the damaging impact it would have on our environmentally sensitive areas.

Before moving forward in your plan and spending more dollars, I strongly encourage that a public hearing be scheduled so that other concerned citizens could voice their opinions as well. Please keep me informed on my request.”

 

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Dredging Update From Old Lyme Harbor Management Commission

Dredging in progress on the Four Mile River upstream of the railroad bridge.

Dredging in progress on the Four Mile River upstream of the railroad bridge.

Steven A. Ross, Old Lyme’s Harbor Management Commission (HMC) Chairman and Ned Farman, HMC Vice-Chairman, sent us the following update regarding the dredging on the Four Mile and Black Hall Rivers:

The Town of Old Lyme’s waterway dredging project shifted in late January from the Four Mile River to the Black Hall River.

The dredge company, Patriot Marine of Boston, plans to employ two dredge units at a time on the Black Hall in order to make up for work days lost due to high winds and waves.

Due to the low-lying Amtrak rail bridge, the Four Mile project was unusually challenging and labor-intensive. The general contractor for the dredge operations, working on behalf of the Town of Old Lyme and its Harbor Management Commission, is Coastline Consulting of Branford.

Permitted by Connecticut DEEP (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) and the federal Army Corps of Engineers, the dredge projects are designed for environmental protection– improved water flow prevents stagnation and collapse of the salt marshes– and safer navigation at all tidal levels.

It is expected that users from all over the state — boaters, kayakers, those that fish and crab and bird — and the three marina owners will benefit from these infrastructure improvements.

With 100 percent grant financing from the Connecticut Deptartment of Transportation, the dredging of the two rivers is taking place at no cost to the Town of Old Lyme.

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Old Lyme WPCA Requests Well, Septic Info from Sound View, Hawks Nest Property Owners

The Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) is asking property owners in the Sound View and Hawks Nest Beach areas of Old Lyme to assist in the Town’s wastewater study by supplying information that might be relevant.

Four hundred and eighty six letters are being mailed to these property owners and were expected to go out last Friday or today.  The letter read:

The Town of Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority and the Town of Old Lyme Health Department are requesting copies of any information or records on your well or septic systems on your property.  The information is being collected to submit to the State of Connecticut DEEP in reference to the sewer study completed by the Town of Old Lyme engineering consultants Woodard & Curran.  Our town agencies would like to request you drop off copies of your information to:
1.  Town of Old Lyme, Town Hall, 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, Connecticut  06371
2.  Bring the information to the Town of Old Lyme Town Hall, 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, Connecticut to be photocopied by Town staff.
3.  Email information to John T. Sieviec, M.S.R.S., Sanitarian, Town of Old Lyme, Connecticut Health Department at jsieviec@oldlyme-ct.gov4.         Fax the information to the Town of Old Lyme Health Department at 860-434-4135.

The WPCA requests that property owners submit their information by Jan. 31.

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Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Unchanged; Griswold In As Treasurer, Fuchs Fails in BOE Re-election Bid

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (left) and Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal celebrate their respective re-elections to the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (left) and Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal celebrate their respective re-elections to the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen.

UPDATED 10:17pm: In a tight race with an above average total of 2,321 voters, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder (D) was reelected over her Republican opponent Cathy Carter by 269 votes – Reemsnyder garnered 1,278 votes to Carter’s 1,009.   Selectmen Arthur “Skip” Sibley and Mary Jo Nosal also both outpolled Carter with 1,150 and 1,120 votes respectively, leaving them both as selectmen, but reversed in roles with Sibley now as Second Selectman and Nosal as Third.

A beaming Reemsnyder told LymeLine after the results had been announced, “I’m delighted,” saying she was not surprised by them, but that she “did not take it [her re-election] for granted.”  She commented that “when people run against each other … it’s good for the community” because people “get to talk about things.”  She reiterated her delight at being re-elected concluding, “We’ve got to finish the work.”

Nosal added, “I’m pleased so many people came out to vote and I look forward to continuing working with Bonnie and Skip.  I thank all the candidates who ran a good, fair campaign.”

Former First Selectman Tim Griswold is all smiles after his convincing win as Old Lyme Town Treasurer.

Former First Selectman Tim Griswold is all smiles after his convincing win as Old Lyme Town Treasurer.

Former First Selectman Timothy Griswold (R) handily defeated Democrat Gil Soucie for the position of Town Treasurer with 1,267 votes over 982.  He commented, “I’m very pleased that the town has shown confidence in my abilities … I’m honored to be elected and following in the footsteps of (incumbent) John Bysko, who has done a superb job.”

In the Tax Collector race, Judy Tooker defeated Ruth Roach by an even greater margin with 1,385 votes over 876.

Perhaps the greatest surprise in view of the Democrat success on the board of selectmen was the Region 18 Board of Education result in which two of the three Democrats failed in their election bids, including incumbent Paul Fuchs.  Republicans Stacy Winchell and Erick Cushman were both elected with 1,184 and 1,138 votes respectively along with incumbent Michelle “Mimi” Roche, who polled the highest number of votes of all the board of education candidates at 1,255.  Fuchs and newcomer Peter Hunt, neither of whom was elected, garnered 1,088 and 1,059 votes respectively.

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Old Lyme Selectmen Candidates Spar Over Sound View, Boathouse, Police Grievances and More — Video Link Added

Last night the candidates for the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen gathered to debate a variety of issues selected and presented by moderators Olwen Logan, publisher and editor of LymeLine.com and Paul Choiniere, Editorial Page Editor of The Day.

Click here to read a report of the debate by Kimberly Drelich of The Day.

Click here to see a video of the debate recorded by The Day.

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