Sound View residents have been receiving letters from Heidi DiNino-Fields of Hartford Avenue urging them to register their opposition to the Sound View Historic District designation. These letters are filled with incorrect information, designed to confuse and frighten residents into opposition. Among the more blatant lies are that owners would not be able to paint or maintain their property; that it would negatively affect insurance, taxes and marketability; that it would impede upgrading to FEMA standards, and that the property “will essentially be frozen in as-is condition.” Each of these is completely false.
The National Historic Register is simply an Honorary designation to recognize neighborhoods that have a unique character and history. There are absolutely no restrictions on owners’ ability to renovate or develop their properties. This designation is different from the Town Historic District, on Lyme Street, which is overseen by the Historic District Commission, and has nothing to do with Sound View, or this type of designation.
Having a property within the Sound View Historic District actually conveys many benefits on owners, including better rates on insurance, better marketability, and assistance with waivers to FEMA requirements, building and zoning. The designation’s purpose is to make it easier for owners to renovate and develop their properties, if that is their choice. If an owner wants to renovate their property in a non-historic manner, or not at all, that is their choice. There is no government entity that can or will tell them what they can or can’t do.
IF an owner chooses to renovate in a historic manner, they become eligible for grant programs and tax abatements up to $30,000. If the owner wants the tax credit, that particular work will be subject to review, but only to ensure that the money is going toward a historic renovation. If an owner doesn’t take the cash, they can do whatever they like. No review or oversight whatsoever. Historic District designation has no impact on property taxes.
Sound View’s rich history has been obscured for too long by its rowdy reputation from the 1950s-1990s. As an intact pre-1938 beach community, Sound View is a unique and rare coastal resource. It was developed in the early 1890s, and there is very good evidence that it is the nation’s oldest public beach. Many of the cottages have been passed down for generations within the same families, and are maintained with pride to this day. The Historic District designation honors this tradition, and will help to preserve the neighborhood and public beach for future generations. This is a valuable opportunity for our town. Let’s not let one uninformed naysayer scare people into opting out of this positive opportunity.
For the true story, actual facts, and some very interesting historic details, I urge concerned residents to read the official application which will be posted on the Old Lyme Town website early next week at http://www.oldlyme-ct.gov/