September 22, 2020

Op-Ed: HOPE Believes They Have Satisfied Questions Raised by Zoning Commission, Public

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Lauren Ashe, Executive Director of the HOPE Partnership, Kristin Anderson, Development Manager of the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, Inc., and Loni Willey, Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, Inc.

As you are aware, HOPE Partnership and Women’s Institute are nonprofit organizations committed to providing affordable housing options, and have a combined 50 years of experience providing high quality housing in urban, rural, and suburban communities across the state. Our experience has taught us how to create housing that meets the diverse needs of the communities we serve and the best practices for management that ensures our developments contribute to the overall fabric of the community for decades to come.

As nonprofits, our bottom line is our mission. Our volunteer boards do not personally profit from the success of our developments, and we are held accountable to our public and private donors to ensure that we have the best interests of the community in mind.  As such, the River Oak Commons development was brought to our organizations by concerned Old Lyme residents who saw the opportunity in this site to provide much needed housing to the town.  We have explored the feasibility for this site and have put forward a strong proposal to the commission for a development that will meet the community’s needs.

We believe that we have successfully satisfied the questions raised by the commission and public, and have taken extra measures to ensure that concerns by the community are addressed.


  • We have undertaken extensive traffic reviews to ensure that the development will not negatively impact existing traffic patterns nor cause dangerous or risky behavior on the part of drivers.  We heard the concerns from the public as to the reality of summer traffic, and intentionally conducted a follow up study on the most heavily trafficked weekend of the summer.  Per the recommendation by the town’s traffic engineer, we conducted additional reviews to understand the speed of exit on the off ramp and ensure that we could reasonably provide sufficient sight lines.   Both the traffic engineers retained by us, and that retained by the town, confirmed that there would be no significant impact on existing traffic in all these scenarios, and provided suggestions to ensure that safe sight lines are maintained.
  • We took seriously the claims from the public around potential contamination, despite original LEC reports concluding this was not probable. We provided additional studies, including soil tests and drinking water tests which confirmed that there were no contaminants that would risk the health of residents living in this future development
  • The development as proposed meets the various regulations and standards put forth by state agencies to ensure that plans of conservation and development are maintained. To date the proposed development has been reviewed by the Dept. of Housing, DEEP, Dept. of Public Health, CT Water Authority, State Historic Preservation Office, and Office of Policy and Management. The team has also worked cooperatively with the local  public works, the fire marshal, and public health departments to make significant accommodations. For example, we have designed to a public road standard, despite being a private road which will not receive the benefit of public services such as plowing services and trash removal. We have also worked with the school and bus company to identify a method of school pick up that will allow buses to come onto the site and off of the main road. We have reduced the size and capacity of our community room for residents to prioritize parking requirements dictated by occupancy.  We have worked every step of the way, and will continue to do so, to accommodate the professionals who are tasked with the responsibility of implementing codes and standards of the town beyond an approval of zoning.

River Oak Commons will be located in an already developed part of Old Lyme, and in close proximity to the Halls Road commercial district, transportation, and local amenities.  By constructing infill housing that does not require building on previously undeveloped land, we are adhering to best practices to concentrate development among the existing commercial and residential corridors. Our site plan mirrors the surrounding neighborhoods and our design considerations reflect the historic and cultural character of Old Lyme.   The reviews of the market, conversations with community members, and the extensive evaluation from experts as mentioned above confirms that this location offers many benefits to the future residents of River Oak Commons and does not create health or safety risks to the community.  The end result will be 37 brand new units, that meet the existing housing needs in your community, and are well managed by reputable organizations for decades to come.

While we have also heard from the community their concerns around what it will cost the taxpayers, we want to be clear that the town of Old Lyme has not offered any subsidy for this development. River Oak will contribute Real Estate taxes as a property owner in the town, and our taxes will be used to support the schools, police force, and other town amenities that the families living in River Oak Commons will benefit from. Old Lyme is losing out on the benefit of bringing public investment back into your own community, so that teachers, grocery store workers, town employees, or your grown children can live here. Because Old Lyme only has 1.5% of its housing stock restricted as affordable, we support the town’s interest in pursuing additional locations that have been raised during the public comment period for future affordable housing developments. River Oak Commons is just one part of the long term solution.

Development is a back and forth process with many checks and balances along the way to get from concept to completion. We’ve provided a road map that outlines how we will achieve the goals to provide 37 affordable housing units and have demonstrated that the project will be safe and healthy for the residents who will live there and the surrounding town. We look forward to continue working with the town of Old Lyme.



  1. Having lived in Old Lyme my entire life and having been to every meeting I have to wonder if maybe we are looking at different places!! There is probably no other spot in town that could be more dangerous and the fact that other, more safe properties are or have been available but flatly turned down make me quite skeptical about who may or may not benefit, in some way from this project.

  2. OLTaxpayer says

    OLMOM is correct. I attended two meetings, and I heard concerned residents suggest at least 4 other suitable locations for this affordable housing project. As usual, the Social Justice Warriors think they
    know what’s best for us common folk. Why are these non-profits so determined to ram their
    project through on this particular piece of property even though it’s clearly not suitable, and
    probably 80% of the informed taxpayers are against the location?
    There’s something rotten in Denmark–I mean Old Lyme.

    • Thomas D. Gotowka says

      I am responding to both OLMOM and OLTAXPAYER. I am also a taxpayer; I am not a mom, but I have one living with me in my home. I attended all meetings.
      In my comment of September 14 I stated that “I am also concerned with some of the inherent flaws that exist with this site. If traffic problems and the other already identified health and safety issues are insurmountable, then we should Strike the Colors on this site and, hopefully, not lose the opportunity to partner with these organizations and develop affordable housing at some other more conducive site”. I did not hear or read anything regarding four alternate sites at any of these meetings.
      However, the project is now in the hands of Old Lyme’s Zoning Commission and I trust them to do their job. Certainly, the Commission will not allow this project to be rammed through.
      You both raised some serious allegations and accusations regarding who (presumably in town government) may benefit from this project; and suggested that there’s something rotten in Old Lyme.
      I also note that both of you chose to be anonymous. I believe that if your convictions are strong, then anonymous attacks are wholly inappropriate.
      Assuming my comment is published, I call upon LymeLine’s editorial staff to follow the New London Day’s lead and not publish anonymous comments.

  3. REMINDER: Old Lyme Zoning Commission meets TONIGHT (10/9/18) at 7:30 PM
    LOCATION: Meeting Hall at Memorial Town Hall ~ 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT

    TOPIC: Affordable Housing Application is on the regular meeting Agenda for 18-1 Neck Road (formerly 16 Neck Road)

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