March 25, 2019

Op-Ed: Time to Re-evaluate Town Priorities in Old Lyme

SEE ADDITIONAL COMMENT ADDED 1/30

As a concerned citizen and taxpayer, I pay attention to where and how our Town Government spends our tax dollars.  The reader should take the following facts and expenditures into consideration when assessing the effectiveness of our current Town leadership in the next election cycle:

  1. The Town is currently spending $26,400.00 on The Yale Urban Design Workshop to develop conceptual designs for reconfiguring and developing Halls Road under the auspices of the Halls Road Improvement Committee.  Further, the Town has approved expending an additional $38,500.00 for consulting fees to determine the means for utilizing TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) for this same redevelopment concept.  In addition, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted 2 to 1 for a CERC (Connecticut Economic Resource Center) economic development study that will cost $47,000.00 plus $16,640.00 for a year’s worth of Town Economic Development support.  The Board of Finance for the Town had previously voted against these CERC related expenditures.

  2. The Halls Road Improvement Committee was established by the Board of Selectmen to develop Halls Road.  This initiative which has never been vetted by the Town’s Taxpayers has taken on a life of its own.  The proposed redevelopment concept includes 3 and 4-story mixed use buildings – commercial and residential, narrowing of road to accommodate along-road parking, many new shops and stores at the edge of the road, and structures flanking the entrance to Halls Road from Rt. 156.  Photos can be seen on the SECoast.org website.  All of this development will require substantive zoning regulation changes.  The development will need to be funded by private business and taxpayers’ dollars.  What makes no sense:  Not only haven’t Town residents been asked for concurrence with such plans, but neither have the business owners along Halls Road.  I know this because I have spoken to several of those business owners.

    The total cost expenditures to date for this unsanctioned initiative which will, in my opinion, irrevocably and detrimentally affect the character of Old Lyme are $128,540.00.  Did you know this is how your money was being spent? I, like many, do not oppose sensible aesthetic improvements to Halls Road.  But I will not support unfettered development such as that being proposed currently.

  3. Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, the Town of Old Lyme will spend $102,000.00 on the services of the Lyme Youth Services Bureau (LYSB).  I think as Town citizens, we can all agree that LYSB is a valuable and worthwhile investment for our tax dollars.  The Town’s future rests in the success and health of its youth.  Yet, the Town spends far less on LYSB, a time proven asset to the children in this Town, than it has on the Halls Road redevelopment initiative.

When I talk to friends in Town with children in our school system, I hear about a lack of after-school activities for kids, marijuana and other drug usage concerns, and non-involvement issues for kids that aren’t on school sports teams.  These issues should have priority status in how this Town spends its money.

While as a taxpaper in this Town you probably were not aware of the Halls Road Run-Away-Improvement Train, you undoubtedly recognize the need to invest in a better community environment for our young people.

So, getting our spending priorities right seems like a No-Brainer to me.

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Robert A. Nixon of Old Lyme.

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Comments

  1. http://Harold%20Thompson says

    On December 10, 2018, the Planning Commission received a proposal from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC). This proposal, an economic development study, was received just four hours before the regularly scheduled meeting and the proposal was received with a request that the Planning Commission review and approve the proposal prior to the CERC proposal being reviewed by the Board of Finance the following week. The Planning Commission was not comfortable with the CERC proposal and tabled the request and placed the proposal on the agenda for the January 2019 meeting. The objective was to obtain additional information about the scope and intent of the economic development proposal for the January 2019 meeting.

    In their December 2018 meeting, the Board of Finance did not approve funding of the CERC study and during the January 2019 meeting, the Planning Commission did not vote on the proposal, believing that the CERC proposal had become a non-issue. Had a motion been made by the Planning Commission to approve funding of the CERC study, the motion would have failed. The Planning Commission supports the Board of Finance position that the proposed CERC study did not state an objective and the purpose of the study was ambiguous. For additional information, please refer to Planning Commission January 10, 2019 meeting minutes.

    Harold Thompson
    Chairman
    Old Lyme Planning Commission

  2. http://Deb%20Czarnecki says

    I agree completely with Mr. Nixon and thank him for his Op-Ed. There are so many prospective projects and studies being conducted in Old Lyme it’s difficult to keep tract. Between the boathouse, that is missing bathrooms, Southview sidewalks, Halls Road expansion with housing (in wetlands?), Yale study, CERC, police services study comm, sewers at Soundview, and the new “park” on Halls Road. Why all of these projects this year? Will zoning change on Halls Road just for this project? What are the motives of the Halls Road Comm?
    Thanks to the members of BOF and Planning Comm who consider Old Lyme taxpayers and to the people of SECoast for detailing all of this for taxpayers to read and alerting us to the importance of preservation of Old Lyme and our coastline.

  3. http://Paul%20Fuchs says

    The Halls Road improvement committee is taking a long view of how the area can best evolve. Haphazard is not always the best solution and a vision for that area would surely help. Given the number of open meetings and town hall meetings including publication of a draft concept it would be hard to characterize the committees work as unknown.

    It is impossible to develop a long term plan without creating a draft version from input from open town meetings. Halls Road looks as it does specifically because there has been no plan. To get a plan, money must be spent and best to do it with qualified urban planners. No one is being forced to do anything, it is not being rushed and we should perhaps consider that this planning is in best long term interest of the town. I am pleased that our BOS and BOF are looking towards the future.

    There many studies going on in town because there are many issues to address and I am quite certain that I would prefer that all options are studied on an issue before moving forward. The purpose is community involvement and transparency in the decision process. I think we should be thankful that we know about all that is going on in town so that we may voice our opinion.

    With regard to the point that money should be spent so kids have something to do after school besides sports I have some information on this. Listed below are the clubs and organizations available to Middle School and High School students other than the eight Middle School and 24 High School sports teams.
    Sincerely,
    Paul Fuchs

    Middle School

    Art Club
    Drama Club
    Flight Club
    Fencing
    Jazz Cats
    Lego Robotics
    March Madness
    Math Counts
    Potter’s Club
    Strive
    Winter Running Club
    Ski Club
    Upstanders Club
    Yearbook
    Book Club

    High School

    Amnesty International
    Athletic Leadership Council
    Chess Club
    Chinese Club
    Class Officers
    Community Service
    DECA/Student Store
    Debate Club
    Fall Play
    French Club
    Future Business Leaders of America
    Future Health Care Professionals
    GeoChallenge
    HS Bowl
    International Thespian Society
    Intramural Sports
    Latin Club
    Local History Club
    Lymen (Yearbook)
    Math Academic Center
    Math Team
    Mock Trial
    Model United Nations
    National Honor Society
    Osprey Online
    PSG (Peer Support Group)
    Philosophy Club
    Physics Olympics
    Ping Pong Club
    REACH
    Science Bowl
    Science Olympiad
    Spanish Honor Society
    Spectrum
    Student Advisory Council
    Student Leaders
    Student Store/DECA
    Techno Ticks Robotics Team
    Weight Room
    Winter Musical
    WLYM
    YAC
    Young Educators Society

  4. http://Bennett%20Bernblum,%20Chair,%20Halls%20Road%20Improvements%20Committee;%20Member,%20Old%20Lyme%20Board%20of%20Finance. says

    Mr. Nixon’s implication is correct that the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen supports economic development on Halls Road and elsewhere in town, provided that it is consistent with the character of the town and the wishes of our residents. However, much of the information he presents is incorrect.

    1. The Yale Urban Design Workshop (YUDW) contract has a budget of $20,000 and an authorized expenditure, including additions, of up to $26,400, over the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years. To date nothing has been billed or paid.

    2. Consulting work to create a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, used by municipalities to stimulate private investment and limit taxpayer property tax increases (see the TIF District recently approved in Old Saybrook), was authorized for a total, including contingency, of $38,500 over the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years. To date no decision has been made to go forward with a TIF district, no contract has been signed, and no work has been performed.

    3. Both of these contracts were included in the 2019 budget approved by Town Meeting.

    4. The town’s Economic Development Commission determined that our economy would likely benefit from certain services that could be provided by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center at a cost of $44,000. On November 5, 2018, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved this proposal and recommended that it go to a Town Meeting. The Board of Finance, whose recommendation was also required, voted 3:2 against the proposal on December 18, defeating it.

    5. There is no plan. The role of the YUDW is to assist in coming up with a master plan, embraced by the town, for the ideal development of Halls Road. Therefore, the public meetings held and to be held by the YUDW, and other meetings held and to be held by the Halls Road Improvements Committee (HRIC), are for the express purpose of getting input and feedback from town residents. The preliminary conceptual plans presented by the YUDW at the December 6, 2018 meeting were solely for illustration and to stimulate comment, which they did. The HRIC and the First Selectwoman have made it crystal clear that the objective is to develop plans that enjoy widespread support in the town, NOT to impose anything on anyone. There is much to be done before this can be accomplished.

    6. Mr. Nixon asserts that “total cost expenditures to date” are $128,540. In fact, the total amount approved for these contracts is $64,900, none of which has been spent.

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