August 8, 2020

Bonnie Reemsnyder (D): Candidate (Incumbent) for Old Lyme First Selectwoman

Bonnie Reemsnyder

Bonnie has served on the BOS for 16 years, the last eight as First Selectman. Her priorities have included prudent fiscal planning for maintenance of buildings and roads, utilization of grants, customer service, regional opportunities, and collaboration. 

Over the past eight years, she has overseen many projects and is most proud of the derailing of the FRA bypass plan. She and her husband Bob have three adult children who have attended LOL Schools, and are now the proud grandparents of Zane Farias, who is 4 years old and living with his parents in California.

Q1: What is your personal vision in broad terms for the Halls Road/Lyme Street area of Old Lyme in 2025?

One of the concerns expressed by constituents who first came to me regarding Halls Road was that it is disconnected from our beautiful Lyme St., Lyme Art Association and the FloGris Museum. With a master plan in place, by 2025 we could have sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting and green spaces, connecting Halls Road to Lyme St. I also anticipate that some property owners will choose to invest in beneficial upgrades because we reviewed and adapted zoning regulations to allow them to maximize their properties, while still maintaining the character of Old Lyme. I foresee it as a vibrant area, with restaurants and cafes, outdoor seating, niche-type retail, and pocket parks where people will gather to enjoy our natural resources that will be highlighted because of the master plan. There will certainly be a bow bridge across the Lieutenant River, with a “step-aside” area that allows lingering to enjoy the iconic view. The green space near this bridge would also be landscaped in a natural way to allow more opportunities to stop, relax and breathe. 

Halls Road will also boast carefully situated and stylish residential complexes, perfect for retiring adults who seek proximity to services with less maintenance, and for young couples just starting out who like the option of enjoying a village atmosphere. With creative landscaping and signage, marketing of various events can be accomplished tastefully, with banners on poles, rather than across Halls Road, which would also allow for more than one event to be advertised at a time. Imagine coming into Old Lyme and seeing several “Midsummer Festival” banners hanging vertically on both sides of the street. When completed, I believe that Halls Road can become a lovely town center that preserves the quintessential feel of our community.

Q2: What is your personal vision in broad terms for the Sound View area of Old Lyme in 2025?

Sound View has been a challenge for every administration in Old Lyme, but our administration has made great strides in its transformation. Phase 1 saw major renovations to the sidewalks and parking on the southern part of Hartford Ave. Phase 2 is bringing connecting sidewalks on the northern half of Hartford Avenue, as well as Route 156, creating a gateway into Sound View, providing added safety for pedestrians, and allowing the businesses on 156 to successfully attract new customers from those passing through.

While Hartford Ave. has traditionally supported businesses in the past, I understand the challenges due to seasonality, so it would not be a surprise if many properties turn residential. But I think it will be essential to preserve the Carousel and associated shops at that end of Hartford Ave. I also believe that we will find a solution to the bathrooms, if not building new, then acquiring one of the buildings to accommodate restrooms. In addition, we need to do what we can to make the town parking lot more attractive, either by making some of it into a park (and finding other parking to make up for any loss), or completely redesigning it. This does not mean paving as there are attractive alternatives that would fit into the beach theme, but rather a smarter layout that has attractive amenities.

Finally, I hope that tasteful changes to the area will attract families who respect the beauty of the area, patronize businesses that are there and allow children of all ages to enjoy a day at the beach, with conveniences that you would expect at any beach. With these changes, I am sure many people will be flocking to Old Lyme to enjoy our great community.

Q3: In light of Old Lyme’s current non-compliance with the state mandate that 10 percent of housing stock be deemed, “Affordable” and the recent withdrawal of the Affordable Housing proposal on Neck Rd., how do you see the future of Affordable Housing in Old Lyme?

When HOPE partnership unveiled their plans for the Neck Rd. project in April of 2018, I applauded them for keeping a promise they made to look for opportunities to build Affordable Housing in Old Lyme. With that said, I also wanted to understand how they would address traffic safety concerns expressed by some and shared by me. Ultimately, though they were approved, they chose to withdraw their application as the appeal would take valuable time and resources to get through. Their withdrawal does not prevent another developer from coming in with a similar plan under 8-30g, but making only 30% affordable units in the very same location. For that reason, I was heartened when a thoughtful constituent came to the Board of Selectmen with a suggestion to form an exploratory committee to proactively address Affordable Housing mandates.

We supported the idea, developed a charge for the committee, which has already been approved by the Board, and began soliciting applications for appointments from interested individuals. This committee will be helpful in fully understanding the 8-30g mandate, the consequences for towns who do not comply, identifying appropriate opportunities and recommending solutions to address the need in Old Lyme. I am hoping that they will also provide educational materials that clearly articulate the difference between Affordable Housing and Low Income Housing, which are two different models. We already have people who have volunteered to serve on the committee, so I am hopeful that we can get right to work after the election. I fully support addressing the Affordable Housing needs in our community, and I think that a proactive approach on the part of the Town is the right way to accomplish this.


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