September 17, 2021

Halls Rd. Improvement Committee Requests Withdrawal of Proposed Gas Station/Convenience Store in Old Lyme

An example of a Big Y Express gas station/convenience store similar to the one planned on Halls Rd. in Old Lyme. In its statement of opposition to the project, the Halls Rd. Improvement Committee (HRIC) says the proposed project, “… is essentially a truck stop.” Photo courtesy of the HRIC.

OLD LYME — We have been asked to publish the following statement from the Halls Road Improvement Committee regarding the proposed gas station/convenience store at the western end of Halls Rd.

Members of the Halls Road Improvements Committee (HRIC) have heard from many Old Lyme residents opposed to the building of another gas station along Halls Road. HRIC is also opposed to this project, and we hope this posting will clarify the committee’s position on the matter. 

HRIC has no authority to approve or forbid particular projects. The committee is working with BSC to create a new master plan that will guide future development along Halls Road. When it is complete later this spring, its findings must be reflected in new zoning ordinances in order to become enforceable by the zoning board and other town agencies. These changes will also open up new opportunities for investment in mixed-use projects along Halls Road. 

In the interim, developers who wish to build good will in Old Lyme should recognize the chief findings and broad outlines of the preliminary plans to date as a fair proxy for the general will of the town. Chief among these findings is that future development along Halls Road should be more in keeping with the look and feel of Old Lyme (taking Lyme Street as an example), and that future development along Halls Road should help to make that area more of a mixed-use town center in a village setting, as appropriate to our small town and its needs. We believe the land earmarked for the new gas station could be put to better and more profitable use under the forthcoming Halls Road plan. 

HRIC believes the proposed “Big Y Express” clashes with the town’s stated development aims on several fronts.

It is essentially a truck stop, aimed at drawing its revenue chiefly from through traffic on I-95. The chain’s promotions to trucking fleets are just one indication of this aim. Town planning documents from as far back as the 1970s have expressly opposed such highway-focused development. HRIC also opposes it, favoring businesses that cater primarily to the needs of local residents. 

There is an existing gas station (now Mobil, formerly Shell) a few hundred feet from the proposed site of the Big Y Express. When this existing station recently applied to add a convenience store to their business, they were turned down. The arguments against that expansion must surely apply with more force to the proposed Big Y Express, whose business model relies heavily on a convenience store. 

The rapid rise of electric vehicles means the days of the gas station are numbered. To build a gas station on a greenfield site in this day and age seems a waste of scarce resources. The burdens of safe demolition and remediation make former gas stations very hard to repurpose or sell. They can linger for many years, as the unused gas station on Rte. 156 has done. The few charging facilities planned for the Big Y Express do nothing to remove these burdens, as its primary business remains selling gasoline and diesel. 

If the proposed project thrives, it becomes a busy truck stop; a thing totally against the town’s aims for Halls Road. If it fails, an important location along Halls Road will have been significantly burdened by remediation costs that may prevent appropriate development there for years. For the town, this is a lose/lose proposition. 

The proposed project would significantly reinforce the 1950s strip center character of Halls Road today. That is exactly the opposite direction from the future development envisioned in the Halls Road plan. We hope instead to make Halls Road a mixed use area in which people live, work, and shop. We want the area to be friendly to pedestrians and cyclists as well as cars, and to present an image of our town that invites the visitor to stroll and browse the shops. A truck stop or a line of gas stations works against realizing that vision. 

The Big Y is a valued part of this community. Their actions to date have built considerable good will in Old Lyme. In the interests of the future of Halls Road, we ask them to withdraw their proposal to build a Big Y Express there.

Comments

  1. William Folland says

    I disagree with the position of the Halls Road Improvement Committees (HRIC) position on the proposed Big Y gas station/ convenance store project. Regardless of the final design of the Hall’s Road project a gas station should be included in it’s final design. Would the existing station contribute to the HRIC objectives, I think not. The proposed station would be better located to service local and off highway customers. Here we have a partner willing to make a major investment that supports the needs of the community and the HRIC wants to throw them under the bus . It just doesn’t make any sense.

    • Jimmy Free says

      William, you say that this gas station “supports the needs of the community” . . .

      No it doesn’t.

      We have one gas station on Halls Rd. now. I use it all the time and drive by it every day. There’s NEVER a line there.

      Given that, it is sufficient to service the community.

      As for the off highway customers, we don’t need to support that traffic. They can get their gas in OS or EL or NL or Groton. We don’t need highway traffic to clog up Halls Rd.

      Now once the Halls Road initiative is completed, we will hopefully have off highway traffic and they can come off the highway to visit our restaurants but not our gas station!

      Every initiative on Halls Round should support the improvements advocated by Edie and her team.

      This fails that.

  2. I am not sure why you would think this is a better spot for a gas station, it is almost directly next door! Either way it draws traffic off I95 and is certainly not necessary for a small town that is already overburdened when the highway shuts down. Please note I am not necessarily in agreement with all the Halls Road ideas.

  3. George Skiles says

    I am only a part time resident of Old Lyme but I still love the area. This project will not only take away some of the appeal of Old Lyme but the traffic backups that this will cause in an already crowded intersection will be a burden to all residents of the area.
    Although there may not be a lot we as residents can do, I can show my displeasure by boycotting the Big Y grocery store. If enough of us do the same, maybe Big Y will understand how many oppose this project.

  4. Dwayne Basler says

    I agree that a typical gas station as included in the article photo isn’t consistent with the Halls Road improvement vision. If the developers are willing to work with the town, there may be a design that improves the area. The Laysville gas station doesn’t detract from the neighborhood. Add attractive lighting, screening, … by experienced architects and an agreement may be possible that works for everyone.

    And for those of us concerned about the environment, it seems like having gas stations immediately adjacent to the highway is much smarter than having vehicles traveling miles out of the way on local streets.

  5. Geri Jacobson says

    This can’t happen and I hope not. Although Big Y is a family owned store do we really want this on this pristine site?? The draw will be from many travelers and towns because of competitive prices for gas? Another Niantic???

  6. Jimmy Free says

    I am a big supporter of the Halls Road Improvement initiative and am emphatically against the building of another gas station on Halls Rd.

    We already have one station on Halls Rd. which I use all the time. There’s no line there and so clearly we don’t need another one on that strip.

    We don’t need to support having people coming off the highway to use our gas station either..

    Who supports this?

    Someone above says this gas station services the needs of the community.

    No it doesn’t . . . We only have one gas station and that is enough.

    The Big Y is the biggest retailer in OL and they certainly must know that the residents of OL wouldn’t support this idea. We should make more of an effort to articulate that to them. One comment at a time.

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