OLD LYME — At its Special Meeting & Public Hearing on Thursday evening, the Old Lyme Planning Commission approved the proposed subdivision at 16 Neck Rd. with the addition of a 75 ft. Conservation Easement proposed by the developer — Keystone Capital Corporation — on the Connecticut River side of the property that will be maintained in perpetuity.
Members did not, however, support the Old Lyme Open Space Commission’s request to ask the developer for a $105,010 fee to compensate for the fact that no publicly-accessible open space is included in the plan.
The majority of Planning Commission members accepted that the open space proposed by the developer in the form of the Conservation Easement was adequate.
Commission Chairman Harold Thompson, Members Barbara Gaudio, and Don Willis and Alternate Matt Ward (seated for Rob McCarthy) supported the motion to approve the subdivision. Alternate Jim Lampos (seated for Todd Machnik) voted against the motion.
Lampos had proposed a 500 ft. easement and a reduction in the number of lots.
The land at 16 Neck Rd. is the same area where the HOPE Partnership endeavored to secure approval for a 37-unit Affordable Housing development back in 2018, which became a highly controversial topic in the community.
The new proposal is for a gated community of nine building lots.
Both the OL Open Space Commission and the Connecticut (CT) River Gateway Commission had submitted letters to the Planning Commission regarding the project. Both letters can be viewed in full at the links given immediately above.
Several other individuals had also submitted letters and emails related to the project.
The Open Space Commission’s letter, dated Sept. 6, and signed by its co-chairs Amanda Blair and Evan Griswold, states, “It appears that no open space is indicated on the applicant’s plan and, even if land were set aside, the gated premises to be accessed by private roadway would not afford public access.”
The letter continues, “In accordance with the provisions of C.G.S. § 8-25, when there is not a suitable area within a subdivision and when there are other areas with[in] Town that the Open Space Commission considers more beneficial to be preserved, the Planning Commission may authorize the applicant to pay a fee in lieu of open space of up to 10% of land’s pre-subdivision appraised value.”
The two-page letter proposes that, although, “It is the Planning Commission’s discretion to determine such payment,” the Planning Commission should request the 10 percent fee of the purchase price from the developer, which it states, “… would equal $105,010.”
These monies would then be used by the Open Space Commission to assist in the purchase other open space properties in the town as they arise. The letter explains, “Although we cannot identify the specific parcels, we will report to you that the Open Space Commission is now actively talking to or considering approaching the owners of at least four properties in Town for acquisition.”
Asked about the possibility of the Open Space Commission receiving a fee in lieu of the absence of open space in a building proposal, Griswold responded in a phone conversation with LymeLine that, “This has happened before,” citing the example of a proposed development on Binney Rd. submitted, “Around three years ago.”
He added, however, that a similar previous request by the Open Space Commission regarding a proposed development on Mile Creek Rd. was declined by the Planning Commission on the basis it was, “A family-oriented subdivision.”
The CT River Gateway Commission four-page letter, dated Sept. 8 and signed by the Deputy Director of the River COG [Council of Governments] Staff, Gateway Commission Torrance Downes, describes the property at 16 Neck Rd. as, “A highly visible riverfront parcel.”
In summary, the letter says, “The Gateway Commission would recommend [a Conservation] easement be placed along the banks of the Connecticut River at the western end of the property.”
It goes on to request that the Planning Commission should, “… use all of the regulatory tools available in its decision-making process to manage the development of the site – at least with respect to the western hillside of the property facing the Connecticut River.”
The letter continues, “Protection of natural areas including mature tree stands is recommended for consideration of open space designation,” noting, “Retention of an attractive and rural community appearance, which would include the treed hillsides of the Connecticut River, should be “one of the most important criteria used in land use decision making”.”
The letter concludes, “Community Appearance recommendations state visual details including preservation of natural site features and vistas are critical components of the town character Old Lyme is charged with protecting.”