Editor’s Note: We thank Halls Road Improvements Committee (HRIC) Chair Edie Twining for sharing the following ‘Spring 2023 Update to the Community’ from the HRIC with us. Since it is such an important topic to the residents of Old Lyme, we are pleased to publish it in its entirety
OLD LYME — On March 27 the Old Lyme Zoning Commission voted 3-2 in favor of creating the Halls Road Overlay District (HROD).
Because the Planning Commission had previously given the HROD a ‘negative referral,’ it required a 4-1 vote to pass, and the measure failed.
The HROD is a significant piece of zoning regulation. It takes significant effort to understand the details. Many of the objections raised were covered by parts of the HROD proposal that apparently were not noticed or were misunderstood.
With the support of the [Old Lyme] Board of Selectmen and the heads of the commissions, we plan to reapply, and to do a better job of explaining the proposal in detail, and answering the objections raised.
The challenges that prompted the effort to make changes along Halls Road still face us.
We need to acknowledge the changing business climate and support our retail businesses in the new environment of the coming decades. The people of Old Lyme want a safer, more attractive, walkable, bike-able, mixed-use town center where they can live, work, and shop.
Smaller-scale housing remains in short supply, and Halls Road is one place where it could be built without using up the remaining open space.
Old Lyme is planning major investments in public improvements, but the Halls Road area also needs to be allowed the option to change for the better.
Restricting Halls Road to “commercial only” now tends to favor highway services over all other uses—a thing that no one wants. Guiding our future is an important matter for Old Lyme. The HROD creates the option for a better future.
In the area of improvements to public infrastructure, the town has hired A. I. Engineers (AIE) to proceed with design development of a new pedestrian/cyclist bridge and trails safely connecting our main commercial district on Halls Road with our Arts District and historic town center on Lyme Street. The bulk of the funding for this project is from the ARPA grant awarded last June.
In February of this year, we also applied for a small grant under the CT Recreational Trails Program to support the bridge and trails. The Halls Road Improvement Committee and the Town of Old Lyme will work on required easements and rights-of-way.
The work of AIE on the project will include an economic analysis, site survey and assessment, and geo-tech investigation leading to preliminary phased designs. AIE will produce three options (with cost estimates) for creating the bridge and trails. AIE’s work will be available for public review, and a final design selected.
Once a final design is approved, AIE will create full construction documents (CDs) for the bridge and trails, and detail the project’s permitting requirements. The CDs will also be used to seek grants to cover the construction costs of the project. AIE will assist in seeking grants, and manage the bidding to move the project to the construction phase.
Last year the BSC Group helped Old Lyme apply for a grant under the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT-DOT)’s Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP). The grant could cover a substantial part of the construction costs for the main improvements planned for sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, etc. along Halls Road. (The bridge and trails are a separate matter from CT-DOT’s point of view.)
Our LOTCIP application is also the first formal review of our plans by CT-DOT, and we must wait for their approval to proceed on this part of the plan. The LOTCIP program has many applicants and the waiting list for review is long. This is Old Lyme’s first request under LOTCIP, and we hope to see some action on our application in 2024.
We appreciate your interest in the future of Halls Road and Old Lyme. Contact us at: [email protected]
William Folland says
A bad idea will always be a bad idea regardless of how much lipstick you put on it.
Should the HRDC proposal go thru during a second go around, the future for Hall’s Road will include a housing project, traffic congestion and vacant storefronts. Where is the common sense?
I would encourage the Planning Commission to again reject any mixed use proposal for Hall’s Road.
Howard Margules says
The Mobil gas station on Halls Road won its lawsuit against the Zoning Commission thereby allowing the owners to now add a convenience store. Whether or not you believe this is good news or bad news, it will have significant consequences for Hall’s Road’s future. We know that other properties for sale on Halls Road are marketed as “easy on, easy” off to 95 and attractive to businesses serving the highway rather than the needs of Old Lyme residents.
Without the overlay district Halls Road will likely wind up looking more like Flanders Four Corners in East Lyme, a busy, unattractive hodge-podge.
Howard Margules says
I have been asked a couple of questions regarding my comment. Here are my Q&As
Q. Does the overlay district prevent additional gas stations?
A. Yes, it helps in two ways. First, gas stations are not allowed in the HROD. Second, HROD does allow new uses (such as multi-family residential) that are more profitable than a new gas station or other highway service business. Property owners may be reluctant to build a truck stop worth X under C-30S when they could have a different development worth 2X or 3X under HROD. Gas stations are allowed in C-30S, but competition from new opportunities in HROD may help reduce their appeal to investors.
Q. How does the overlay district prevent Halls Road from turning into Flanders Four Corners?
Halls Road already is Flanders Four Corners, but with the cross roads at either end of the district, rather than in the middle. The real question is: How do we help it to become something better, and more like Old Lyme? The Master Plan shows what we are aiming for. The HROD helps to allow that to happen.
William Folland says
Halls Road is a service road for Interstate 95 as well as the business district for Old Lyme, Only by redirecting Interstate 95 southbound and Route 1 thru Halls Road will this stretch of highway become a local road — these changes will never happen.
Old Lyme must develop a plan that will deal with pass thru traffic as well as local needs. Putting obstacles in place that attempt to minimize the pass thru traffic will always be rejected by the courts.
At what point will town officials understand they can’t keep nonresidents from entering our town, have they forgotten the issue of seasonal use of homes in the beach communities? We know how that worked out.