To the Editor:
Let’s give the Halls Road Overlay District the full consideration it requires.
I have been living in Old Lyme since 2015 and am grateful for the thoughtful work of fellow residents stepping up to serve on our town’s commissions and boards. For the Zoning and Planning Commissions, among others, the pressures facing our town are escalating, and meeting those challenges will require an agile and forward-thinking approach to their important roles if the town is to prosper without losing all that makes it such a special place.
I understand why the proposed Halls Road Overlay District has yet to win sufficient approval from these commissions, but am convinced that at its heart, and in its careful construction, the modified HROD would be a wise step for our town to take.
Despite its proximity and its containing a number of excellent retail businesses that I enjoy shopping in, I rarely go to Halls Road. When friends passing through suggest getting together for a coffee or a bite, I never propose Halls Road, despite its convenience, because I want my friends’ experience of town to be more pleasant than the drive down Halls Road. To put it bluntly, it is an ugly commercial strip dominated by underused parking lots.
My point is that it is entirely unclear to me what we are being precious about in the footprint of the proposed overlay district. Certainly requiring sufficient infrastructure and ensuring the ground and surface water quality in the area are not negatively impacted will be important considerations in granting individual permits under the proposed overlay. Building permits will also require town approval to make sure they are aesthetically in keeping with the overlay district’s purpose.
It is, however, difficult for me to understand what if anything anyone would be concerned with preserving in the current purely commercial strip. It is (with competition from some of the development around Exit 71) currently the most unappealing part of Old Lyme, and entirely out of character with the rest of town. Based on most permit applications in the last years, it appears under current zoning to only be likely to either get worse, or stagnate.
I hope the members of the Zoning and Planning Commissions can envision the vibrant mixed-use district that the HROD advances: walkable, bikeable, shoppable, livable; providing housing for younger and older folks without gobbling up our irreplaceable open space. These commissions’ attention to the overlay district’s details has made it stronger and will ultimately determine how successful its implementation is.
I thank the commissions again for their service and consideration, and urge them to help Old Lyme into a creative, vibrant, and sustainable future by studying, vetting, and ultimately approving something along the lines of the improved Halls Road Overlay District. I believe the affected businesses, landowners, and the whole town will be better off for it.
Editor’s Note: The author informs us that this letter has also been submitted to the Old Lyme Planning and Zoning Commissions.
William Folland says
Halls Road is and will always be a service road that supports highway traffic as well as services to local residents such as postal services, gas stations, fast foot stops and a grocery store, these are the services normally found on service roads. Service roads are not an ideal location for residential units.
Well meaning people can and do make mistakes, the Halls Road Committee is no exception.
Karen Pompea says
I totally agree with your statement. It is a service road. Halls Road will never be an “Essex Main Street”.