July 21, 2019

Op-Ed: Time to Re-evaluate Town Priorities in Old Lyme

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As a concerned citizen and taxpayer, I pay attention to where and how our Town Government spends our tax dollars.  The reader should take the following facts and expenditures into consideration when assessing the effectiveness of our current Town leadership in the next election cycle:

  1. The Town is currently spending $26,400.00 on The Yale Urban Design Workshop to develop conceptual designs for reconfiguring and developing Halls Road under the auspices of the Halls Road Improvement Committee.  Further, the Town has approved expending an additional $38,500.00 for consulting fees to determine the means for utilizing TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) for this same redevelopment concept.  In addition, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted 2 to 1 for a CERC (Connecticut Economic Resource Center) economic development study that will cost $47,000.00 plus $16,640.00 for a year’s worth of Town Economic Development support.  The Board of Finance for the Town had previously voted against these CERC related expenditures.

  2. The Halls Road Improvement Committee was established by the Board of Selectmen to develop Halls Road.  This initiative which has never been vetted by the Town’s Taxpayers has taken on a life of its own.  The proposed redevelopment concept includes 3 and 4-story mixed use buildings – commercial and residential, narrowing of road to accommodate along-road parking, many new shops and stores at the edge of the road, and structures flanking the entrance to Halls Road from Rt. 156.  Photos can be seen on the SECoast.org website.  All of this development will require substantive zoning regulation changes.  The development will need to be funded by private business and taxpayers’ dollars.  What makes no sense:  Not only haven’t Town residents been asked for concurrence with such plans, but neither have the business owners along Halls Road.  I know this because I have spoken to several of those business owners.

    The total cost expenditures to date for this unsanctioned initiative which will, in my opinion, irrevocably and detrimentally affect the character of Old Lyme are $128,540.00.  Did you know this is how your money was being spent? I, like many, do not oppose sensible aesthetic improvements to Halls Road.  But I will not support unfettered development such as that being proposed currently.

  3. Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, the Town of Old Lyme will spend $102,000.00 on the services of the Lyme Youth Services Bureau (LYSB).  I think as Town citizens, we can all agree that LYSB is a valuable and worthwhile investment for our tax dollars.  The Town’s future rests in the success and health of its youth.  Yet, the Town spends far less on LYSB, a time proven asset to the children in this Town, than it has on the Halls Road redevelopment initiative.

When I talk to friends in Town with children in our school system, I hear about a lack of after-school activities for kids, marijuana and other drug usage concerns, and non-involvement issues for kids that aren’t on school sports teams.  These issues should have priority status in how this Town spends its money.

While as a taxpaper in this Town you probably were not aware of the Halls Road Run-Away-Improvement Train, you undoubtedly recognize the need to invest in a better community environment for our young people.

So, getting our spending priorities right seems like a No-Brainer to me.

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by Robert A. Nixon of Old Lyme.

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