January 28, 2022

Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year is Cheryl Poirier!

Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year Cheryl Poirier (second from left) stands with the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen (from left to right) First Selectman Timothy Griswold, Selectman Matt Ward and Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker. Photo by Michele Dickey.

OLD LYME — UPDATED 1/26 — new photo added: At Monday evening’s Annual Town Meeting, Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold announced the closely-guarded secret that Cheryl Poirier had been selected by the board of selectmen as the 2021 Old Lyme Citizen of the Year.

Here is the full text of the Proclamation, which Griswold read aloud to announce the honor:

“We are excited to announce that Old Lyme’s Citizen of the Year for 2021 is the very talented Cheryl Poirier. Cheryl has provided extraordinary service to the Town of Old Lyme in a variety of capacities. She has touched the hearts of many, and that will be reflected in my remarks tonight.

Honoring Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year Cheryl Poirier (third from left) are (from left to right) State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd), Old Lyme Town Clerk Vicki Urbowicz, who officiated at the meeting, First Selectman Timothy Griswold, Selectman Matt Ward and Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker. Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Cheryl is deeply committed to promoting the arts. She is the former Marketing Associate for the Florence Griswold Museum. The museum credits her for developing their “brand” and said that Cheryl is a natural storyteller who is gifted at distilling information into beautiful moments that capture the attention of their audiences. She made a particular impact on her former museum colleague Tammi Flynn. 

Tammi told us that Cheryl is a big thinker whose mind never stops. She sees everything as an opportunity to be explored. Specifically, Tammi said that Cheryl is always five steps ahead of everyone else and frequently “dings” her phone with text messages saying, “did you see this?” and “have you thought of this?” Tammi usually replies “no” followed by the eyeroll emoji because somehow Cheryl always finds information she hasn’t seen yet. She says Cheryl is simply the best at bringing together both ideas and people.

Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold starts the presentation to Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year — a very surprised Cheryl Poirier. Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Cheryl is also active with the Old Lyme Arts District and regularly shares information about art happenings on social media. She has led the planning of Old Lyme’s Midsummer Festival and participates in events such as Make Music Day and the Chamber’s Light Up Old Lyme program. She also spearheads Fairy Doors on Lyme Street each Fall, so we have her to thank for the festive decorations found up and down the street.

Dan Stevens, owner of Nightingale’s Acoustic Café and member of the Arts District, has worked directly with Cheryl on Make Music Day and had this to say about her: “I can think of few who have poured so much heart and soul into making our town a great place to live in a wonderfully selfless way. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her ability to motivate and lead is exceptional. She is a true joy to work with and a great asset to our town.” 

Katie Huffman, Director of the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library and current leader of the Arts District, echoes Dan’s sentiments. She told us, “It’s a rare person who has both exceptional ideas and the wherewithal and tenacity to realize them. Cheryl is one such person. She has amazing ideas, the confidence to share them with others, and the can-do attitude to see them through. In my experience, she leaves every project and organization better than she found it—more organized, efficient, communicative, and productive. She’s more interested in seeing things accomplished than in earning accolades, yet she’s willing and beyond capable to take the lead when needed.  

When Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold (left) announced Cheryl Poirier (second from left) as the Town’s 2021 Citizen of the Year, she received a standing ovation from the audience attending the Jan. 24 Annual Town Meeting. Old Lyme Board of Finance Chairman David Kelsey (right) joined the cheers. Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

On a more personal level, Cheryl is kind and supportive. She notices when people are struggling and is ready to offer a supporting hand or word of encouragement when things get hard. She’s always interested in learning more—about herself, about the community, and about the greater world—and she’s willing to share her knowledge and experience with others to the benefit of many.”

Beyond all she does to support the arts, Cheryl has been instrumental in several Town projects. She is the current Chair of the Old Lyme Sustainability Team and through her leadership, secured both the bronze and silver level certifications from Sustainable CT. Charolette Wyman, who works closely with Cheryl on our sustainability efforts, said that the first time Cheryl attended a Sustainable Old Lyme meeting she was very quiet, which is hard to imagine as she tends to have strong opinions and ideas. But very quickly the committee realized how sharp she is and were amazed at her ability to see the potential synergies among many of the organizations in town. Charolette told us that the smartest thing Sustainable Old Lyme did was making Cheryl their leader and we could not agree more. Now it’s time for her to focus on getting us that gold certification!  

One of the projects that helped the Town achieve these certifications is the town-wide Pollinator Pathway project that encourages residents to plant native species.  Cheryl worked alongside Suzanne Thompson to make the project a smashing success. When asked about what it’s like to work with Cheryl, Suzanne said, “When I’m collaborating with Cheryl on a project, I know it will be visionary, well thought-out and properly executed – and it will be an enjoyable experience working with her to make things happen.” 

Former Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal gives a hug to Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year Cheryl Poirier. Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Because she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Cheryl also agreed to Chair the Town’s Economic Development Commission. In her relatively short time as Chair thus far, she worked closely with Edie Twinning to develop a brand-new website dedicated to promoting Old Lyme tourism. She collected anecdotes from small business owners, wrote copy, set up various pages, gathered photography, and worked diligently to put out an incredible product that is beautiful in design and rich in information. Michelle Noehren, of my office, works frequently with Cheryl and said she is one of the most committed, passionate, hardworking, and innovative commission chairs. Howard Margules, the former Chair of the EDC, agrees, stating that Cheryl is the epitome of a professional, is hardworking and results-driven, and always maintains an open mind. 

Highly organized, deeply motivated, compassionate, and an innovative visionary are all terms that accurately describe Cheryl and her leadership style. Everything I mentioned today she does in a volunteer capacity, so we have no idea how she also makes time to be the wonderful wife, parent, and friend that we know she is. The Town of Old Lyme is grateful for all that she does to support the arts, tourism, the environment, and the economic development of this town she cares so much about. Congratulations, Cheryl, for being selected as the Town of Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year.”

Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year chats with Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker after the presentation. Economic Development Commission member and former chair of the commission Howard Margules stands to the rear. Former Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal gives a hug to Old Lyme’s 2021 Citizen of the Year Cheryl Poirier. Photo by Suzanne Thompson.

Griswold concluded, saying, “This is a much deserved honor,” and we here at LymeLine heartily agree!

A somewhat overwhelmed Poirier, to whom the nomination was a complete surprise, told LymeLine exclusively by email, “It’s an incredible honor to be named Old Lyme’s Citizen of the Year. Volunteering in a community means always learning new perspectives, finding creative ways to collaborate, and of course, building new friendships along the way.”

She added, “I feel very lucky to volunteer alongside the great people, who challenge me and are just as passionate as I am about supporting the amazing things going on in Old Lyme.”

Congratulations, Cheryl!

Old Lyme Town Meeting Approves 2020-21 Town Report, Sale of 11 Alpha Ave., $50K Appropriation for Sound View Sidewalks; 2021 Citizen of the Year Announced

A murmuration of swallows is featured on the cover of the Old Lyme Annual Report for 2019-2020

OLD LYME  — The Old Lyme Annual Town Meeting was held Monday evening in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium.  Atty. Tom McGarry was elected as the Moderator.

Old Lyme Board of Finance Chairman David Kelsey presented the 2020-21 Annual Town Report and thanked Michelle Dickey for “another wonderful editing job.”  The cover features photos of Tree Swallows during their annual murmuration.

Next, those assembled in the auditorium approved the sale of 11 Alpha Ave. (within Rogers Lake West Shores) to Roger Davis at a sale price of $10,500. Alpha Ave is a “paper” street, meaning it is not a passable road. The lot is a 0.48 acre parcel that abuts the Davis home property. The closing will likely occur in February.

Moving to a new agenda item, Frank Pappalardo then explained the Sound View Sidewalk Committee’s request for an appropriation of $50,000 to complete the sidewalk and transportation hub project. Pappalardo pointed out that, while there is a State grant of $400,000 for the project (income), the original project budget (spending) was also $400,000.

There have been about $46,000 of expenses that are not eligible for grant funding, which were paid using the project budget. If the $50,000 appropriation were approved (which it was subsequently), the Town could complete the transportation hub and be reimbursed almost in full by the unused State grant funds.

Finally, to her great surprise, the Citizen of the Year for 2021 was announced as Cheryl Poirier.

The item concerning using $115.000 of American Rescue Plan funding for COVID testing, distribution and communications was withdrawn from the agenda following the request by the American Rescue Plan Act Committee to do so following the announcement by the federal government of their funding of N-95 masks and COVID-19 self-tests.

A reception for Poirier was held in the Middle School cafeteria following the Town Meeting.

Old Lyme Open Space Commission Co-Chair Explains Why ‘Ames Property’ Acquisition Efforts Ended

Old Lyme Open Space Commission Co-chair Evan Griswold. Photo courtesy of E. Griswold.

OLD LYME — Several readers raised questions regarding the reasons why the efforts to acquire the two parcels of ‘Ames Property’ donated to the Old Lyme Open Space Commission have concluded.

We contacted the commission and were told that its co-chair Evan Griswold was speaking on behalf of the agency.

Griswold kindly returned our phone call earlier today and explained first that terminating the effort to acquire the parcels was “personally a disappointment” to him since he had invested a great deal of time and energy on the project over the past 18 months. He added, “It’s just a shame that we weren’t able to bring all the parties together.”

He noted that the owner of the properties, Stephen Ames, had been “very patient” throughout the whole process.

Asked what the fundamental issue was that halted the acquisition, Griswold explained that the problem went back to the restrictions that were placed on the five-parcel subdivision by Ames when it was created in 2005. Those restrictions deemed that the lots, in Griswold’s words, were, “really for residential purposes only,” and moreover, “Anyone buying one of the lots would have to commence construction of a house within 18 months of purchase.”

Griswold commented that the Open Space Commission by its very nature was not planning any construction and that its intentions were to preserve the 35 acres of land, adding that the most ‘construction’ they would undertake would be some signage and trail map information.

A second issue was that the access road for all five lots was established as a private road.

Noting that all the homeowners would have to be on board in order for the restrictions to be waived to allow for a house not to be built and to give access to the two lots in question over the private road, Griswold said, “one neighbor objected.”

Two of the three remaining lots not included in the proposed land acquisition are sold and Griswold said he believes the third is currently on the market.

While stressing his disappointment with the outcome, he noted that as a “someone involved in real estate for over 40 years,” he can appreciate both sides of the situation in that there were, “privacy concerns” for the objecting homeowner. He concluded, “There must be equity for the public and landowners.”

Old Lyme Open Space Commission Announces Efforts to Acquire Two Parcels of ‘Ames Property’ Have Ended, Obstacles “Impossible to Overcome”

The acquisition of the two new ‘Ames Property’ parcels, which cannot now be completed, would have directly expanded the existing 195-acre Ames Family Open Space, which can be accessed from Evergreen Trail (via Boggy Hole Road). Photo credit: OL Open Space Commission. 

OLD LYME —  This afternoon, the Old Lyme Open Space Commission released the following statement on the proposed Ames Property purchase:

“The Old Lyme Open Space Commission deeply regrets that, despite its diligent work over the past 18 months, and the work and support of other Town boards and commissions including the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the Planning Commission, its efforts to acquire two parcels of the “Ames Property” for addition to the Town’s open space lands have not been successful and have concluded. 

In the end, it proved impossible to overcome obstacles posed by the recorded documents that created the five-parcel subdivision of which the two open-space parcels were a part. 

This outcome is especially unfortunate because acquisition of the open space parcels would have been of great benefit to the Town. The acquisition would have directly expanded the existing Ames Open Space, further protected the Black Hall River watershed, provided additional refuge for endangered species, preserved forest land and its carbon sequestration potential, and moved Old Lyme closer to a town-wide hiking trail.

The possibility of new access to Ames Open Space via a well-constructed and maintained driveway with safe, off-road parking, and potential new trail access by persons with disabilities, including to the existing open space ancient Native-American caves/shelters, would have been another key benefit.

The Open Space Commission thanks the property owner, Steven Ames, for his patient consideration while the Commission pursued the acquisition.”

Update on COVID-Tests, Masks From the State

Old Lyme is still waiting for its next supply of IHealth self-tests  from the state.

OLD LYME — Old Lyme Emergency Services Director David Roberge informed us by phone yesterday (Friday, Jan. 14) that no further supplies of COVID self-tests nor masks have been received from the state this week.

Roberge also noted that, to date, he has not received any information regarding when the next delivery might be made.

He wanted to express his appreciation to all the townspeople for their patience and share the hope that he receives more news from the state soon.

As soon as we receive any further information from Roberge on a delivery of self-tests and/or masks, we will publish it promptly.

Roberge Hails Saturday’s Drive-Thru Event in Old Lyme to Distribute COVID-19 Test-Kits, Masks, Another Success

COVID-19 self-tests will be distributed at Saturday morning’s drive-thru event in Old Lyme.

OLD LYME — Jan 8, 5PM UPDATE: Old Lyme Emergency Services Director David Roberge told LymeLine by phone this afternoon that all the self-test kits and N95 masks, which the state had supplied, were successfully handed out this morning.

He commented that there were more than 100 cars in line well before the event start time of 10 a.m.

Roberge added, “Many thanks go to everyone who waited patiently in line for their test kits and masks. We really appreciate their patience and kindness.”

He added, “As and when we receive any further supplies from the state, we will announce further drive-through events to distribute the products.”

Roberge had special words for the six volunteers, who assisted him during the event this morning, saying, “I really appreciate their help, support and positive attitude … despite the cold! It couldn’t have happened without them.” 

On Thursday, Jan. 6, the Town of Old Lyme received an additional, but limited, quantity of COVID-19 test kits and N95 masks from the state.

A ‘Drive-Thru Pickup’ is scheduled for TODAY, Saturday, Jan. 8, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. or until supplies are exhausted on the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School driveway behind Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau for Old Lyme residents, who meet the criteria stated above.

Four hundred (400) test kits and N95 masks are available to distribute, and these test kits are again being prioritized for residents, “who currently need to make wise decisions about quarantining or isolating because they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.”

Enter from the Center School driveway entrance. Residents will need to show ID.

The quantity of test kits and masks being distributed will be one test kit containing two tests and four N95 masks per household.

At this time, the state is expected to receive additional shipments. When the Town of Old Lyme receives additional deliveries, future drive-thru events will be scheduled and then announced.

To stay in touch regarding when additional test-kits and masks become available for distribution, simply text OLCOVID19 to 888777 on your phone.  The most recent information about COVID-19 test kit and mask distribution events will be shared there as well as on the Town of Old Lyme website, the Town’s social media platforms and with the Town’s media partners, which include LymeLine.com.

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a press release issued Jan. 6 by Old Lyme Emergency Services Director David Roberge.

Roberge Says Successful Hand-out of COVID-19 Tests was “Team Effort,” Thanks all Involved for “Support, Patience, Kindness”

Cars in line at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School wait patiently yesterday afternoon to pick up state-funded, free COVID-19 tests.

OLD LYME — Although holding many reservations about holding a drive-through event to pick up the highly anticipated COVID-19 self-tests finally delivered by the state, Old Lyme Director of Emergency Management David Roberge ended up pleased with its outcome. He commented cheerfully in a phone call to LymeLine after the 180 test kits received had been distributed Sunday afternoon in the space of an hour and a half, “It all went very smoothly.”

Vehicles were lined up in front of Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School well before the official 3 p.m. start time of the event and using an efficient system of checking ID’s and having several people handing out tests simultaneously, 90 test kits were handed out in the first 10 minutes. Things then slowed down a little and the remaining 90 were gone by 4:30 p.m.

Old Lyme Visiting Nurse Association volunteers Sarah Gleason (left) and Cindi Taylor prepare to hand out COVID-19 test kits to Old Lyme residents in need.

Noting that the Old Lyme Office of Emergency Management had successfully distributed 180 COVID test kits to  residents in need, Roberge noted, “While we did not yet have enough test kits for all, (he was expecting a delivery of 3,000 rather than the 550 received) we are grateful that we did have those on hand to share.”

He had nothing but praise for all involved, saying, “We wish to thank the Old Lyme Police Department, the selectmen from town hall  along with the Old Lyme Visiting Nurses Association (OLVNA) and Lyme’s Youth Services Bureau (LYSB) for assisting in the distribution.” Both Selectman Matt Ward and Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker were on hand to assist with the effort. (First Selectman Tim Griswold was out of state on a prearranged trip) as were representatives of Old Lyme’s VNA and LYSB.

Roberge also expressed his thanks to, “Our social media specialists and LymeLine for sharing the most current and dated information during this event. Their help made the event go very quickly and efficiently.”

Finally, he gave what he described as his “biggest thank-you” to all the residents, who came out to pick up their test kits, saying, “Their patience and cooperation while waiting in the long line allowed the distribution go very smoothly without any altercations.”

Looking to the future, Roberge commented, “As the state is in the process of obtaining additional test kits, we look forward to providing the same high level of service for future distributions.”

He concluded, “I thank you for all your support, patience and kindness during the afternoon. It was truly a team effort pulled together at very short notice,”

Roberge also took the opportunity to repeat his ongoing message to the community, saying, “As we continue to navigate this pandemic, please carry on taking precautions, and above all, stay safe.”

Olafur, Director of Emergency Management David Roberge’s dog, carefully guards the precious cargo!

The response to the event has been overwhelmingly positive with several residents expressing their thanks on social media to all who made the event a reality. Gail Najarian also spoke for many when she wrote in a comment on LymeLine,”I was quite apprehensive about going out but was so impressed how orderly the distribution went. Thank you everyone who made this possible.”

Editor’s Note: We would be remiss if we did not extend our sincere thanks to David Roberge himself for all his efforts in organizing this event. We look forward to supporting future distributions with timely communications.

Update on Those State-Funded COVID-19 Self-Tests

OLD LYME — Asked when Old Lyme residents might expect distribution of the COVID-19 tests promised at the start of the week by Connecticut Gov. Lamont and anticipated to be in resident’s hands by today, Old Lyme Emergency Department Director David Roberge gave LymeLine.com an update in a phone call earlier today [Friday, Dec. 31.]

He said, “[Following Gov. Lamont’s announcement of a delay in the shipment of the tests from California,] we have not received any correspondence or communications from the state [regarding when the COVID-19 self-tests might be delivered to Old Lyme] as of 12:09 p.m. today [Dec.31.]”

He added, “We are fully prepared to respond with distribution [of the tests to Old Lyme residents] when we receive the product. We are just waiting for notification and will be ready for action.”

Roberge also committed to inform Lymeline.com of any updates he receives from the state.

Old Lyme Town Hall Seeks New ‘Greeter’

OLD LYME — Old Lyme Town Hall is looking for a new Greeter to begin in mid-January and continue as long as funding is available.

This is a temporary position and the pay rate is $15/hour. Hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break.

Responsibilities include greeting visitors as they enter the building and directing them to the appropriate offices, as well as assisting visitors in filling out paperwork and answering questions. The person appointed must be friendly, willing to learn, and a team player.

Old Lyme’s Hall’s Rd. Improvements Committee Presents an Update for the Community, Offers New ‘Overlay Zone’ to Ease Property Owner Concerns

The Halls Road Improvements Committee is working diligently to create an improved environment for everyone along this stretch of the road between Rte. 156 and Lyme St.

OLD LYME — The Halls Road Improvements Committee (HRIC) is currently working on three key areas of the Halls Road Master Plan, as follows:

  • rezoning the commercial district for future private development
  • grant applications for public improvement
  • signage along Halls Road.

Grants and re-zoning will require some additional funding to pay for outside technical expertise in particular areas. 

Re-zoning:

The initial re-zoning application for the Halls Rd. Village District was withdrawn on Nov. 8, in part to permit the committee to make significant revisions. 

The Village District proposal addressed the recommendations of the Master Plan but created nonconformity issues for existing properties. To meet the concerns of property owners, the committee is adopting a more flexible approach by creating a new Overlay Zone.

This new approach maintains the current C-30s zone, allowing owners to make changes to existing structures within the old regulations. If they wish to take advantage of the new opportunities, they can do so under the Overlay Zone, which permits the development of multi-family residential complexes mixed with commercial properties. 

Elements of the original Village District proposal will be included within the Overlay Zone, such as buildings set close to Halls Rd. with commercial uses on the first floor and residential allowed above or beyond the roadway.

The Overlay Zone offers incentives for residential and commercial development along Halls Rd. that not only yield greater profit for property owners but also increase Old Lyme’s tax base in the district.

Over time, this rezoning will create a vibrant, walkable, bike-able, mixed-use neighborhood focused on serving the retail and small-scale residential needs of Old Lyme. 

Grants:

The grants subcommittee will be applying for several grants to help implement the public improvements for landscaping, sidewalks, bikeways, lighting, and new crosswalks.

The largest grant from the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP) is state-funded and will be reviewed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT.)

The BSC Group, which the Town of Old Lyme engaged to create a formal Halls Road Plan, has introduced CT DOT to the plans, but the LOTCIP review will be DOT’s first official review of the HRIC plans.

With the full master plan and engineering details in hand, CT DOT will be prepared to approve or suggest changes to create what they call “complete streets” along Halls Rd.

The committee expects to apply by late 2022 with a goal to secure a grant by 2023-2024.  

Additional grants for trails and connections will be applied for as early as January 2022. These focus on funding for the new pedestrian bridge and trails from Lyme Street and across the Lieutenant River.

Signage:

The signage subcommittee is looking to clean up the roadway signage that has gone untended for many years. This would include straightening out sign posts and/or removing repetitive signs with the goal of making way-finding clear and attractive. 

Funding:

In January, the committee will seek additional funding to cover the cost of legal help (both for zoning language and for easements along the proposed path), and for additional work from BSC Group (again, for both zoning and grants). 

Editor’s Notes: i) The HRIC welcomes comments on these revised proposals at hallsroadcommittee@oldlyme-ct.gov.  Also, if you would like to help with any aspect of the committee’s work, contact the HRIC at hallsroadcommittee@oldlyme-ct.gov.

ii) This article is based on a press release issued by the HRIC.

Letter to the Editor: Update on Old Lyme American Rescue Plan Committee’s Community Survey

To the Editor:

Thank you very much for supporting these efforts. There has been considerable activity on the community survey since your recent coverage (published December 13th.) By yesterday morning, December 15, we had already received 270 online surveys completed by residents, businesses, and/or organizations. We have not yet had any submissions of the paper survey that is available at the Town Hall reception desk.

This is a great start, but we want to be confident that we have thoroughly and broadly polled our community. To achieve that goal, we are placing posters in high visibility locations in Old Lyme, and mailing post cards to residents.

I can’t overstate the importance of these survey results; they will provide a framework for the Committee’s estimate of Old Lyme’s collective need, and help set priorities that will be included in the funding recommendation made to the Board of Selectmen.

Note that the online survey will remain open for submissions past the end of the year; but end on January 7, 2022.

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is the chairman of the Old Lyme American Rescue Plan Committee.

Old Lyme Receives Sustainable CT Silver Award at Conference of Municipalities, One of Only 12 Towns in State to Receive Award

Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold and Sustainable Old Lyme Team Chair Cheryl Poirier display the prestigious Sustainable CT Silver Level Certification Award they accepted on Tuesday on behalf of the Town of Old Lyme at the Convention of CT Conference of Municipalities held at Mohegan Sun. Photo by M. Noehren.

OLD LYME — On Tuesday, Nov. 30, Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold and Cheryl Poirier, who serves as chairperson of the Sustainable Old Lyme team, were honored at the annual Convention of CT Conference of Municipalities held at Mohegan Sun when they accepted the prestigious Sustainable CT Silver Level Certification Award on behalf of the Town of Old Lyme.

Old Lyme met high standards in a broad range of sustainability accomplishments to qualify for the prestigious Silver level certification, becoming only one of 12 towns in the state to receive that level of certification and the only one in New London County. All 2021 certified communities were recognized at the Annual Convention of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. 

Sustainable CT is a statewide initiative that inspires and supports communities in becoming more efficient, resilient, and inclusive. The highest level of certification currently offered is silver — the Town achieved a Bronze certification in the Fall of 2020.

Asked how he felt about receipt of the award, Griswold responded by email saying graciously, “Cheryl Poirier deserves most of the credit for the honor Old Lyme received for achieving the Sustainable CT Silver Certification (the highest level at this time).”

He continued, “Cheryl and I were recognized during the awards luncheon of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ Convention at the Mohegan Sun Casino,” adding, “Numerous initiatives involving many different Town agencies helped the Sustainable Old Lyme Team win the three-year Silver status.”

Griswold concluded enthusiastically, “I have a feeling Gold is in the Team’s future under Cheryl’s dynamic leadership.”

Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold (third from left) and Sustainable Old Lyme Team Chair Cheryl Poirier (second from left) stand with other winners of the Sustainable CT Silver Level Certification Award. The award recipients were honored on Tuesday at the Convention of CT Conference of Municipalities held at Mohegan Sun. Photo by M. Noehren.

An Open Space Plan with its eye on sustainability, a town-wide Pollinator Pathway that encourages residents to plant native species, and a strong commitment to arts and culture were just some of the initiatives that led to Old Lyme receiving this highest level of certification by Sustainable Connecticut. 

In its application for Sustainable CT certification, Old Lyme demonstrated significant achievements in 12 sustainable impact areas ranging from inclusive community building, thriving local economies, and clean and efficient energy use, to vibrant arts and culture, clean transportation and planning for diverse housing.

Twelve initiatives in Old Lyme’s certification application have been designated as “Success Stories,” which are deemed strong examples of a particular action and are shared with municipalities pursuing certification.  Twelve Success Stories in the Town of Old Lyme’s submission include:

  1. Meeting the Equitable and Inclusive Process requirements for the Economic Development Commission’s 2019 SWOT analysis process, 2020 Walk Audit, and the 2021 Lymes’ Creative Arts summer youth programming;
  2. The Town’s Open Space Plan which includes prioritizing acquisitions, enhancing the local ecosystem, connecting open space parcels, offering recreation benefits, and ensuring the long-term viability of the Town’s open space.”
  3. Pollinate Old Lyme!: A collaborative pollinator ecosystem educational program and the creation of a pollinator pathway in Old Lyme which includes public-access properties;
  4. A commitment to the inventory and accurate promotion of the town’s tourism and cultural assets;
  5. Its overall commitment to arts and culture in the town, including promoting arts programming by the OL-PGN Library and the creation of an arts district partnership;
  6. The Planning Commission’s 2020 Plan of Conservation & Development, which addresses six key sustainability goals related to compatible physical development and stewardship, municipal programs and operations, community character and livability, economic vitality and resilience, infrastructure resiliency, and land use patterns;
  7. The Old Lyme Historic and Architectural Resource Inventory with over 200 properties considered historically significant; the Inventory can be used as a planning tool for community leaders;
  8. The Town’s “Complete Streets” improvements to the Sound View Village and its Gateway with new sidewalks and improved safety;
  9. The Town’s communications strategy for disseminating information including meeting the challenges of communicating with residents during the pandemic;
  10. The Sustainable Old Lyme Team’s mentorship of the Town of Lyme’s new Sustainable CT effort;
  11.  Assessing and sharing with the public the Town’s three-year-residential solid waste tonnage, with an incentive to reduce trash by 10 percent;
  12. Two innovative strategies and initiatives specific to the community: Lyme-Old Lyme Public School’s carbon-free initiative, and the Witness Stone project in Old Lyme.

“It was an honor for our team to submit this application on behalf of the Town,” said Cheryl Poirier, chairperson of the Sustainable Old Lyme Team. “While we worked closely with various boards, commissions, and Town departments to document their sustainable efforts, we also sought out opportunities to reach new goals set by the suggested actions of Sustainable CT.”

She noted, “The Sustainable CT certification process gave us the vision to work toward an even more sustainable community,” explained Poirier.

Future efforts by the Sustainable Old Lyme team will be to educate its community members on ways to reduce the amount of solid waste that is tossed in the trash. “Sustainable CT sets a challenge for municipalities to reduce its residents’ solid waste by 10% or more, and we are interested in meeting that challenge,” Poirier noted.

Sustainable CT has seen strong momentum and growth as a valuable, high-impact program.  One-hundred twenty-five municipalities have registered for the program, representing 86 percent of the state’s population.  Collectively, 64 municipalities, which is equivalent to 60 percent of the state’s communities, have earned Sustainable CT certification.  Certification lasts for three years, with submissions rigorously evaluated by independent experts and other Sustainable CT partners.  

The program includes actions that help towns and cities build community connection, social equity, and long-term resilience. The program’s action roadmap and support tools are especially relevant as towns seek practices and resources to promote racial justice, respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and address climate change.

Sustainable CT is independently funded, with strong support from its three founding funders: the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Smart Seed Fund, and the Common Sense Fund. Additional support is provided by the Connecticut Green Bank and a growing number of community foundations and other sponsors.

For more information, visit www.sustainablect.org.  

Old Lyme’s certification report can be found at this link

Editor’s Notes: i) Congratulations to all those involved in making achievement of this certification a reality. We recognize that an enormous amount has been undertaken in order to prepare Old Lyme’s submission and thank all the volunteers who have worked tirelessly on this project.

 

Letter to the Editor: Who is Old Lyme’s Ethics Ombudsman?

To the Editor:

Who is Old Lyme’s Ethics Ombudsman?

The answer depends on which town official you ask.

When asking  the Ethics Commission Chairman, she indicated that she wasn’t sure that the position exists.

When asking the Town Clerk’s office, they indicated that the current Democratic Registrar of Voters is the Ethics Ombudsman … but that can’t be. Old Lyme’s Code of Ethics states that the Ethics Ombudsman cannot hold any other elected or appointed office in the town. This would clearly be a violation of the Ethics Code.

A review of meeting minutes of the Ethics Commission indicated there is no record of vote to appoint an Ombudsman. The Ethics Commission has the responsibility of appointing the Ombudsman; failure not to appoint the Ombudsman would be a violation of the Ethics Code.

The losers here are town officials and town employees, who are not afforded the option of seeking advice about ethical and conflict of interest issues that arise in their duties.

Sincerely,

William Folland,
Old Lyme.

Nosal Wins Seat on Zoning by Six Votes in Monday Night’s Recount

Old Lyme Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal (File photo)

OLD LYME — UPDATED NOV. 11 at 1pm with a comment from Selectwoman Nosal. The final result in Monday evening’s lengthy recount of the votes cast last Tuesday for a five-year term starting 2022 on the Old Lyme Zoning Commission was as follows:

Mary Jo Nosal (D): 1,600
Sloan Danenhower (R): 1,594

This result confirmed Nosal, who currently serves as Old Lyme Selectwoman but did not seek re-election, as the winner of the race.

Asked her reaction to the recount result, Nosal told LymeLine in a text, “The recount validated the Nov 2nd election results. Clearly Mr. Dannenhower and I were supported by many voters in Old Lyme. It was a good race.”

She added, “I look forward to being seated on the Commission next year to fairly apply our regulations on the local concerns that come before the Commission.”

The unofficial result announced the night of the election was:

Mary Jo Nosal (D): 1,600
Sloan Danenhower (R): 1,593

Griswold Withdraws Application for Halls Road Village District at 11th Hour; HRIC Chair Twining Responds, Says “Withdrawal … Was Last Minute Action Taken Without Notice or Consultation”

Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold (File photo)

OLD LYME — UPDATED 11/10 at 1:20am with HRIC Chair’s Response to withdrawal submission: Around lunchtime on Monday, Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold formally withdrew the Town of Old Lymes petition for the amendment of the Old Lyme Zoning Regulations to create the Halls Road Village District by submitting a letter to Paul Orzel, the chairman of the Old Lyme Zoning Commission.

The petition had been submitted to the Zoning Commission in September 2021 and the Public Hearing on the proposal was due to be continued at the Zoning Commission Monday evening.

In his letter, Griswold states, “It has come to my attention after the submission that the proper sequence of process was not followed …” noting that he will send the proposal back to the Halls Road Improvement Committee (HRIC) for further review and “possible resubmission.”

Griswold continues, “When the Chairwoman of the HRIC [Edie Twining] asked me to sign the petition so the Town could be the formal applicant to the Zoning Commission, I had the distinct impression that the application had been reviewed and voted favorably upon by the full HRIC, and that it had been favorably reviewed by the Planning Commission.”

He adds, “Further, I understand there have been some subsequent important changes to the application that have required or will require amendments.”

In conclusion, he states, “I believe the withdrawal of the application at this time will allow a more thorough review to take place before the application is resubmitted.”

We asked HRIC Chairwoman Twining to comment on Griswold’s action — our understanding is that it was not discussed with the committee in advance.

Here is her response, which was received Tuesday afternoon, to the actions of First Selectman Griswold:

The withdrawal of the Halls Road Village District application on November 8th, the day of the scheduled public hearing, was a last minute action taken without notice or consultation.

It was very unprofessional to spring this on the Halls Road Improvements Committee (HRIC). We had already notified residents by email to attend the public hearing as well as property owners by certified mail.

When I spoke with the First Selectman about the project on November 3rd, he made no mention of taking any such action and instead said he would look into getting funding for additional services related to zoning. 

The zoning subcommittee has worked carefully with BSC Group to create a document for rezoning the C-30 (Commercial District) to a Halls Road Village District. We have assured residents and property owners that the initial proposal will definitely undergo revisions as we hear from the public.

Last night’s meeting [Monday, Nov. 8] was to review the first revisions at the public hearing conducted by the Zoning Commission. The goal was to hear any further questions, and further revise as needed. It is our understanding, after asking ZEO Dan Bouret about the process, that this is the appropriate forum to collect and revise the proposed document. 

By withdrawing the application it stops the public process and suggests this effort will either be dropped altogether or revised in private.

The zoning changes support the Halls Road Master Plan, which has been widely publicized, and was formally accepted by the HRIC as the template to use in going forward. That plan calls for public improvements and the zoning changes necessary to remake the mix of uses along Halls Road. 

Our committee approved the Halls Road Master Plan in July 2021. We agreed that our next steps would require subcommittees to work on the details to follow up on the recommendations to the plan. These subgroups are for Grants, Zoning, and Signage.

When the zoning proposal was ready to submit, it was distributed among the whole committee at Mr. [David] Kelsey’s recommendation. The email asked for comments and contained a schedule of all the next actions through final submission to the Zoning Commission, with no mention of any vote.

Surprisingly only the zoning subcommittee members supplied any comment. Mr. Kelsey had no comment, even though he requested to read it. He apologized for not doing so, finally, at this past October’s meeting.

We are now hearing [from Mr. Griswold’s letter withdrawing the petition from Zoning] that not conducting a vote that was never planned or called for, was somehow “not following proper procedure.” There was no procedure requiring a vote of the whole committee. There was adequate time to ask for one, or even make comments, but no one did. 

The committee has followed the advice of the Zoning Commission in navigating the process of changing zoning. To date, rezoning applications are not required to be posted on-line but the committee posted their application on the HRIC & Zoning town site once they were told it was allowed.

It is also not legally required to directly notify property owners of rezoning applications but the committee decided to send certified notifications because it is such an important district change.

We are listening to all comments, making revisions, and were intending to ask for a continuance beyond the December 13th deadline to make more time for public involvement. 

This is an important initiative to protect Halls Road from becoming a service plaza for the highway. By introducing residential with commercial, property becomes more valuable, we answer the need for small-scale residential uses, and we aid in evolving the car-centric strip centers into the walkable, bike-able town center many residents have asked for.

The rezoning proposal is for Old Lyme. It is not for individual gain or recognition. It is not for investors. It is not a party issue. It is a way to protect and promote the hometown feel of Old Lyme. 

 

 

No Vote Recount for Old Lyme’s Fourth Seat on BOE Planned, Recount for OL 5-Year Zoning Seat to be Held This Evening

OLD LYME — UPDATED NOV. 8 at 2:40pm — Old Lyme Republican Registrar Cathy Carter has confirmed to LymeLine by email this morning that there will only be one recount this evening for Old Lyme Zoning Commission position with a five-year term beginning 2022.

She explained that the results for the fourth position on the Region 18 Board of Education (BOE) were “… read incorrectly on Election night, however a tape from the tabulator was posted for public viewing with the correct numbers.” 

Carter said she will confirm to LymeLine this afternoon where and when the tape was posted.

She added, the final vote counts for BOE candidates Christopher Staab (R) and Alexander Lowry (D) were respectively 1578 and 1555, thus giving Staab a margin of victory of 23 votes.

This 23-margin difference places the result just outside the number needed to generate an automatic recount; a margin of 20 votes or less triggers an automatic recount.

We will update this story with new information as soon as we receive it.

OLD LYME — An announcement on the Town of Old Lyme website states, “The Old Lyme Registrars of Voters will conduct a recount of the votes cast for the Zoning Commission member having a five-year term beginning in 2022 on Monday, 8 November 2021 at 6:00 pm in the Mezzanine Conference Room of the Old Lyme Town Hall.”

The unofficial results from Tuesdays’ election in this race were:

Mary Jo Nosal (D): 1,600
Sloan Danenhower (R): 1,593

with Mary Jo Nosal being declared the unofficial winner. The margin of seven votes generates an automatic recount since Connecticut state law requires an automatic recount when the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent of total votes cast for any office or fewer than 20 votes.

An automatic recount was also generated in the Old Lyme Board of Finance Alternate race where the unofficial results were as follows:

Sarah E. Michaelson (D): 1,621
Katherine Thuma (D): 1,630
Matthew Olsen (R): 1,754
Maria Marchant (R): 1,709

Thuma, Olsen and Marchant were declared unofficial winners, but the margin between Michaelson and Thuma potentially called for a recount since that difference in total votes between the candidates was nine votes. The New London Day reports, however, that Michaelson has waived her right to a recount.

We have not yet received details of a recount for the fourth member of the Region 18 Board of Education, where the unofficial results were:

Christopher Staab (R): 1,578
Alexander Lowry (D): 1,568

with Christopher Staab being declared the unofficial winner. This margin of 10 votes would also generate an automatic recount.

Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold stated in his Friday newsletter to the community, “Because the vote counts of two elected officials were within fifteen votes of each other, there will be a recount of their votes on Monday.”

He did not respond to our request for more information on when the second recount would be held.

11/7 UPDATE at 1 a.m: We note the New London Day is now reporting the number of votes cast respectively for Staab and Lowry as follows:

Christopher Staab (R): 1,578
Alexander Lowry (D): 1,555

This 23-margin difference places the result just outside the number needed to generate an automatic recount since it is more than 20 votes.

It appears the initial vote tallies announced on election night for this specific office were incorrect and that they have now been corrected. We are unclear at this point whether a recount for this seat will be held since we have not received an official response to that question yet.

We will update the information on the potential second recount as soon as we receive it.

BREAKING NEWS: Griswold Withdraws Proposal Prior to Meeting: Letter to the Editor: HRIC Chairman Invites Questions, Comments From Public on Halls Rd. Village District Application; Old Lyme Zoning Hearing Monday

UPDATED: 3:45PM We have just heard that Old Lyme First Selectman Timothy Griswold has withdrawn the application for the Halls Road Village District so it will no longer be on the agenda at the Zoning Commission this evening. 

To the Editor:

Schematic of proposed Halls Road Village District taken from application for same to Old Lyme Zoning Commission.

Creating a Village District is a complex process that involves multiple stakeholders and professionals. It is intended to address the goals of the Halls Road Master Plan Report, which were based on the past three years of research surveying the people and businesses of Old Lyme.

The Old Lyme Zoning Commission’s next Public Hearing will be held Monday, Nov. 8, at 6:30 p.m. and will include the continuation of the town’s application for the new Halls Road Village District.

Now is the time to pose questions to make this new zone the best it can possibly be. These can be sent ahead of the hearing to the zoning commission and/or in person at the meeting.  We welcome your comments, support and suggestions. Please email them to hallsroadcommittee@oldlyme-ct.gov

The rezoning application forward* that explains the reasons behind the rezoning is printed in its entirety below.

Visit this link to view the full application related to the Halls Road Village District, which has been submitted to the Old Lyme Zoning Commission.

Visit this link to view the presentation made to the Old Lyme Zoning Commission by the Halls Road Improvement Committee to support the application related to the Halls Road Village District.

Sincerely,

Edie Twining,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: i) The author is chairman of the Halls Road Improvement Committee.

ii) *For the benefit of our readers, the text below is the explanation sent the Old Lyme Zoning Commission by the HRIC to support the application to create the Halls Road Village District. 

Dear Members of the Zoning Commission,

The Town of Old Lyme is excited to submit to the Old Lyme Zoning Commission this application to create the Halls Road Village District. This application is the result of years of work by the Town’s Halls Road Improvements Committee (HRIC) in consultation with local businesses, residents, town and civic groups, and professionals in relevant fields.

The aim of the Halls Road Master Plan (attached) is to secure the long-term viability of the town’s main retail district by a combination of improvements in the public realm, and changes in the zoning that regulates and guides the development of private parcels in the Halls Road district. The effort is intended to serve these and other needs of Old Lyme by changing the focus of development on Halls Road from isolated, car-centric, commercial-only strip centers to a walk-able, bike-able, mixed-use neighborhood that is safe and inviting, and is both more accessible to, and better integrated in form and function with, our historic civic center and arts district on Lyme Street. We believe these changes are needed to secure the town’s continued vitality, and will best serve the near-universal desire of residents to maintain the small town rural New England look and feel of Old Lyme.

Making the Halls Road area safe, inviting, and accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, and giving them an attractive connection between Lyme Street and Halls Road is chiefly a matter of public realm improvements. These improvements are a major part of the Halls Road Master Plan, but they do not, in themselves, require changes to zoning. The zoning changes are required in order to implement the over-all plan and support the long-term viability of retail on Halls Road.

The two aspects of the plan work together, and each relies on the other.

The turn away from a strip center model and toward a mixed-use village district does require zoning changes as requested in this application. Briefly, these changes include:

  • Establish a Halls Road Village District in which Lyme Street (not the current Halls Road) is the model.
    Allow mixed use in the new district. That is: allow a mix of retail, office, and residential, in which “residential” is limited to smaller-scale (e.g. apartments, condos, town houses, etc.) market-rate alternatives to the currently dominant housing stock (92% of which is single-family houses on their own lot).
  • Reduce the set-back requirements to encourage mixed-use buildings directly on Halls Road with retail on the first floor (facing Halls Road) and office or residential above and/or behind.
  • Relax the older parking requirements that encouraged maximal parking lots, and promote parking behind new buildings that face Halls Road.
  • Establish Design Guidelines and a design review process for the Village District to ensure new development and renovations advance the long-term goals of making Halls Road visually and functionally an integrated part of an extended town center based on historic Lyme Street.

Mixed Use
The introduction of mixed use in the new Halls Road Village District is a key part of the Halls Road Master Plan, and promotes the shared goals of Old Lyme on multiple levels.

Mixed use as proposed for Halls Road directly addresses a critical shortage of smaller-scale housing options in town, and places that housing in a village environment that is particularly attractive to older residents wanting to downsize, and to young families moving into town or just starting out in life. By making it possible for older residents to stay in town when they downsize, we keep friends together and support a community with deep connections. Younger families are the future of our town. They are the backbone of our all-volunteer support systems, including the OLFD, and their children are the whole purpose of our excellent schools. Without younger families, all of these institutions will wither.

Mixed use also helps to improve the general business climate of the town and of Halls Road in particular. Retail trade is under severe pressure from the Internet. There is increasing dis-investment in retail malls and little interest in retail investments generally. One type that does still draw investment is retail embedded in a mixed-use neighborhood, where foot traffic and casual browsing help bolster trade. Mega-malls tried to imitate a village setting but they failed. It turns out a neighborhood needs actual neighbors if it is to support local retail trade. It is not just the foot traffic, but the ambience of a vibrant living neighborhood that makes a retail area an interesting place to walk, browse, and meet one’s friends. That is the goal for the Halls Road Village District, and mixed use is a crucial part of that aim. Over time, the Halls Road Village District should become a living neighborhood with a mix of retail, office and residential—a walk-able retail town center that complements the civic and arts district centers on Lyme Street and connects with them seamlessly.

Mixed use supports our retail trade, but it is also beneficial in an indirect way. None of the hoped-for changes in retail or housing along Halls Road can come about until private investors are willing to create them. It is true that investors are more likely to invest in the kind of town-focused retail space that serves Old Lyme if that retail is in a mixed-use neighborhood, but residential building is still more attractive in the current economic climate than retail space. We think it is important to account for this in the new zoning by, for example, mandating a minimum of retail construction on Halls Road frontage. With the current commercial-only zoning, Halls Road is primarily attractive to businesses focused on the highway, not the needs of Old Lyme. Allowing mixed use will help to attract the kinds of investments we want, creating competition for the limited space. Clear zoning and Design Guidelines will also help to attract the kinds of investments we want, and discourage those we do not want. People in business like certainty. Clear planning, zoning, and design guidelines can give them that.

In addition to its direct benefits, mixed use in the Halls Road Village District will add much-needed variety to the housing stock and new tax revenues to the town without increasing sprawl across the remaining open land elsewhere in town.

The goal is to create, over time, an attractive streetscape of shops and restaurants/cafes that encourage residents and visitors to stroll, browse, and meet their friends. When people park once and walk it is better for business, builds community, and helps the environment. What Halls Road lacks today, and what the Halls Road Village District is intended to supply, is a sense of place that says “Old Lyme.”

Mixed use of the type proposed:

  • Creates a significantly more supportive environment for town-focused retail trade. (Crucial in the fast-changing economy.)
  • Makes a gesture at balancing our mix of housing stock.
  • Directly benefits two un-served housing markets (vital to Old Lyme):
  • Older residents downsizing (community continuity)
  • Young families starting out (town future: schools, fit volunteers)
  • Attracts investment in town-focused retail, as well as small-scale residential. 
  • Encourages what we want, which helps to forestall getting what we do not want.
  • Supports the most likely path to a wider range of retail to serve the town.
  • Creates a real, living town center that looks, acts, and feels like Old Lyme.
  • Gains new housing stock and tax revenues without sacrificing rural open space.

Public Realm Improvements 

The proposed public right-of-way roadway and sidewalk improvements (see attached Master Plan) will create safe pedestrian and bike routes along Halls Road from Neck Road (Rte. 156) to Lyme Street. Pedestrian lighting, landscaping, open green spaces, sidewalks, and crosswalks are all a part of the improvements the town will undertake. The plan also includes the most popular element suggested in town-wide surveys conducted in 2019: a new replacement for the old ‘Bow Bridge.’ This biking and walking bridge will span the Lieutenant River at the old bridge abutment, creating a safe and beautiful connection between Lyme Street and our main commercial district on Halls Road. Work on these improvements will begin as soon as the town secures funding and the required regulatory approvals.

Private Property Improvements 

The actual building and maintaining of a vibrant new Halls Road (commercial and/or residential) will be initiated and carried through by private investors and business people. The town can only open opportunities, provide guidance, and set limits; it cannot initiate in these areas. We hope to achieve a significant change, recreating a mixed-use town center for Old Lyme. That means responding to market forces and guiding development along Halls Road into the avenues that seem best for Old Lyme’s long-term future. 

An illustrative plan was drawn up to show how Halls Road could be redeveloped to reflect community priorities and desires for this area. It is just an example of how new private investments could play out over the next 20 years. To allow this type of development to occur, new Village District zoning is needed to allow and attract retail and residential investment, and to no longer require the deep set-backs and large parking lots that favored strip centers. The zoning that once attracted strip centers now disproportionately favors investments aimed primarily at serving highway traffic (e.g. gas stations and fast food chains). 

The town has said for decades it does not want Halls Road to be dominated by highway services. New zoning is required to address that. In addition, the 2020 Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) states that visual details such as adequate buffering and landscaping, appropriate architecture, preservation of natural site features and vistas are among the critical components of the look and feel of Old Lyme, yet there are no regulations in place mandating attention to such details except in the Sound View Design District. The proposed zoning changes are intended to address these community concerns in the Halls Road area. 

The Master Plan was used as a tool to help in writing new zoning language and design guidelines. In the new zoning, cluster housing, town houses, and second-story apartments will help ease the severe shortage of smaller-scale housing options in Old Lyme, and help turn a “9-to-5, commercial-only” area into a living neighborhood with mixed use—as Lyme Street was before the 1960s. The primary goals of the new Halls Road Village District zoning and Design Guidelines are to keep and attract the kinds of amenities that serve the needs of Old Lyme, and to create a look and feel in keeping with the rest of the town. The long-term goal is to create a mixed-use commercial and residential neighborhood that feels like a part of Lyme Street and the wider town of Old Lyme.

Zoning Regulations and Design Guidelines 

Two additional (new) Zoning elements are proposed to help guide the redevelopment of the Halls Road area. One is a recommendation that the Town establish a new zoning district called the Halls Road Village District. The second is the preparation of Design Guidelines to be used by a new Halls Road Design Review Committee (under the Zoning Commission) to guide the design of new buildings and sites as well as the rehabilitation of existing buildings within the Halls Road Village District.

New Zoning Regulations for the Proposed Halls Road Village District 

The proposed Halls Road Village District zoning is intended to encourage the redevelopment of this older commercial corridor in a manner that is more consistent with the architectural styles of the Historic District of Old Lyme. The proposed regulations have been written to encourage safe and healthy use of the area by providing for a mix of residential and commercial uses along or within close proximity of the road corridor to encourage walking and shopping within a village atmosphere. Further, the intent is to encourage a new mix of residential and non-residential uses within the district, and to encourage the creation of diverse housing types that are currently under-represented in Old Lyme.

Once the new and revised zoning is adopted, development in the district shall be designed to achieve the following compatibility objectives: 

  • The building and layout of buildings and included site improvements shall create a village character and streetscape environment through the placement of buildings and included site improvements to enhance the district
  • Existing and proposed streets shall be inter-connected
  • Open spaces within the proposed Village District shall reinforce the rural, riverside setting and the small-town nature of Old Lyme in form and siting
  • Locally significant features of the area, such as natural resources or sight lines of vistas from within the district, shall be integrated into the site design 
  • The landscape design shall complement the district’s landscape patterns
  • The exterior signs, site lighting, and accessory structures shall support a uniform architectural theme
  • The scale, proportions, massing and detailing of any proposed building shall be consistent. 

Design Guidelines to Supplement Zoning in the New Halls Road Village District 

In surveys and public meetings, many residents said they wanted Halls Road to be a walk-able, bike-able area with safe streets, and the feel of a real neighborhood with mixed use – a new town center. Older residents remember Lyme Street as just such a place before retail trade was deliberately moved to Halls Road. Old Lyme is one of the oldest settlements in New England, and as attached to its traditions as any small town needs to be. Traditions notwithstanding, the town has evolved over the centuries to meet changing conditions.

Most retail trade was banished from Lyme Street around 1960 and relocated to a series of strip centers with vast parking lots fronting Halls Road. Easy parking was the “must-have” of the car-centric 1950s. In exchange for more parking (and to relieve pressure on potential wastewater treatment capacity) the town broke with 250 years of community development in which commercial, residential, and civic uses had evolved together in mutually supporting roles. Something was gained, but something valuable was lost.

This is not a criticism of the people who made those decisions in the 1950s. They faced the challenges of their day, and chose the solutions that made sense then. We face different challenges. Today, the older mixed-use model seems most resilient in the face of online commerce, while strip malls fade. We must choose what makes sense now. If the specific choices seem opposites, the impulse is identical: to do what is best for Old Lyme’s future. 

Despite efforts at tasteful design, the strip centers on Halls Road have never looked like a part of Old Lyme, nor of any other New England town. The Halls Road Village District Design Guidelines will look to Lyme Street as the basic model to set the style of future development along Halls Road. We believe that functional and aesthetic improvements to the Halls Road Village District will increase its value to businesses, residents, and property owners alike.

The purpose of the Design Guidelines and design review process is to implement design standards for new or renovated buildings that will: 

  • Make sure future development in the Halls Road Village District works to make the look and feel of the district more like that of historic Lyme Street.
  • Provide prospective developers or renovators with a clear view of acceptable styles, including examples. 
  • Make clear what is not acceptable in renovations or new developments. 
  • Support and reinforce the long-term aims of the Halls Road Village District: the creation of a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood, well integrated with historic Lyme Street. 

Community Input and Process to Date 

The preparation of the Halls Road Master Plan, and of the proposed new Halls Road Village District zoning and Design Guidelines, has been guided by: 

  • Recognition of changing economic and environmental circumstances,
  • The established aims of the Town (as expressed in official planning documents), and 
  • A continuous and extensive effort to keep all stakeholders involved in planning a better future for Old Lyme’s main retail district along Halls Road. 

A more complete discussion of these elements, including a timeline, summaries of actions and findings, and pointers to additional sources is included in this document as Appendix A.

As the formal Halls Road Master Plan was completed, HRIC went back to the community to gauge support, visiting local businesses, institutions, and civic groups to present the final plan and answer any questions. This is an ongoing effort, but the response to date in dozens of sessions involving scores of individuals has been very positive, often enthusiastically so. 

Opinion seems to have evolved since the subject of change along Halls Road was first raised several years ago. Residents and other stakeholders have had time to consider the issues. Responses to the CERC survey of 2019 showed over 80% of respondents wanted some development along Halls Road, though only a minority at that time asked specifically for mixed use. Today the idea of mixed use on Halls Road has much greater and broader support, and its role in helping to achieve related aims is better understood. 

Appendix A:

Community Input and Process to Date 

The preparation of these proposed Halls Road Village District zoning regulations and Design Guidelines has been guided by: a recognition of changing economic and environmental circumstances, the established aims of the Town (as expressed in official planning documents), and a continuous and extensive effort to keep all stakeholders involved in planning a better future for Old Lyme’s main retail district along Halls Road. 

Plan of Conservation and Development 

The proposed changes address four long-standing concerns of Old Lyme’s formal planning efforts: the mix of retail trade along Halls Road, the viability of the town’s main business center, the need for greater variety in the town’s housing stock, and the over-arching concern of maintaining Old Lyme’s small-town look and feel. 

Retail:

Because Halls Road is the connector between the two halves of Exit 70 it has always been attractive to businesses focused primarily on serving the through traffic on I-95, the main route between Boston and New York. The town has always insisted that Halls Road, the town’s main shopping district, should be focused instead on the needs of Old Lyme residents (year-round and seasonal). The town has opposed any tendencies to allow Halls Road to become a mere ‘service plaza’ for travelers. From the Old Lyme Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) of 2000 and of 2020:

“Old Lyme was once an active center of transportation as passengers awaited the ferries carrying people, goods and even railroad cars across the river. With the construction of a series of ever larger bridges, there is now little need to pause in Old Lyme during journeys along the Connecticut coast. The town’s interests are focused on providing basic services and amenities for year round and summer residents and guests. It has successfully avoided any pressure to allow turnpike oriented* services such as multiple gas stations, fast food restaurants and motels. This is not an accident, but a deliberate choice.” [Old Lyme POCD 2000, page 5, paragraph 3] 

“Although Old Lyme has two exits connecting to Interstate 95, the town’s interests are focused on providing basic services and amenities for year-round and summer residents and guests. It has deliberately avoided any pressure to allow turnpike-oriented* services such as multiple gas stations, fast food restaurants and motels.” [Old Lyme POCD 2020, page 8, paragraph 3] 

*[I-95 shares the roadbed with the older (1958) Connecticut Turnpike from the New York border to Exit 76 (I-395) in East Lyme.]

Change:

Changing economic conditions are overtaking the confident language of the POCDs. Old Lyme long resisted the pressure to make Halls Road a mere service plaza for I-95, but it did so in a time when many other uses (more congruent with town aims) were competing for the same retail and commercial space. Since 2000 Internet commerce has come to dominate one retail segment after another. For goods or services that can be delivered electronically or by express truck, the Internet now offers a wider range at a lower price than any local ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retailer can hope to match. Retail that is embedded in a viable mixed-use neighborhood (with foot traffic and walk-in trade) seems best able to resist the total virtualization of retail trade. Halls Road was always attractive to highway-focused services. In these new market conditions the “commercial-only” designation makes Halls Road attractive primarily to such businesses. 

The proposed zoning changes and Design Guidelines are necessary to protect and promote the long-established aims for Halls Road set out in POCDs over multiple decades. They will help Old Lyme adapt to changing market conditions, and retain the convenience of town-focused retail trade along Halls Road. 

Housing:

The proposed changes will address another long-standing concern of the Old Lyme Planning Commission: adding much-needed variety to Old Lyme’s housing stock, 92% of which is single-family homes on their own lot. For decades, Old Lyme’s POCDs have called for the addition of alternative housing types in appropriate locations. Halls Road is an appropriate location in which to meet some of the demand for smaller-scale, market-rate housing that is not of the dominant type. 

Small Town:

The proposed zoning changes and Design Guidelines are intended to work together to ensure that Halls Road becomes more integrated with the rest of Old Lyme’s town center, both in form and in function. The aim is to create, over time, a mixed-use district that looks, acts, and feels like a living part of Old Lyme—a small town on the Connecticut shoreline. 

Halls Road Improvements Committee 

The Halls Road Improvements Committee (HRIC) was formed at the close of 2015. The initial impulse was public demand for safer pedestrian and bicycle access to the shopping district along Halls Road, and a desire to support the future commercial viability of the town’s main retail area. 

A 2015 change in Connecticut law had made it easier for towns to create Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts, and that was an early focus of the HRIC. A TIF district allows a town to fund current development (such as capital improvements) in the TIF district by earmarking future property tax revenue increases there for those purposes. The creation of a TIF district requires a formal plan of development for the district, and there was none for Halls Road. Funds were allocated for the planning work. 

The improvements under consideration were not a trivial expense. Many residents objected that such a large sum should not be spent without looking more broadly at Halls Road and the various problems and opportunities it presents. Without a plan, how could we know what sort of development we wanted along Halls Road or what Halls Road should look like in 20 years, much less how the sidewalks should be laid out to accommodate that future? To build sidewalks without a plan for the future seemed unsound, so planning took precedence. 

Early in 2018 HRIC was allocated $20,000 to begin the planning process. The town hired the Yale Urban Design Workshop (YUDW), which produced very helpful baseline drawings of the existing conditions at Halls Road. YUDW also ran two public meetings intended to introduce the town to the kinds of considerations typically encountered in a planning effort. Ultimately, HRIC felt YUDW failed to grasp the small town nature of Old Lyme, offering options more appropriate to an urban than a rural setting, and so recommended the town not engage YUDW for later phases. 

The planning effort continued with local volunteer resources. During this process it became clear that Halls Road was not a project of the right scale and scope to take advantage of a TIF district, and that avenue was not pursued further. In 2018, HRIC’s volunteers produced a vision proposal for Halls Road.

In 2019 HRIC presented the vision proposal to multiple local groups, publicized it online and at the Mid-summer Festival, and held two open houses at which residents and business owners could speak one-on-one with committee members and register their opinion on specific aspects of the ideas under consideration. 

EDC and CERC:

Also in 2019, the future of Halls Road figured prominently in economic research, surveys, and workshops conducted on behalf of the town’s Economic Development Commission (EDC). The EDC engaged the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC, now AdvanceCT) to help create a picture of the economic environment of Old Lyme and its place in the surrounding region. 

As a part of that effort CERC and EDC conducted a major survey of Old Lyme residents and business owners. Nearly 10% of the adult residents and over 10% of the representatives of local businesses responded to the survey. It covered Old Lyme as a whole and broke out specific areas, including Halls Road, for particular questions. Most of the survey questions were in the form of ranking a set of attributes or aims by their importance. Respondents also had the option to provide additional comments. Among the findings were: 

  • Nearly all respondents said future development should be consistent with the small town charm of Old Lyme and reflect its particular rural New England look and feel. 
  • Over 80% wanted improvements along Halls Road, from more varied restaurants and shops to greater safety for walkers and cyclists. 
  • Businesses wanted the town to do more to encourage business, thought the town needed a proper town center, and wanted the town to encourage more young people to move here. 
  • Responses regarding housing were self-contradictory, with only one in five saying Old Lyme needed more housing, yet two-thirds saying some specific type of housing was in short supply and should be added. 
  • Similarly, few said Old Lyme needed additional green space, but when asked about Halls Road in particular, 75% said development there should include additional green space, small parks, etc. 

CERC ran two workshops with representatives of commercial property owners, local businesses, and civic groups. The workshops considered the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) relevant to Old Lyme’s future. Although the scope was town-wide, Halls Road (as the main shopping area) was a major focus. A wide variety of factors were identified and discussed, but a few stood out as areas of broader agreement. In order of their relative prominence under each heading, these were: 

  • Strengths: Good schools, artistic heritage/culture, natural beauty/location, and volunteerism/sound town finance. 
  • Weaknesses: Lack of diverse housing for younger/older residents, weak CT economy, constraints on infrastructure [presumably: wastewater/groundwater], lack of walking/biking infrastructure, no coherent plan for commercial areas (Halls Road, Hartford Ave.) 
  • Opportunities: Deliver action plan for Halls Rd./Hartford Ave., make town more connected for bike/foot traffic, diversify housing stock, change Soundview stigma, attract younger residents. 
  • Threats: Resistance to change, CT state policies, environmental change, growing competition nearby. 

There was some confusion between “weaknesses” (~internal to the town) and “threats” (~external). Despite that definition, “resistance to change” was the most commonly cited threat to Old Lyme’s future, and Connecticut’s lackluster economy accounted a weakness. 

The need for different types of housing, and its role in ensuring a viable future for Old Lyme was far more prominent in the SWOT workshop discussions than it had been in the general survey. The fact that SWOT participants were all business- and civic-oriented may help to explain why they were more aware of the issue. Also, the SWOT workshops took place after the town-wide survey and many HRIC presentations, at a time when there was increasing public discussion of possible changes to Halls Road. The idea of mixed-use along Halls Road seems to have steadily gained public support over time, and continues to do so. 

Formal Plan:

Feedback from HRIC’s town-wide presentations and interactions, and the results of EDC research provided additional direction to the planning process. 

A formal plan for Halls Road required professional experience and knowledge. A search narrowed the field to three firms who presented proposals to HRIC. Of these, BSC won the contract at a cost within the limits of the funds previously allocated for planning. At the end of 2020, the town of Old Lyme engaged BSC Group, Inc. and their sub-consultant, Bartram & Cochran, to create a Master Plan, propose Public Realm (i.e. roadway, sidewalk and public open space) improvements, and to write Design Guidelines and recommended Re-Zoning Language for a new Halls Road Village District. 

That work is now complete, and the re-zoning language and Design Guidelines are presented with this request. 

Community Support 

As the formal Halls Road Master Plan was completed, HRIC went back to the community to gauge support, visiting local businesses and civic groups to present the final plan and answer any questions. This is an ongoing effort, but the response to date in dozens of sessions involving scores of individuals has been very positive, often enthusiastically so. 

Opinion seems to have evolved since the subject of change along Halls Road was first raised several years ago. Residents and other stakeholders have had time to consider the issues. Responses to the CERC survey of 2019 showed over 80% of respondents wanted some development along Halls Road, though only a minority at that time asked specifically for mixed use. Today the idea of mixed use on Halls Road has much greater and broader support, and its role in helping to achieve related aims is better understood.

Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Candidates Respond to Our Questions

Photo by Elements Digital on Unsplash.

OLD LYME — In keeping with our now almost 18-year tradition and in the interests of increasing voter knowledge prior to the upcoming election, we posed three questions in writing to the four candidates for Old Lyme Board of Selectmen, who will be on the ballot in the Nov. 2 election.

There is no contest for the Lyme Board of Selectmen, where the three incumbents are unopposed

The questions were:

1. Why are you running for the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen?

2. What is your opinion of the Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis, which was originally proposed by Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal in August 2020 as a document that the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen should approve? It remains unsigned — please indicate whether you would be willing to sign it, if elected.

3. What do you consider are currently the three most important issues in Old Lyme that require the attention of the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen, (with the exception of the Resolution on Racism discussed in Question 2)? Describe how you would move forward on each issue, if elected.

We gave a 300-word limit for the response to each question to which each candidate strictly adhered: we are most appreciative of that.

We are delighted that all the candidates responded to our questions in a timely manner. We thank them sincerely and are pleased to publish their responses today accompanied by their respective biographies, for which we gave a 100-word limit, and photos.

We would also like to state that — again in keeping with our long-held policy — we will not be making any candidate endorsements.

Click on the links below to read each candidate’s responses:

Candidates for Old Lyme First Selectman

Timothy C. Griswold (R – Incumbent)

Martha Shoemaker (D)

Candidates for Old Lyme Selectmen

Jim Lampos (D)

Matthew Ward (R)

Old Lyme Residents Approve $42K Related to Police, Ranger Hours at Special Town Meeting; Some Reimbursement of Amount by Federal Government Anticipated

OLD LYME — UPDATED 9/15: More than 100 people attended an Old Lyme Special Town Meeting held last night in the auditorium of Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School. Those present approved by a voice vote the single item on the agenda regarding whether to appropriate $42,000 in connection with Old Lyme Police overtime and Ranger time incurred during the fiscal year 2020-21.

Some of the $42,000 was incurred in connection with the Town’s response to the COVID-19 virus and the Town expects that amount to be partially reimbursed to the Town by the U.S. Federal Government.

This was the second time this motion had been brought to a vote after failing to pass at an Old Lyme Special Town Meeting held Aug. 16.

Editor’s Note: Visit this link to read a related Letter to the Editor from Kathleen Tracy.

Old Lyme to Hold Special Town Meeting Tonight; New Location, In-Person Only Attendance to be Permitted

OLD LYME — The Old Lyme Board of Selectmen will hold a Special Town Meeting this evening — Monday, Sept. 13 — at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School. This meeting was originally scheduled to be held in the Meeting Hall at Old Lyme Memorial Town Hall but has had to be moved due to a conflict with the Zoning Commission

This Special Town Meeting will be conducted in-person only. There will be no online option for attendance.

The Meeting will consider and act upon the following business item:

1.         Whether to appropriate forty-two thousand dollars ($42,000) in connection with the Police overtime and Ranger time incurred during the fiscal year 2020-21, some of which was incurred in connection with the Town’s response to the COVID-19 virus and which the Town reasonably expects will be partially reimbursed to the Town by the U.S. Federal Government.

The business item related to calling the meeting was approved by the board of selectmen at its meeting on Aug. 31.

Editor’s Note: Visit this link to read a related Letter to the Editor from Kathleen Tracy.