May 16, 2022

Letter to the Editor: Keep the Vision of Public Access to Public Land Alive in Old Lyme

To the Editor:

The Republican Party has a long history of protecting one of our nation’s most precious resources – the beauty of our natural environment. President Theodore Roosevelt, known as “The Conservation President”, established the United States Forest Service and during his administration preserved over 230 million acres of public land  to be kept in its natural state and to be enjoyed by the public. President Johnson spearheaded the Clean Water Act during his administration and President Nixon followed up with the Clean Air Act during his tenure. Our party is also proud to have worked with our Democrat friends to keep America beautiful.

Why do we live in Old Lyme? One of the top answers is because it is the most beautiful rural small town along the Connecticut coastline. We are second to none with a landscape bounded by the Long Island Sound, rivers, wooded hills and filled with a very biodiverse ecology. The question that needs to be asked is, “How do we protect this beauty and still enjoy it with all our senses?”

Recently, there have been several news stories about a parcel of town owned property located at 36-1 Buttonball Road. It was deeded to the town with a restriction that it shall be used by the public for waterfront access. A representative from CT DEEP indicated that if the town went forward with that plan and an environmental impact study were to be done, then it would be very probable that DEEP would permit some minimal development to access the water based on an on-site observation. There would be room to park a vehicle and then access the water by way of a minimally impacting boardwalk to launch a kayak or to just enjoy the salt marsh ecology.

We support and encourage the town to pursue the wishes of this property’s donor to allow the public to have waterfront access. Furthermore, we stress the importance of responsible stewardship for these generous gifts. Proper stewardship will demonstrate that we value and will protect a donor’s wishes; and, it will encourage future donors to gift parcels of land for the public benefit knowing that their gift’s purpose will be honored.

We do understand that this parcel falls within jurisdictional aspects of several town authorities and so we encourage a post haste resolution of this jurisdictional issue so that the town may expeditiously move forward with a DEEP application for an environmental impact study.

It has been well over a century since President Theodore Roosevelt made it a national vision to protect and enjoy nature. Let’s continue to keep this vision alive in Old Lyme!

Robert A. Nixon,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is the chairman of the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee.

Letter to the Editor: Seeking Kittens, A Respectful Request to the Lyme-Old Lyme Community

To the Editor:

We are on the lookout for two adoptable kittens.  We hope to find a pair of orange tabby sisters, but we are flexible, assuming that they are, too.

We lost Finn last year with an inoperable carcinoma diagnosis.  We are grateful that our veterinarian was able to help all three of us get through Finn’s final few months.

Finn was a rescue, and started life in the NYU freshman dormitory; remaining there until expulsion appeared inevitable (n. b., Finn’s expulsion). She re-located to Old Lyme and remained with us for more than fifteen years.

Our new kittens will have big paws to fill. Finn was a true raconteur and was very willing to share her world view with either of us. She had the gift of reflecting our emotions and responding in kind.

Finn was predominantly an indoor cat, but would occasionally venture out into the gardens with either of us. There’s now a very active fox population in Greater Library Lane, so our next kittens will likely be exclusively indoors.

Finn was very proud of her birding life list, and we assume that our new kittens will have that same hobby. Our home’s design enables clear views of the marsh, the bird feeders, and the Duck River from many comfortable spots in the house.

          In return, we offer a loving home, great conversation, solid veterinary care, good food, and clean litter.

Note that we are already on a few waiting lists in SE CT.

Sincerely,

Christina J. & Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: An Open Letter to the Lyme, Old Lyme Boards of Selectmen:- Actions of Rogers Lake Authority Spark Concern, Anger

An Open Letter to the Select-persons of Lyme and Old Lyme:

I am writing to make you aware of an immediate concern with the Rogers Lake Authority [RLA] and how they are handling recent events, especially the disrespect they showed to our community at the special Rogers Lake Authority meeting at the Old Lyme Town Hall on Tuesday, April 19th.

To give you a brief history regarding this matter, I held my monthly Rogers Lake West Shores Association [RLWSA] meeting on Monday, March 7th. It was after this meeting that I learned about the Rogers Lake Authority’s new ordinance proposal for the “No Wake Zone.” I learned that not only had they been “discussing” this ordinance for 3 years, but they already submitted and obtained the necessary permit from DEEP. Also, two of the RLA Board members are part of the RLWSA with me.

The RLWSA, as well as the other associations on Rogers Lake, were never notified of this ordinance proposal. It was at this time that I sent out an immediate text to anyone I knew in the community that this ordinance would affect. Within less than 48 hours, we had upwards of 67 community members attend the RLA regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 9th. RLA Board member, Mark Hastings, was acting chair while Dennis Overfield was on vacation, who called into the meeting via cell phone.

As the March 9th minutes state, there were many questions from upset community members who wanted answers as to why, how and when this ordinance came about. The Board was unable to provide any evidence or data that supported a reason for this extreme action. One of many concerns that was discussed was the safety risk this “No Wake Zone” will actually cause.  Congestion at each end of the lake will increase traffic back-up and possible dropped skiers will be at risk to name a few. Never mind the weed growth that would increase within the areas of the “No Wake Zones” and erosion of property which would decrease the value of lakefront homes. It was at that meeting where the community was told the DEEP permit was already obtained and we would have been made aware of the buoys, which were set to be put in this Spring, in their upcoming newsletter.

During that March 9th meeting, I informed the Board that I had been in touch with our attorney who stated the Board was out of compliance and what they were about to do was against policy. From my understanding, all ordinance changes cannot be made without a formal town committee vote from both Lyme and Old Lyme.

From this point, the RLA attempted to provide a “summary” of their actions by submitting an April 2022 letter to the town websites in which they changed the original footage measurements based on Google Earth as well as how they intended the use of the buoys. They changed the wording of where boats can pass, and they increased the no wake zones for jet skis. On top of the written summary, the Board secretly attempted to change their usually scheduled April meeting to Friday, March 25th, only to cancel and change their meeting to April 13th. However, they canceled once again and re-scheduled their meeting to Tuesday, April 19th at the Town Hall – conveniently during school vacation.

From their April 2022 summary, to changing meetings and locations, and to the April 19th Town Hall meeting, it is very clear this RLA Board is not in the best interest of the tax payer community or the health of Rogers Lake.  The RLA chair, Dennis Overfield, took an authoritative approach by starting the meeting with yelling at the crowd to be quiet, stating public comment will be at the end of their full agenda and that they will not be answering any questions. Then Mr. Overfield proceeded to carry on his meeting with his back to the entire public, which was an upward of 80 people.

After drawing out his long agenda for over an hour, the Board conveniently left out the “No Wake Zone” ordinance draft stating they “did not have the time to update it before the meeting.” But instead, the public learned of new ordinances that were being drawn up including a 40mph speed limit and a possible vessel size limit. At the very end of the meeting, Mr. Overfield asked for a motion to adjourn with community members still providing input.

This behavior of the Board, and especially of Mr. Overfield, is unacceptable. The secretive, sneaky and deceptive actions are beyond unprofessional, and the community has lost all respect and trust for the appointed Rogers Lake Authority Board.

Sincerely,

David Evers,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is the president of Rogers Lake West Shores Association.

Letter to the Editor: Update on Tantummaheag Town Landing Situation Overdue, Required so All Residents Can Understand Outcome

To the Editor:

I am writing all three Selectmen as I have not heard back from [Old Lyme First Selectman] Tim Griswold regarding an update to the Tantummaheag Town Landing after three emails.

It is disappointing that this issue has not been resolved and is no longer on the agenda for your board meetings.

I first notified Tim about this issue in July of 2020, we had a special town meeting in January of 2021 where it was determined that signage would be put up with clear markings as to town/private property. Nothing happened. In the meantime the adjacent property owner did a title search and claims that this property is NOT owned by the town, but is his property. Last time I was at a Board meeting Tim was supposed to arrange a meeting with some people in the neighboring Coult Lane area to meet with the property owners (who continue to make it difficult for people driving to the landing).
Has this meeting been arranged? Why are the people of Coult Lane the only ones included … this is TOWN-owned property. It seems as though that we are conceding to the Frampton’s claims and this is not on Mr. Griswold’s radar and nothing has been done – other than cost of the tax payers money for town attorney fees because of inaction.
Will this be put back on the agenda so the entire town can understand what is going on? Access to the Connecticut River is important for all of the citizens in Old Lyme.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Rebecca Griffin,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition Responds to Hartford Fentanyl Tragedy, Encourages Community Approach to Substance Abuse Issues Locally

To the Editor:

An Open Letter to the Lyme-Old Lyme Community

I’m sure many of you have heard the tragic news about two recent drug exposure incidents in two Connecticut middle schools. Tragically, a young 13-year-old boy died after being exposed to fentanyl at his middle school in Hartford. The following day, five students were hospitalized after ingesting THC edibles (candy) at their New Haven middle school.
As we process these tragic incidents, the Lyme-Old Lyme Prevention Coalition is sharing resources and support to our community’s youth and families.
We strongly encourage you to join us and embrace a community approach to supporting youth and families around substance abuse prevention. Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) staff is working to schedule community Narcan trainings.
To receive prevention updates, visit this link to join our mailing list.
To find upcoming events and links to useful resources about current drug trends, conversation starters, and data, visit our website.
Our Coalition depends on input, expertise, and energy from community members, and we welcome you to our meetings. We are available to answer questions about substance abuse prevention, personal concerns, and be a resource to any youth, parent, or community member needing support, referrals, and/or guidance. Please let us know if we can be of help to you or your family. You can reach me at 860-434-7208 or by email at abehnke@lysb.org.
Sincerely,
Allison Behnke, MSW,
Old Lyme.
Editor’s Note: The author is the Prevention Coordinator at LYSB.

Letter to the Editor: State Sen. Formica Announces Decision Not to Seek Reelection in Nov. 2022

To the Editor:

State Sen. Paul Formica (R – 20th)

A New Season

As I have grown older, I’ve come to believe that there are seasons in a person’s life. There are experiences, opportunities, relationships and a number of other circumstances, some wonderful; some tragic, that can define these seasons, but they come and go all the same.

In recent months I have been sensing a pull toward a new season. It has been a thought-provoking process because I have been deeply blessed, grateful and proud of the season I am currently in. I have decided to embrace this new season and therefore I will not be seeking reelection to the State Senate in November of 2022.

My 31 years of elected public service have collectively been one of the greatest honors in my life and now I feel it’s time for me to retire and move into the next season. I believe that I live in the greatest town, in the greatest senate district, in the greatest state, in the greatest country in the world and it has been an immeasurable gift to have the opportunity to share my time, voice and talents as a public official.

As First Selectman of East Lyme, I was able to bring solid business practices and enhanced customer service to a growing shoreline town. I led a team to responsibly fund expanded services and create economic development including rejuvenating our main street district. We preserved hundreds of acres of open space including securing the town’s water supply for generations to come. The years I spent at town hall were some of the most fulfilling of my life. I was able to work with talented regional leaders and learn what other municipalities across the state were doing to successfully manage their own challenges.

As State Senator of the 20th district, I was able to serve not only East Lyme, but seven additional, beautiful and diverse communities. Here we truly have it all: farmland, coastal downtown areas, New England suburbs, fine arts destinations, historical landmarks, the great city of New London, the Niantic Bay Boardwalk only to name a few!  During my four terms in Harford, I was a leader in the fight to secure the next decade of Connecticut’s carbon-free baseload supply of energy at Millstone Station. I worked to support Connecticut’s renewable energy future helping the initial development of the emerging offshore wind industry while being a voice for generations of fishermen. As a co-chair of the appropriations committee, I had the opportunity to help develop a true bipartisan budget in 2017 that is, to this day, providing large surpluses for our rainy day fund while paying down on our pension debt due to the controls we established in that budget. I helped to increase funding for programs and opportunities that help those in Connecticut managing intellectual and developmental disabilities while serving as Co-Chair of the IDD caucus, and I have been able to witness the overwhelming benefits of working in partnership with our Native American Tribal Nations. I founded the bipartisan Arts, Culture and Tourism caucus, which is now helping Connecticut’s hospitality industry to recover and thrive again in our state. Further, I have been able to support and give back to those who are on the difficult road to recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

It has been an honor to work with my colleagues in the Connecticut General Assembly and to be a leader on the great Senate Republican team.

The most rewarding aspect of my elected service has been the honor and pleasure of meeting and serving so many wonderful and passionate people from around the 20th District and across our great state.

Throughout this time, I have also continued running a successful restaurant in southeastern Connecticut and just this month I welcomed my first grandchild into the world.

I am particularly grateful to my business family, the incredible team on my town and state staffs and especially my family for bearing with me as I split my time and attention with my public service for over three decades. I would not trade a day of it.

I look forward to spending more time with my family, my businesses, perhaps some new hobbies, and to begin a new season with my special love.

There is a bright future ahead for this state and this district. I believed it 31 years ago and I believe it even more today. Thank you for the honor of serving the communities I hold so dear.

Sincerely,

Paul Formica,
East Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is the State Senator for the 20th District, which includes Old Lyme.

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.

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.

Letter to the Editor: Let’s Work Together to Advance Halls Road Zoning Improvements, Public Hearing Tonight is Best Forum to Discuss Project

To the Editor:

Regarding the Halls Road zoning proposal, I agree the zoning is not perfect, and certainly needs review and revision, but we should not lose sight of the context and the bigger picture. The Public Hearing for the zoning proposal under discussion Monday, Nov. 8, at the Old Lyme Zoning Commission’s Regular Meeting is just a way to implement and make real a future Halls Road described in a set of plans and proposals that have been discussed in public for years. 

The key elements in the master plan were developed with significant input from the community and are widely supported. The Halls Road Improvement Committee (HRIC) incorporated the work produced by our consultant AdvanceCT including surveys, SWOT workshops, and an Economic Development Report.

The HRIC conducted numerous open houses and presentations to a host of organizations including town boards and commissions. The committee received input directly from many residents and also received numerous letters supporting the vision.

The master plan ensures the future viability of our central retail area while making Halls Road beautiful and attractive to the businesses that are a good fit for our community.

The key elements of the plan are to:

  • Maintain Old Lyme’s small-town New England feel and insure that future development is compatible with the town’s esthetics.
  • Provide badly needed housing options as an alternative to single family homes. 
  • Install sidewalks, crosswalks, trees, landscaping, a bike path and improved signage. 
  • Make Halls Road walkable, including a cool pedestrian bridge connecting Halls Road and Lyme Street so people can park once and walk, easily and safely. This will boost both the arts community and businesses on Halls Road. These elements will ensure the long-term viability of Halls Road and keep it alive after five PM.
  • Install a town green to foster a sense of community by providing a venue for small events and perhaps a framers market.
  • Maybe we can even get rid of that ‘Mayan ruin,’ the unfinished foundations in the strip center on the north side of Halls Road.

Now let’s turn to the proposed zoning regulations that are designed to support the vision described above and guarantee the vision is obtainable. It has been correctly pointed out that some revisions are required to achieve this. The Zoning Commission’s Public Hearing is the appropriate place to address these. 

Let’s encourage all of the appropriate boards and commissions to work together in a bipartisan way in order to achieve the Halls Road master plan vision that is desperately needed and widely supported.

Remember, the town’s major financial commitment is the right-of-way improvements on US Rte. 1. Private developers will do the rest, but only if we both allow and tell them to do what we want. 

Sincerely,

Howard Margules,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is a member of the Halls Road Improvement Committee.

Letter to the Editor: ‘Driving Doughnuts’ on Phoebe’s Front Lawn is Appalling Act of Vandalism, We Don’t Need ‘Anti-Booksters’ in Old Lyme

To the Editor: 

Have you visited the newly renovated Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library? Mostly completed by springtime, with hours and access slightly impacted by COVID; I’ll relate the reaction of my four-and-two-thirds-years-old grandson, Hunter (he’s very precise), who has been a regular, occasional visiting patron of the library for nearly two years.

“Wow! This is cool!”

Then, Phoebe’s Garden of native plants, really a small meadow, was on the Pollinator Pathway; and, I believe, the future site of a perennials’ garden. We dedicated the Witness Stones Project, recognizing some 14 African-Americans, who were once enslaved along what is now Lyme St.

Unfortunately, as we saw the landscaping plan progress into October, someone apparently just couldn’t resist driving up onto the newly hydro-seeded wet and muddy front lawn area, “doing doughnuts”, and leaving deep ruts. I can’t begin to express how I feel about that act of vandalism.

Come on, people! We’ve heard from anti-vaxxers and anti- maskers over the last few years. Is the new Old Lyme term “anti -bookster”? I can live without that, too.

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: Lampos is Paying Attention to Old Lyme’s Halls Rd Project, Looking Out for People of OL; Merits Vote

To the Editor:

After reading Greg Stroud’s editorial in the CT Examiner last week concerning the Halls Road project, I looked up the minutes of recent Planning Commission meetings to find out the status of this project.  I noticed that Democratic selectman and commission candidate Jim Lampos was prepared and had questions concerning the proposed zoning changes.  Republican selectman candidate Matt Ward, who also is on the Planning Commission, remained silent throughout.

I’m grateful that Jim Lampos is paying attention, keeping his eye on the project, and looking out for the interests of the people of Old Lyme.  I strongly encourage you to vote for him on Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Quiros,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: Democrat Mock, an Outstanding Candidate, Will Restore Balance to Republican-Controlled Old Lyme BOF

To the Editor:

Please vote for Bradley Mock for the Old Lyme Board of Finance.  He is an outstanding candidate and we need to restore some balance to the Republican controlled board.

Bradley is a business and analytics professional. He has a Bachelor of science and Master of Business Administration degrees from Renssalear Polytechnic Institute. He has been a project manager for Fortune 100  companies , including Accenture and Pratt and Whitney.  Bradley has served as treasurer of several organizations and is currently Board of Finance Chair for the Old Lyme DTC.  He has kids in our fine school system and is an active coach of their soccer teams.

In short, Bradley is intimately familiar with our community and committed to its success. His training, business experience and analytical ability make him uniquely qualified to understand Old Lyme’s needs and our financial resources, and how to best meld the two.  We need  to elect him and other Democratic candidates on November 2.

Sincerely,

George C. Finley,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is  a member of the Old Lyme Democratic Town Committee, Old Lyme Harbor Commission and Chairman of the Old Lyme Board of Assessment Appeals. 

Letter to the Editor: Shoemaker, Lampos Will Play by Rules; Keep Public Informed; Solve Problems — Not Kick Them Down Road.

To the Editor:

Old Lyme needs a First Selectman who is transparent, accountable and gets things done.  Tim Griswold does not fit this bill, as recently illustrated.  The town’s Employee Handbook limits the vacation time that employees may carry over at year end.  Nevertheless, Mr. Griswold approved, on his own initiative, requests by a number of town employees to carry over time in excess of that allowed.  In addition, he offered two employees, but not others, the right to receive cash in lieu of some of their excess days.

It was not right for Mr. Griswold to take it upon himself to ignore policy and endorse disparate treatment among our employees–rather than take timely, proactive measures to handle the situation properly.  For months he had been urged to retain a professional human resources firm to assist with employee management matters, finally delegating this important task to his assistant rather than an appropriate committee.

Electing Martha Shoemaker as First Selectwoman and Jim Lampos as Selectman will assure that this sort of mismanagement does not occur in the future.  They will play by the rules, keep the public informed, and solve problems–not kick them down the road.  Please vote for them on Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Griffin,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: More Transparency, Information, Accountability Needed on Old Lyme BOF; Vote Dem’s Reiter, Mock onto Board to Achieve That Change

To the Editor:

It is time for a change on the Old Lyme Board of Finance (BOF).  We need more diversity, balance of opinion and public information. Four of the six regular members of the BOF, and its chairman, have forever been Republicans. They always vote as a block.  I strongly support the well-qualified candidates currently endorsed by the Democrats.

My decision is based in part on problems I witnessed virtually at BOF meetings. It seemed to me that not enough information was being presented at the meetings, shared with the public or reflected in the minutes. At the September 21 meeting, for example, the financial report for August was on the agenda but it was not discussed because the Finance Director could not be connected by phone. The BOF members were directed by Chairman Kelsey to submit questions by email. No questions, answers or members’ comments were discussed at the October BOF meeting. It is also frustrating that public comment is never on the agenda for BOF meetings.

We need more diversity, transparency, information and accountability from the BOF. We will get that from the Democratic candidates up for election.  The two contested regular seats are being sought by Anna Reiter, an outstanding, incumbent member of the Board, and Bradley Mock, a business consultant with invaluable on-point experience.  Please vote for them on Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Alison C. Mitchell,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: Democratic Candidates, Who Are Members of MOMS Club, Deeply Trouble This Voter

To the Editor:

I was all set to vote this Tuesday for the Democratic Party slate of candidates in Old Lyme, but now do not intend to vote at all. A number of the candidates belong to the national  MOMS Club, which is deeply troubling. This is an organization which promotes conservative values and encourages its members to look to say, 1957, as the ideal for the role of women and men in the American family. This, along with their embrace of religion, makes me runaway as fast as possible. Who among the leadership of the town Democratic Party approved this direction?

Sincerely,

Jonathan B. Wilder,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: Shoemaker Will Carefully Guide Old Lyme on ‘Twisty Roads’ Ahead, Leading Collaboratively, Effectively

To the Editor:

My name is Chris Kirk and I have known Martha Shoemaker for a long time. I’ve been a close friend of her son Peter forever.  Growing up just down the road, we would go biking together around Brown’s Lane and Mile Creek, twisty roads that can be tricky but are so much fun to ride on.  Being a friend of Peter’s meant being a friend of the Shoemakers. I had the pleasure of accompanying the family on some of their outings and remember fondly the great hikes we took and fishing in those northern lakes.   I learned a lot from the Shoemakers, and I still do.

Something I learned from Martha is “to keep the ship steered straight, even in stormy weather.”   Martha didn’t use those words, but she demonstrated the principle by keeping family in the forefront no matter the circumstances.  For this I hold her in high esteem.  I also hold this town in great regard for all it has given me as I grew up here.  Whether it be a great education, beautiful beaches or low taxes, this town gives back. 

As First Selectwoman, I know that Martha will be wholly committed to the best interests of the citizens of Old Lyme. She will carefully guide us on the twisty roads ahead and assure that new generations will enjoy the riches that Old Lyme has to offer.

Recently, Old Lyme provided me the opportunity to work as a greeter in Town Hall during the pandemic.

This introduced me to the great folks who work for the town and the various semi-autonomous boards, committees, and departments that make our town run.  Aided and encouraged by Martha’s interpersonal and management skills, these folks will work together more collaboratively and effectively than ever.

I know that Martha Shoemaker would make an outstanding leader for the Town of Old Lyme, and I encourage you to vote for her on November 2.

Sincerely,

Chris Kirk,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: Many Examples Demonstrate Griswold Has Not Been Good Fiscal Manager, Shoemaker Will Be

To the Editor:

Old Lyme First Selectman Tim Griswold has not been a good fiscal manager, often failing to follow through on a timely basis with matters affecting the town’s budget.

For example, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) approved early this year a proposal for the substantial renovation of the Grassy Hill Bridge with a state grant reimbursing 50% of the cost.  Tim failed to put that decision before the Board of Finance for funding but, instead, continued to contemplate alternative plans for the bridge.  Indeed, he did not move the project forward at all (as he said he would when he was running for election in 2019) and he failed to request that $200,000 be included in the 2021-2022 town budget to spread out the financial burden over time.

In July the town received $1,081,107 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, the first of two instalments.  Because the law gives the town two years to decide how to use the funds and two more to spend them, Tim stated at an August BOS meeting that there was no rush to move forward—and he did not.  Since March, Tim had been asked to form a committee to address this issue.  He finally formed one in September, which did not meet until October 6.

Tim has fumbled other financial matters for the town.  Rather than support using $40,000 of unspent state grant funds for the Sound View sidewalk project for additional eligible construction expenses, he proposed spending the money on non-eligible municipal expenses, meaning that the $40,000 would have to be returned to the state.  Tim did not take timely action to address the need for a new transfer station office, with the result that one is now still under construction. Tim failed as Chief of Police to monitor police overtime expenses as they ballooned over budget.  More recently it was disclosed that Tim has left the town uninsured with respect to cyber-attacks since July 1, although he has known since February that the town’s cyber coverage would non-renew on that date.

Tim has allowed a beach cleaning service, a private contractor, to use the transfer station and town employees as his bank. This contractor historically runs a debt to the town, his payment checks have bounced at times, and his job performance has been questioned. Yet, Tim did not address these concerns when raised by the Town Finance Director; rather, he provided the contractor with a new agreement without discussion with the BOS.

We need a First Selectman with contemporary knowledge, open to listening, committed to identifying and solving problems, and who always follows through.  That’s exactly what Martha Shoemaker will bring to Old Lyme.

Sincerely,

Mary O’Brien,
Old Lyme.

Letter to the Editor: Despite His ‘Years of Experience’, Griswold is Not Doing a Good Job; Old Lyme Deserves Better

To the Editor:

First Selectman Tim Griswold has been running for re-election primarily on the basis of his years of experience.  In response, a number of people think that this experience has not translated into competence in office, criticizing his lack of responsiveness, carefulness, transparency, information-sharing, timeliness, and judgment.  These concerns were dramatically illustrated earlier this week.  

During a debate hosted by The Day on Monday, the First Selectman admitted that he recently submitted a Petition for Amendment of Zoning Regulations (regarding the Halls Road district) to the Old Lyme Zoning Commission without having even read the proposed regulations.  When asked about that, he replied “I sign a lot of things.”  To make matters worse, the First Selectman submitted the petition to the Zoning Commission without having first shared the proposed regulations with his Board of Selectmen, which would have given them an opportunity to comment and, if they deemed it appropriate, to hold a public meeting or to solicit further information from the Halls Road Improvements Committee.

In the same debate, Tim was asked about a town meeting in August in which an appropriation to cover police overspending was defeated for lack of information.  According to The Day, Tim argued that many topics go to a town meeting with ‘a small amount of information.’  He said people who want to know details should ask for them at Town Hall before the meeting instead of expecting written explanations.  ‘I think when we have all these matters going on, it would be quite a burden to have total information on all these matters,’ he said.”  

This town meeting addressed four matters and lasted 31 minutes. 

These examples are typical of how poorly Tim does his job.  Old Lyme deserves better, much better.  We can rest assured that Martha Shoemaker will do better.  She is notoriously smart, thoughtful, conscientious, careful, responsible, responsive and inclusive.  We must elect her next Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Marisa Hartmann,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note: The author is a member of the Democratic Town Committee.

Letter to the Editor: Why Martha? ‘Nice Guy’ Tim is Not ‘Right Person for the Job Today’ … and More Reasons

To the Editor:

I was stopped the other day by a neighbor and friend, a Republican, who said, “I see all these Martha Shoemaker signs.  Who is she and why should I vote for her?”  I was in a rush, so I told him I’d get back to him.  This is what I said.

Tim Griswold has been around forever, and he is a nice guy.  But he’s not the right person for the job today.  Old Lyme is not in dire straits, but neither is it free from challenges.  We must get sewers installed in the beach area and finance them in a way people can afford.  We need cyber insurance.  We must attract new families to augment our aging and declining population.  Our business community is suffering, impacting local taxes and employment.  There are unsightly, blighted properties in town.  People of all races, backgrounds and incomes must be made to feel welcome.  The list goes on. 

Tim’s forte is in maintaining the status quo.  He is resistant to change.  Under his prior watch, the Economic Development Commission was dormant and he opposed the Halls Road initiative.  Tim was reluctant to support the cost of renovating the high school as new.  No attention was paid to rejuvenating Hartford Avenue.  Tim procrastinates and fails to get things done when he should.  He is accused of failing to respond to taxpayer inquiries, concerns and problems, failing to read what he signs, and failing to provide adequate information to the public.  Tim’s insistence that there is no racism in town, and that the Board of Selectmen need not even discuss the resolution on racism as a public-health crisis, sends the wrong message to our residents and our neighbors.

Without strong leadership and smart planning, Old Lyme will go downhill.   Martha Shoemaker will bring a sea change to Town Hall.  She will help us grow and prosper.  She is a peace-maker and problem solver; she will tackle issues and find solutions.  Martha will identify opportunities and do whatever is required to take advantage of them.  She is a people person; staff at Town Hall will smile more.  Martha will work her heart out for this town.

Martha is smart, candid, hard-working, thoughtful, careful, highly-motivated, tech-savy, energetic and stubborn: she won’t let go of a challenge until it has been met.  Martha is fiscally conservative and practical; she is a former Republican and no idealogue.  Martha will listen to all parties and points of view before making a decision.  She will respond to every taxpayer’s questions.  

Martha’s integrity, and her commitment to the best interests of Old Lyme, cannot be questioned.   Please vote for her and her equally-dedicated running mate, Jim Lampos, next Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Bennett J. Bernblum,
Old Lyme.
Editor’s Note: The author is a member of the Old Lyme Board of Finance and Democratic Town Committee.

Letter to the Editor: LOLHS Senior Says Adopting Racism Resolution ‘Shows We Care,’ Refusing to Discuss it is ‘Gross Disservice to Community;’ Shoemaker, Lampos “Get It’

To the Editor:

I’m a senior in high school and I live in Old Lyme. Last week I attended a meeting of the Board of Selectman to support, on behalf of the students in Old Lyme, the adoption of a resolution on racism put before the board. Many of my peers feel strongly, as I do, about social justice and the continual fight for equity, and I wanted to make sure I could convey our beliefs clearly. 

As I said during public comments at the meeting, to deny the presence of racism in Old Lyme is to perpetuate a lie. For example, just last month an Old Lyme police officer, somebody who is supposed to be an unbiased peacekeeper, was suspended for allegedly yelling a racial slur out the window of his car in downtown Old Saybrook. He remains on paid leave. In addition, many other people who spoke at the meeting addressed the lack of diversity in Old Lyme. Why is Old Lyme overwhelmingly white? It is not uncommon for racist microaggressions to be made in schools, too. Last year’s valedictorian addressed this in her commencement speech. Racism is present in Old Lyme and it is harmful to everyone in our community. To ignore that is to be complicit in its damage. A number of speakers at the meeting agreed with Mr. Griswold’s position. It is wrong. By denying that there is any racism in our community and refusing to even discuss the resolution, the First Selectman is doing a gross disservice to our community and to its reputation. 

Some think that declaring racism a public health crisis will somehow paint our town in a negative light. But I believe that it does the opposite; it shows that we know there is a problem. It shows that we care. It shows that we’re ready to work together against it. 

My peers and I are the future of this town. I want to be able to tell my kids that our town was on the right side of history. I want to be able to tell them that our town helped lead the crusade on the shoreline against racism. Adopting the resolution could be a first and important step in healing the racism that divides our town and in communicating our values to the outside world. 

Martha Shoemaker and Jim Lampos support this objective. They get it. Please vote for them on November 2.

Sincerely,

Grace Cassineri,
Old Lyme.