January 21, 2021

Op-Ed: HOPE Explains Background, Process to Their Affordable Housing Proposal in Old Lyme

This Op-Ed was written by Lauren Ashe, Executive Director of HOPE Partnership.

Rendering for planned development at 16 Neck Road, also referred to as River Oak Commons I & II. Photo submitted by HOPE Partnership.

As many are aware, HOPE Partnership with Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, our development partner, is in the process of seeking the necessary approvals to develop new, affordable housing communities on Neck Road in Old Lyme.  We are writing today to share the story of HOPE and the path that brought us to this point.

In 2001, a group of local faith leaders became aware of a growing problem in the community, children in their homework clubs living in hotels or academic rentals without safe and stable homes.  This realization prompted a call to action for community and faith leaders to provide housing options for the families in the community.   HOPE Partnership, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was formed  in 2004 with the mission of developing affordable housing  in lower Middlesex County and surrounding towns.  In 2012, HOPE, in partnership with the Women’s Institute, opened Ferry Crossing, an affordable development made up of 16 townhomes, located in Old Saybrook and since that time it has been fully occupied and has a waiting list for individuals hoping to make it their home.

While HOPE was working in Old Saybrook, Old Lyme Affordable Housing (OLAH) was making similar efforts in Old Lyme.  Old Lyme Affordable Housing was also formed by concerned community members with support from the faith community and the town of Old Lyme.  In 2015, OLAH merged with HOPE Partnership to ensure their work would continue.  With this combining of efforts, HOPE pledged to make developing affordable housing in Old Lyme a priority.  As part of HOPE’s efforts, we actively pursued opportunities to meet with community groups to educate and advocate for affordable housing.  We had a table at both the Lion’s Club Car Show and the Mid Summer’s Festival in 2017. Focusing on the need in Old Lyme, we met with members of three Old Lyme churches; Christ the King, Saint Ann’s and the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme as well as the Old Lyme Lions Club.

Every year HOPE hosts a “Friendraiser” to share our efforts in the communities we serve.  In 2016, it was there that the owner of property on Neck Road learned of our work and approached us to discuss working together to solve the issue of the lack of affordable housing in Old Lyme.  Once discussions began it was HOPE’s task to determine the viability of building a community at the location.

Working with local engineers, architects and housing consultants, HOPE and the owner of the property applied for and received a subdivision of the property  into four separate lots in October 2017 from the Town of Old Lyme’s Planning Commission.  HOPE’s plans include the two ”front lots” on Neck Road, while the owner will retain the two “rear” lots closer to the River .  In November 2017, the team invited neighbors as well as stakeholders in the community to discuss the preliminary plans for the properties.

During HOPE’s feasibility process a Phase I Environmental Study and a Hazardous Material Survey were conducted with satisfactory results.   HOPE has conducted multiple soil tests to ensure that septic and water capacity are sufficient to meet the needs of the development and all regulations.  An archeological study was conducted as well as discussions with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation which  determined there was nothing of historical value in need of protection.   A traffic study was conducted in October 2017. The study is being updated using more current data now available, and an additional study will be conducted over Memorial Day weekend to determine the traffic impact on the area. This impact study will be provided to the Town’s own independent Traffic Engineers in sufficient time for review.  The Town’s Inlands Wetlands and Watercourses unanimously approved HOPE’s application for Lot 1 on May 22nd, with stipulations to add rain gardens in between buildings to capture more water onsite; to require owner to clean and inspect wetlands area and to have a plan to treat invasive species.

With preliminary studies and test results in hand, HOPE and its development partner, Women’s Institute, determined that the property would be a suitable location for affordable housing this past spring.  HOPE officially announced its intention to move forward at its annual Friendraiser at the Old Lyme Country Club in April 2018.  We continue to meet with community groups and have shared our plans with the Lyme-Old Lyme Junior Women’s Club, the Mentoring Corps for Community Development (MCCD), representatives from the school district, Christ the King Church and First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. What we heard from these organizations was a need to serve incomes of households that would meet community needs – such as young adults who grew up in Old Lyme but cannot afford to move back after college, the volunteer firefighters in the community, or the families sending their students to school in Old Lyme.

We also heard the importance to preserve the cultural entranceway to Old Lyme. We have responded with a design that is set back the length of a football field from the road, mirrors the road patterns of the adjacent neighborhoods, has space for a community room and on-site property management to oversee the ongoing maintenance of the grounds and building, and building designs that reflect the historic aesthetic of Old Lyme.  This new neighborhood will serve to convert an underutilized parcel to a tranquil neighborhood for 37 families, supported by public transportation and contributing to nearby commercial activity.

Affordable housing provides a solid foundation for a strong community.  Residents who live in a home that is affordable have funds to purchase food, provide health care and satisfy other living needs.  Residents of affordable homes also have the economic means to purchase goods and services in their communities creating economic stability.

The exact mix of unit rents and income limits is still being finalized for a number a reasons.  Because we restrict the rents of our housing to ensure that it remains affordable to households who can’t afford a home at market rate in Old Lyme, we need to leverage a variety of private and public sources to provide a mix of debt and equity that will sustain the project for decades to come. Each one of these sources will have different financial and policy goals.

When determining the rental and income limits in a project, we take a three tier approach.  1) We determine the greatest community need, based on local engagement and formal market studies, and examine how this need aligns with the mission of HOPE and our partners; 2) We determine how much income the property will need to make through rents to pay for ongoing expenses, maintenance, and capital improvements so that the development is fiscally responsible and sustainable for the duration of the deed restrictions; and 3) We must meet the various needs of lenders and funders in the project that all have different policy requirements for how they want funds to be used and who they are aiming to serve.  This approach will impact how many apartments will be set aside for families earning very low incomes to meet community or state policy goals, versus how many might be left at market rate to ensure there is greater revenue to offset lower rent limits.  Until all financing is fully committed, these projections will be re-examined continuously.

Thanks to a financial commitment received through Guilford Savings Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston on April 30, 2018, the project will have access to a reduced rate mortgage, which at this time should allow us to preserve 100% of the units as affordable. Affordable is defined by HUD as spending no more than 30% of their income on housing costs.  For these units, the household income ranges will be from $20,000 to $71,000, all based on the area median income in Old Lyme. The remainder of the development will be funded through a variety of sources, private investor equity through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC), energy efficiency rebates through the utility companies, and CT Dept. of Housing bond financing.

River Oak Commons I will consist of 7 residential buildings (23 affordable units) and 1 pump house.  River Oak Commons II will consist of 4 residential buildings (14 affordable units) and 1 community building, including an office for an onsite property manager.

Our next step in the process is to obtain approval for our applications from the Old Lyme Zoning Commission.  The public hearing is set for June 5th at 7:30pm at the Old Lyme Town Hall.


Op-Ed: SECoast Questions Proposed HOPE Development in Old Lyme

Organization Stresses Support of Affordable Housing

This Op-Ed was written by Gregory Stroud, Executive Director, SECoast

This photograph shows a representation of Hope Partnership’s ‘model’ Ferry Road development six years after completion.  Photo by Gregory Stroud.

No doubt by now, most of you have heard of the Hope Partnership housing development planned for 16 Neck Road. It’s a subdivided property tucked in beside the northbound I-95 exit 70 into Old Lyme, a wooded 12.5 acre lot with a steep entrance road, and a long stretch of deep-water access to the Long Island Sound. The property once assessed for $1.2 million, was purchased by a local developer on December 31, 2015 for a relative song—$455,500.

As things stand today, our expectation is that the purchaser, Graybill Properties, will keep and develop the back two lots for private houses, with river views and water access, and will sell the front two lots facing Neck Road for development as “affordable housing,” all told perhaps 37 or 41 two- three- and four-bedroom units, twelve buildings, and 113 parking spaces.

The development falls under a state law, commonly known as 8-30g, which doesn’t exactly give for-profit and non-profit developers carte blanche, but it does place a heavy burden of proof on local government to stop them, if a town fails to meet a very narrowly-tailored threshold of 10 percent deed-restricted affordable housing stock. Old Lyme currently stands at 1.56 percent, and by this method of counting, it’s not at all clear that the town can or will ever meet or sustain the minimum threshold of affordability.

To be sure, affordable housing has a checkered 30-year history in Connecticut, with often wealthy enclaves successfully gaming the system to shirk their statutory responsibilities, and sometimes unscrupulous developers gaming the system to build luxury apartment complexes, and harvest tax advantages, wherever profitable. In our particular case, we feel confident in saying that neither is the case, but that does not mean our current debate has not been colored on various sides by these broader frictions and frustrations.

Proponents of the project have at times avoided a serious discussion of the project by out-of-hand dismissing legitimate local concerns as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)—a form of name-calling rather than logical argument. Opponents of the project have frequently suggested darker motives for the development, without evidence. Town leaders have pitched the project as an effective defense against less scrupulous developers, despite the obvious truth that this project will not nearly allow Old Lyme to meet its near-impossible 10 percent obligation. There has no doubt been anger and ugliness, and more than a few transitory facts and figures in and around the project. We can do better.

Although we have significant and still unaddressed questions concerning the genesis of this project, the methods for choosing and advancing this project, how it fits into broader unstated plans of profit, funding, and development for Old Lyme, nevertheless we are confident that the two primary organizations behind it—Old-Saybrook-based Hope Partnership, and their statewide partner The Women’s Institute—are motived not by profit, but by a genuine, if perhaps overriding, philanthropic mission.

Nor does Old Lyme—despite its reputation among some as a haven of wealth and privilege—have a history of skirting the law or blocking affordable housing projects. In fact, in this case First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder and Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal, have invited and actively encouraged the development of this project in Old Lyme. We have little doubt that many in Old Lyme will bend over backwards to help see this project to completion.

But now putting all that aside, we are left with two basic questions: Is this a ‘good’ project? And do our concerns about health, safety, or other legally reviewable matters, clearly outweigh a need for affordable housing?

To the first question, we say largely not. To the second question, we say that it remains unresolved. For this reason, while we have decided to remain neutral at present on this project—we will neither promote, nor actively endeavor to block it—it is our view that the project leaves such substantial details and questions unresolved that it would constitute an act of negligence for zoning, planning, wetlands, or other town commissions to give this project approval, or even conditional approval, without significant additional scrutiny and assurances.

To this end, we spent more than two hours on May 2 with board and staff members of Hope Partnership, and The Women’s Institute, which was followed by numerous hours reviewing evident and serious issues of pedestrian and traffic safety, fire code, environmental, and other concerns. We followed up with an additional nearly hour-long conversation with Kristin Anderson, the development manager for the project, as part of The Women’s Institute. We remain deeply, and sincerely troubled by the project, and the feasibility of addressing these concerns.

We leave our detailed criticism to later public comment, but that said, it is telling we think, that the bulk of assurances which we did receive, regarding the goodness, the compliance with fire code, and the traffic and pedestrian safety of the project, are premised on a series of troubling and doubtful assumptions as follows:

  • that some un-proposed and unfunded redevelopment of Rte. 156 and Halls Road may in the future allow for safe pedestrian access between the development and the nearby Halls Road Shopping District;
  • that the 2018 State Building and Fire Safety Codes would drop a mandate for sprinklers by a vote in the legislature on July 1;
  • that CTDOT will alter the traffic signs and the terminus of Exit 70 in a manner, and time, which will allow for safe vehicle access to the site.

To be frank, all that we are really sure of here, is that this project has sailed through a number of planning, zoning, and wetlands meetings, with the strong backing of elected local officials, an array of ephemeral facts and arguments, an ever-growing scope, and a heck of a lot of good intentions.

But for all the good intent, the stubborn present reality of this project remains an essentially regressive model of suburban tract housing, with no clear safe access on foot, by bicycle, school bus, or public transit, awash in blacktop, skirting requirements of septic within the watershed and at the mouth of the Connecticut River, exempted from requirements of open space for land which will later be developed, and by an Old Lyme Plan of Conservation and Development, which is two sentences from nonexistent.

This is a project, as currently drawn, which reaches toward a lower common denominator of fire code. If requirements for sprinklers are dropped, should we cheer? It’s a plan at present, which encourages children to play inside, and burdens struggling families with the necessity of two cars.

Of course, no project can meet every ideal measure, and many families happily live out their days without sidewalks and within suburban tract housing. Should we hold affordable housing to a higher standard? Aren’t affordability and good intentions, reason enough? It’s an argument more often we’ve seen used for hot dogs and hamburgers in school lunches.

The reality is that 16 Neck Road is not just a housing development, it’s the entrance to the town. 16 Neck Road is the first step, a driving force, a funding source and point of leverage for a much larger unspoken and questionably-coordinated redevelopment of Old Lyme. Are we in such a rush, that without any real detail, this is how we choose to begin? 

Believe me, the public hearing on May 14 isn’t just another hoop, it’s the moment when Hope Partnership and the Town of Old Lyme decide whether to pull the trigger.

We say, yes to affordable housing in Old Lyme, but only with a better affordable plan.


Op-Ed: High Hopes Suggests MLK Day is Appropriate Day to Think About Giving Back to Your Favorite Non-Profit, Hosts Volunteer Orientation 4-7 Today

With the arrival of Martin Luther King Day today, it is worth looking back on the question Martin Luther King Jr. asked of an audience in Montgomery, Ala., in 1957, when he said, “What is life’s most persistent and urgent question?”

Consider that question right now and what your answer would be?

  • How can we achieve world peace?
  • Is global warming real?
  • Which college shall I choose?
  • Is life really a race to nowhere?
  • What is the number 42?

For Martin Luther King, the answer to this question was quite simple: ““What are you doing for others?”

So, in acknowledgement of Martin Luther King Day, High Hopes challenges you to answer that question with a pledge of a specific number of volunteer hours to a local non-profit.

A pledge is a promise, a promise to yourself, to the non-profit and to the many thousands of people who depend on Connecticut’s non-profits every day for human and social services, for therapy and comfort, for clothes and food, sanctuary and safety. By writing down your pledge, it becomes more real, more urgent, more of a commitment, and more achievable than a New Year’s resolution or an unspoken intention at some time in the future.

Choose an organization that speaks to your soul.

We would love you to volunteer at High Hopes, and whatever your future career interest, we can promise a rewarding experience. But wherever you decide to pledge your time, make sure that the organization’s mission speaks to your soul.

At High Hopes, we say “Volunteers give something of themselves and receive back another person’s hopes and dreams.” But while looking for a suitable quote for this piece, we came across this definition taken from the International Volunteer HQ – Volunteer Abroad Pinterest Board(n:) Volunesia – the moment when you forget you’re volunteering to help change lives because it’s changing yours.

Experiencing Volunesia is something we hear again and again from our volunteers.

Our therapeutic equine assisted activities operate year-round, six days a week from morning until evening. Our staff and volunteers work together, forming a vital team that is essential to our ongoing success. Individual reasons for volunteering may differ, but giving of oneself and forming special connections with people and horses creates a common bond for everyone involved in our program.

We could not operate without our volunteers and our needs are many. Our volunteers are all ages, genders, creeds, and ethnicities. Volunteering is giving freely, conscientiously and predictably of your time, but that does not mean to say that you will not benefit just as much, if not more than you give.

High Hopes is a center of excellence for Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies, as well as recognized for its high standard of non-profit management. Trainee Instructors travel from around the world to receive a High Hopes’ Education (we currently have trainees from Bosnia and Australia!) We extend that training to our volunteers through enrichment activities and subsidized training events.

For high school students, we offer an excellent way of demonstrating on-going volunteer commitment. Just one hour volunteering each week is considered of value by college admissions officers. For our participants, it will give them the confidence of a familiar volunteer face each week.

If you are involved in sports and can only volunteer during the summer – that’s no problem. Summer is one of our busiest times when we run five individual weeks of all-abilities, community-focused summer camp, as well as disability-specific programs.

For college students, we know that the experience gained at High Hopes is second to none for those wanting to enter the fields of Early Childhood Education, Human Growth & Development, Nursing, Medicine and Professions Allied to Medicine.

For many of those who have served in the armed forces or are retired, maintaining a connection or continuing to give back is a vital part of staying physically and mentally active.

For homemakers, seasonal visitors and homeschoolers, High Hopes’ flexible programs enable you to commit to a volunteering schedule that suits you, enables you to get out of the house, and build a new and supportive social network.

Ready to learn more?  Then you can make a volunteer pledge to High Hopes at this link or join us for one of our General Orientation and Side-walker Training Sessions on any of these dates:

Monday, Jan. 15: 4 to 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 3: 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, March 10: 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 14: 1 to 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 5: 1 to 4 p.m.

Or join us for a Volunteer Open House on Saturday, March 17, between 10 a.m. and noon. Take a tour of High Hopes, meet our team, talk to an existing volunteer, watch a lesson or discuss a volunteer schedule to suit you.


Op-Ed: Wayland, Lord Will Continue Tradition of Excellent Leadership in Lyme

By Tony Lynch

I half-jokingly refer to Lyme as “Lynch’s last stand”.  I’m a refugee from Greenwich, Southport and Glastonbury.  All three of those towns were bucolic farming communities when generations of my family moved to them.  All three are now densely populated suburbs, with attendant traffic, chain stores and restaurants.

Most of us likely moved here because we cherish the wide open spaces, light traffic and the absence of traffic lights, stores, restaurants and industry.  With careful stewardship on the part of our town government and volunteer organizations, Lyme stands a good chance of remaining as pastoral as it is today.

Lyme also has one of the lowest property tax mill rates in the state, yet through careful fiscal managment, has still been able to complete a Town Hall and Library project, convert the landfill to a transfer station, and support the Lyme Land Conservation Trust and the Nature Conservancy in preserving open space.  This year, our leaders also had the foresite to anticipate that the state would cut it’s contribution to the education budgets of towns like ours.  As a result, we are one of few towns in the state that were not surprised by that development and thus didn’t have to increase local taxes to compensate.

This past July, after more than two decades of excellent leadership, our First Selectman, Ralph Eno, retired.  We now have the opportunity and responsibility to elect a successor who will continue to shepherd our town in a similar way.

Which leads to my unequivocal endorsement of Mark Wayland for First Selectman.  Mark is a 3rd generation native of Lyme whom I have come to know and respect as a fellow leader of Lyme-Old Lyme Boy Scout Troop 26.  In the years that we served together, Mark demonstrated excellent leadership skills, uncompromising ethics and a natural ability to foster teamwork among our youth and adults.  Not one to shy away from a challenge, Mark completed Wood Badge training, Scouting’s pinnacle adult leadership program that only a small percentage of leaders complete.  The curriculum emphasizes project management, conflict resolution, listening, mentoring and team development – all essential skills for a First Selectman.  Mark rose through the ranks and currently serves as the Troop’s Scoutmaster.  He also serves as a Selectman in Lyme and as a volunteer with the Lyme Fire Company.

Mark recently commented that “I knew at an early age how special our town is, and I want to keep it that way for future generations to enjoy as much as I have”.  Together with Selectman Parker Lord, I believe Mark will succeed to our great benefit.

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent voter (like me), I urge you to come out and vote on Tuesday and join me in electing Mark Wayland as our First Selectman and Parker Lord as Selectman to continue the excellent leadership our town has enjoyed for many years.


Op-Ed: Old Lyme Should Return to Local Health Department; Dramatic Increases in Ledge Light Fees Adversely Impacting Local Residents, Small Businesses

Editor’s Note: The author, Dawn Root, is the owner of Old Lyme Seafood.

Old Lyme joined Ledge Light Health District (LLHD) on Nov 1, 2016 after approval at a Town Meeting by a margin of only 3 votes (82-79).  The time between the first public hearing (scheduled on Aug 29 during prime vacation season, with only 10 days’ notice) and the Town Meeting vote held on Sept 27 was less than a month.  That’s not enough time for public debate on a fundamental change to our town government that has a direct impact on all Old Lyme residents, businesses and organizations.

At the Sept 2016 Town Meeting, we were told that joining LLHD would result in significant cost savings, but it has not.  Previously, Old Lyme residents and businesses paid fees to our Town that helped offset our local health department costs. However, fees paid to LLHD don’t offset town costs, so become additional costs.

LLHD septic and well permit/review fees typically increased between $25-$150.  High septic and well fees have a greater impact on Old Lyme than other LLHD towns, such as New London, Groton, Waterford, East Lyme, because a greater portion of Old Lyme residents and businesses rely on wells and septic systems.

Most LLHD licensing and inspection fees increased between 2- and 10-fold (e.g.: from $50 to $300, or from $20 to $205-$245), and fee adjustments for seasonal vs year-round, or small vs large establishments were eliminated.  Such dramatic fee increases have been particularly challenging to Old Lyme small businesses and organizations because many are seasonal, or serve a much smaller local population than other LLHD communities.

LLHD also introduced many new fees, including $100 late fees, $100 re-inspection fees, and $50 repeat violation fees. When one considers total costs paid to LLHD, there are no costs savings.  The LLHD fee increases have already become a substantial burden to many local residents, small businesses and organizations, as demonstrated by over 100 Old Lyme residents and business owners signing a petition to bring the matter back to another Town Meeting.

The possibility of a future cost reduction was also mentioned at the Sept 2016 Town Meeting, but it was tied to eliminating an extra payment that Old Lyme makes to LLHD to maintain LLHD staff at Town Hall.  Without these extra payments, on-site health staffing may be significantly reduced; currently, LLHD provides on-site staff in Stonington and East Lyme only 2-4 hours/week.

Importantly, we were told that by joining LLHD, Old Lyme would not lose control of this important town function because Old Lyme would “have a seat at the table” on the LLHD board.  In reality, Old Lyme will have minimal influence over future LLHD decisions regarding costs, fees, staffing, and service, because representation on the LLHD board is based on population, and Old Lyme is by far the smallest town in the LLHD – representing only 5% of the total LLHD population (see table below).

Lastly, we were told that Old Lyme could simply try LLHD for 2 years and switch back to a local health department after giving LLHD 6 months’ notice.  Please join me, and many other Old Lyme residents and small business owners adversely impacted by the LLHD changes, in requesting that Old Lyme return to a local health department that will be more responsive to the unique needs of our small, and very special, community.   

LLHD-Member Town Populations (CT Dept. of Public Health 2016 estimates)

Town Population % of LLHD Total
Groton 39,261 27%
New London 26,984 19%
Waterford 19,101 13%
East Lyme 18,886 13%
Stonington 18,647 13%
Ledyard 14,911 10%
Old Lyme 7,469 5%
LLHD TOTAL 145,259 100%

Op-Ed: Lyme Academy Offers Thanks for Community Support

As the first month of our new academic year draws to a close we would like to extend our deepest thanks to the businesses and non-profit organizations that once again extended a warm welcome to the students of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts of the University of New Haven. We welcome nearly 140 students to campus this year with 45 living in our Southwick Townhouses, adjacent to our campus, and 20 living in the newly constructed Post and Main apartments in Old Saybrook. All of our new and returning students were greeted with welcoming smiles and sweet treats on both sides of the River in Old Lyme and Old Saybrook, alike.

Along Lyme Street, the Chocolate Shell, Nightingale Cafe, and the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe and Café all welcomed our students with tasty offerings. The owners of Old Lyme Inn opened the doors of their Side Door Jazz Club to the students and family members who attended our midsummer student meeting. During our orientation program, the doors were opened once again. The baby grand piano and the luxurious ambiance of Side Door Jazz Club provided the perfect setting for the performance of our very own, sophomore Alexandra Naimoli, at our first Lyme Light event of the year.

A special highlight and tradition of our orientation program for incoming students was the museum tour and delicious ice cream social on the patio of Café Flo, hosted by Jeffrey Andersen, Director of the Florence Griswold Museum and David Rau, Director of Education and Outreach. This was the first of a series of museum/gallery visits that will occur throughout the year. Other neighboring galleries and museums that students will visit during their fall semester at LYME include the Lyme Art Association, the Cooley Gallery, and the Lyman Allyn Museum.  The generosity of the staff of these organizations to give of their time and share their knowledge allows us to provide valuable experiences that complement students’ career development during their years at LYME as well as networking resources that will prove valuable as they progress in their careers.

In Old Saybrook, it has been nearly a month since the Post and Main Apartments became the home away from home for twenty students from LYME. We are extremely grateful to the community of Old Saybrook for warmly embracing our students.  Susan Beckman, the Economic Development Director in Old Saybrook and Judy Sullivan, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce took time from their busy schedules to gather together maps, guides to local resources and other gifts. Welcome baskets filled to the brim with treats from local businesses greeted our students as they moved into Old Saybrook. And the presents continued throughout the first week; including gifts from Pursuit of Pastry, Dunkin Donuts, Jack Rabbit’s restaurant, Caffé Marche, and offers of free dance lessons from the Fred Astaire Dance studio. A special highlight was a tour of the Kate with Executive Director Brett Elliot. During the tour, students were surprised with a $50 Gift Card, to a show of their choice, made possible by a very generous donor.  Local businesses like Saybrook Point Inn are reaching out to students with offers of employment, and a number of organizations are working with us, and our students on myriad programs still to come.

The charm of Lyme Street and Main Street, variety of restaurants, hiking paths and miles of beach offer countless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. Both Old Lyme and Old Saybrook make for wonderful homes for our students and, in turn, our students bring a special vibrancy to these warm and welcoming communities. We are looking forward to discovering and sharing many new and exciting experiences in both of these communities as well with many organizations as in neighboring towns including Essex, New London and Mystic where our students have been invited to participate in field studies, internships and create and display art in the year ahead.

In 2014, shortly after I began my tenure as Campus Dean, I was asked “What do students do with their time when they aren’t in class?”  I can now answer “Plenty!”  All thanks to our friends in the community.

As LYME continues its partnerships in the region with remarkable films, lectures, exhibitions, and studio art workshops, we are grateful for all this community does for us, and our students.  We are so proud to be an integral part of the lower Connecticut River Valley and look forward to continued collaboration with our neighboring organizations throughout the coming year.


Opinion: With Thanks to the Groups That Have Already Sent Comments About the High-Speed Train Route to the FRA … Now It’s Our Turn

An Acela train travels through Rocky Neck State Park this morning.

We are fortunate here in Old Lyme that three different organizations made the decision to commit a vast amount of resources, primarily in terms of innumerable volunteer hours, to prepare pages and pages of well-researched comments on the Federal Rail Authority’s (FRA) Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

These comments prepared respectively by the Town of Old Lyme, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE), and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and SECoast (its special project dedicated to organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley) have now been submitted their comments to the FRA ahead of the March 1 deadline for receiving comments.

It should be stressed, however, that the FRA is not obliged to respond to these comments in detail (as it was in the previous stage of the project) prior to issuing its Record of Decision (ROD), which is anticipated as early as March 1 but now seems likely to be issued later in the month at the earliest.

Reading the comments — 82 pages by the Town of Old Lyme,  a five-page-letter by the CFE, and 41 pages by the CT Trust for Historic Preservation and SECoast — one can only marvel at the level of detail and comprehensive analysis displayed coupled with incisive and objective reasoning. The overall message of all three groups is crystal clear — the FRA failed to communicate its plan effectively, failed to analyze its impact sufficiently, and failed to justify its choice of proposed route convincingly.

A veritable army of people assisted with the production of the Town’s comments, the covering letter for which was sent by Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder; the CFE letter is signed byAndrew W. Minikowski, Esq., Legal Fellow of the CFE; and the CT Trust for Historic Preservation’s comments are authored by Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Trust, and Gregory Stroud, Director of Special Projects and founder of SECoast. We owe an enormous debt of thanks to these individuals and the many, many more — some named, some unnamed in the documents — who have freely given of their time and expertise to formulate these coherent arguments against the FRA’s currently proposed route.

It should be noted that all the documents stress the respective organization’s support for the concept of an improved passenger rail service from Washington DC to Boston, Mass.

We, as a community, now owe it to these people who have worked so hard on our collective behalf to support their efforts and write or email the FRA today (tomorrow, March 1, is the deadline) with your own opinions about the Old Saybrook to Kenyon, RI bypass.  As Stroud said yesterday morning in response to a question asked at a presentation he made at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, “The FRA needs to hear from individuals.  It’s the number of comments that they receive, which will make an impact.  You don’t have to write a masterpiece.  It doesn’t have to be long.  Just write and, at minimum, mention the bypass specifically and say you do not support it.”

Comments should be sent by email to: info@necfuture.com or by mail to:
U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration
One Bowling Green Suite 429
New York, NY 10004

So … top of your “To Do” list for today is to write that email or letter … you owe it to yourself, but more than that, you owe it to these selfless people who have already given so much for us, but ultimately, you owe it to your community.

Thank you so much.

Read a related Letter to the Editor from Town Attorney Jack Collins at this link.



Op-Ed: Old Lyme Urgently Needs New Historic Survey; Current One Dates Back to 70s Leaving Town Vulnerable to High-Speed Rail and Other State, Federal Projects

11/06 UPDATE: We note that an item on tomorrow’s regular Historic District Commission agenda is “FRA Plan Update.”  The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in the Old Lyme Town Hall.

Editor’s Note: The author of this op-ed, Gregory Stroud, is the Executive Director of  SECoast, the non-profit dedicated to organizing and educating the public to protect the Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley.

Sometime, perhaps three or four years ago, when the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) first began plotting potential routes for a high-speed rail bypass across southeastern Connecticut, they would have consulted existing state and federal historic surveys to assess the impacts, and adjust the routes accordingly.

Surveys provide the government with a dispassionate, nuts-and-bolts, accounting and evaluation of a community’s worth. The government conducts all kinds of surveys, surveys of mineral resources, timber resources, and yes, even historic resources. And just as a town out in Iowa would be foolish to neglect its survey of farmland — lest the government decides to build an incinerator in Dubuque, or the Mississippi tops its banks in Keokuk — a small town of extraordinary historic worth, like Old Lyme, would be foolish to neglect its historic survey.

A historic survey matters not just for high-speed rail, but because it will inform every state and federal infrastructure project heading our way: the inevitable reworking of the existing rail corridor, the widening of I-95, the routing of new utilities, and the building of new cellphone towers. In fact, just two weeks ago the Connecticut Department of Transportation began revamping its 2004 study for I-95 through Old Lyme.

Over the next 25 years, Old Lyme faces a veritable multi-billion-dollar wave of infrastructure projects, forcing the state and federal government to make any number of difficult decisions. In simple terms, it’s a competition for limited routes and limited dollars. Unfortunately for Old Lyme, we entered this competition four or so years ago with a historic survey that was shamefully out of date. Think 40 years out of date — hip-huggers, bell-bottoms. Our baseline historic survey dates to the early 1970s. You can imagine, a lot has changed in terms of method and standards over the last four decades, leaving Old Lyme undervalued for state and federal planning.

We will never know whether an updated survey might have persuaded the FRA to draw its purple line elsewhere. There is no point in grousing about the past. But as every other town and region along the Northeast Corridor prepares for the competition, Old Lyme can’t wait around and hope for better.

So, what’s the cost? Nothing. Zero. Zip. The State Historic Preservation Office can fully fund the cost of a survey up to $30,000 — that should be plenty. And for whatever reason, if Old Lyme prefers all the bells and whistles, the town can apply for an additional $15,000 of federal funding. That would require a 50 percent match, but some or all of this could be covered by a grant from the Connecticut Trust.

I’m not whistling in the dark. Some time ago, I asked Daniel Mackay, the executive director of our statewide partner at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, “on a scale of one to ten, how important is an up-to-date historic resource survey?” “An eleven,” he replied. And if you’ve ever met him, you’ll know that Mackay is not prone to hysteria or exaggeration. This past weekend, at a conference in New Haven, I polled half-a-dozen experts on the topic. Everyone from the State Historic Preservation Office to academics agreed, without hedging or hesitation, that an updated survey was “commonsense,” that it would be “crazy” not to do it. And not just the preservationists, in my conversations with lawyers, they similarly agree.

I first raised the issue with town government on February 1. Since that time, we have raised the issue over a dozen times in writing, in meetings, and phone calls. Luckily, there is a rolling deadline. It’s still not too late.


Op-Ed: Follow NEC Future’s Own Findings, Abandon Alternative #1, Statement from Old Lyme Selectwoman MaryJo Nosal to the FRA:

Today we welcome representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, 4:30PM. The following is a statement I planned on reading if the meeting format had allowed for public comment:

Congress established the Northeast Corridor Commission in 2008 and it was “chartered to facilitate collaborative planning and unified action” for the NEC Future process. The Commission’s report, NEC FUTURE and Investing in the Northeast Corridor: Advancing the American Economy (02/19/2016) (http://www.nec-commission.com), estimates the annual economic loss to our nation’s economy due to frequent Northeast Corridor (NEC) service disruptions at $500M. Equally important, the report clearly and strongly supports the needed investment in a NEC which includes the mid-size cities to advance the potential of the railroad as an engine for the American economy. “The potential for more transformative economic gain may lie in mid-sized cities such as Baltimore, Hartford, Newark, New Haven, Providence, and Wilmington. Their economies, with anchors such as research universities and corporate headquarters, stand to benefit from more reliable and frequent service, providing faster access to the financial and human capital resources of major hubs. Such investment in infrastructure would support recent economic and demographic trends and align with local economic development plans already in place. Additional capacity, improved travel time, and new origin-destination pairs could ensure the viability of projected growth in major markets, spark growth in mid-sized markets, and put the U.S. on par with peer regions around the world when competing for economic growth. Other cities, such as Hartford, not on the NEC mainline, have the potential to benefit with higher levels of investment. Today, infrequent service and lengthy travel times place limits on the potential growth mid-size cities might realize in terms population and jobs. Service improvements in consideration through the NEC FUTURE process would dramatically decrease the travel time from mid-sized cities such as Wilmington, Providence, and Hartford to the larger strong markets in New York, Boston, and Washington.

The FRA should support the Commission’s findings by selecting the alternative, or modifications of the alternative, which provides increased mainline access to the NEC for customers and businesses, and significant improvement in travel time to hub cities by expanding NEC service to the underserved mid-size markets including New Haven and Hartford, CT. Eliminate the Old Saybrook-Kenyon Rhode, Island bypass option as it certainly does not meet the stated goals of the NEC Future and in fact, is in opposition to the Commission’s findings as it threatens an established economy of a small historical town and does not provide significant access or significant time savings to hub cities.


Opinion: Let Your Presence Make a Difference (Since Your Voice Can’t be Heard) — Go to the FRA Meeting

Back in February of this year, we wrote an opinion piece titled, “The Menace in our Midst.”  about the proposed high speed rail route through Old Lyme, about which we as a community had just heard. Surprisingly, not a whole lot has changed since then with the exception that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has finally decided to pay Old Lyme a call. That meeting is this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in the Lyme-Old Lyme High School auditorium.

We’re re-publishing most of our editorial from February, but changing the message.  Back then, we urged readers to write to the FRA and say what you thought about Alternative 1 during the official Comment Period.  Today, our message is simply, “Go to this afternoon’s meeting.” You will not be able to speak — at this point it seems public comment is not being allowed, but our numbers will tell a story … so let’s pack that hall!

The saddest thing about all of this is that we all (or most of us) support high speed rail — please read the open letter to the FRA from Alex Twining that we received last night, which discusses some different solutions to Amtrak’s challenges in the northeast.

Here’s our editorial from February:

In the space of just a few short weeks, the residents of Old Lyme have become aware of a menace in their midst. Most unusually for these same residents, their response has been to a man (or woman) identical.  When that happens in this town — unquestionably, a rare event — you can be sure that, ‘Something is rotten (to misquote Hamlet) in the state of Old Lyme.’

The ‘menace’ in this case is Alternative 1 of the four high-speed railtrack routes proposed by the Federal Railroad Authority (FRA) in their Northeast Corridor (NEC) Future plan.

But let’s backtrack for a second — why is the FRA proposing these new routes? Their objective is, “to improve the reliability, capacity, connectivity, performance, and resiliency of future passenger rail service … while promoting environmental sustainability and continued economic growth.”  Let’s say right away that we are fully supportive of this objective — we are huge fans of rail-travel — you cannot grow up in Europe without taking rail travel for granted.  The trains there are fast, clean and efficient … they are a way of life.  We absolutely wish it were the same in the US.

So what is the difference here?  Why has the reaction to Alternative 1 been so strong, so united, so passionate?  In case you are unaware, Alternative 1 calls for the high speed rail track to cross the Connecticut River over a new bridge a little higher up the river than at present and then travel to the center of Old Lyme bisecting Lyme Street by eliminating both the western and eastern campuses of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts before turning north and crossing I-95.  [Note: This has now become a tunnel under the Connecticut River according to the latest information from the FRA.]  The 1817 John Sill House, currently owned by the Academy and situated on its campus, would likely be acquired by the FRA by eminent domain and then demolished.

The impact of a high-speed railtrack through that sector of town would be totally devastating for our community, effectively destroying its very heart.

This editorial could now run for pages to explain the full spectrum of impact to Old Lyme of this proposal.

We could discuss the horrific effects on our incredible local environment — one which has inspired artists for generations including some of the greatest impressionist painters in American history and one officially designated as a “Last Great Place.”

We could talk about the untold damage to the storied structures on Lyme Street and list the irreplaceable buildings that will either be completely destroyed or permanently scarred by this new train track construction, many of which are either National Historic Landmarks or on the National Historic Register.

We could mention that Lyme Street is the joyful, bustling hub of our little town — it has a unique personality and touches every aspect of our community life.  It is home to our town hall, our public schools, our daycare, our youth services, our library, our churches, our village shops, our art college, our art association (the oldest in the country), and the Florence Griswold Museum (a national institution.)  Can you even begin to imagine Lyme Street with a high speed railroad running across it?

And let’s just consider for a minute what this proposal, if implemented, would achieve?  Bearing in mind that you can already travel from London to Paris (286 miles) in 2 hours and 15 minutes, would we be able to hop on a train in Old Saybrook and be in Washington DC (334 miles) roughly two hours and 45 minutes later?  No, the current travel time of six hours would be reduced by a grand total of 30 minutes to 5 hours and 30 minutes.  Unbelievable.

As we said, we could go on for pages but others have kindly taken care of that for us.  There was a splendid press conference yesterday, which spelled out the craziness of Alternative 1 from every angle — coldly, clinically and objectively.  The Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library has a full print copy of the NEC Future tome if you care to read it in its entirety.  There are links galore on the Old Lyme Town website to the statement and attachments submitted yesterday (Feb. 10) on behalf of some 20 local organizations to the FRA.

So please read and educate yourself on Alternative 1, but most importantly, please, please write to the FRA with your thoughts.  There are many questions as to why and how this proposal was able to be presented without a single public hearing being held closer than 30 miles away from a town on which it was having such a major impact.  But that is history now …

Back to today — the FRA is coming this afternoon … will you be there?


Op-Ed: Support Sound View’s Historic District Designation With its Numerous Benefits; Ignore Inaccuracies Being Circulated

The author of this op-ed submits that there is strong evidence that Sound View is one of the oldest public beaches in the country. The image above shows the beach circa 1920.

The author of this op-ed, Michaelle Pearson, states that there is strong evidence that Sound View is the oldest public beach in the country. The image above shows the beach circa 1920.

COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE ARE NOW CLOSED: Sound View residents have been receiving letters from Heidi DiNino-Fields of Hartford Avenue urging them to register their opposition to the Sound View Historic District designation. These letters are filled with incorrect information, designed to confuse and frighten residents into opposition. Among the more blatant lies are that owners would not be able to paint or maintain their property; that it would negatively affect insurance, taxes and marketability; that it would impede upgrading to FEMA standards, and that the property “will essentially be frozen in as-is condition.” Each of these is completely false.

The National Historic Register is simply an Honorary designation to recognize neighborhoods that have a unique character and history. There are absolutely no restrictions on owners’ ability to renovate or develop their properties. This designation is different from the Town Historic District, on Lyme Street, which is overseen by the Historic District Commission, and has nothing to do with Sound View, or this type of designation.

Having a property within the Sound View Historic District actually conveys many benefits on owners, including better rates on insurance, better marketability, and assistance with waivers to FEMA requirements, building and zoning. The designation’s purpose is to make it easier for owners to renovate and develop their properties, if that is their choice. If an owner wants to renovate their property in a non-historic manner, or not at all, that is their choice. There is no government entity that can or will tell them what they can or can’t do.

IF an owner chooses to renovate in a historic manner, they become eligible for grant programs and tax abatements up to $30,000. If the owner wants the tax credit, that particular work will be subject to review, but only to ensure that the money is going toward a historic renovation. If an owner doesn’t take the cash, they can do whatever they like. No review or oversight whatsoever. Historic District designation has no impact on property taxes.

Sound View’s rich history has been obscured for too long by its rowdy reputation from the 1950s-1990s. As an intact pre-1938 beach community, Sound View is a unique and rare coastal resource. It was developed in the early 1890s, and there is very good evidence that it is the nation’s oldest public beach. Many of the cottages have been passed down for generations within the same families, and are maintained with pride to this day. The Historic District designation honors this tradition, and will help to preserve the neighborhood and public beach for future generations. This is a valuable opportunity for our town. Let’s not let one uninformed naysayer scare people into opting out of this positive opportunity.

For the true story, actual facts, and some very interesting historic details, I urge concerned residents to read the official application which will be posted on the Old Lyme Town website early next week at http://www.oldlyme-ct.gov/Pages/OldLymeCT_projects/currentprojects


Op-Ed: Malloy in the Middle

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow

Last week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tried to force the Democratic National Convention into a shape more to his liking by demanding that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, be booted from a high-profile chairmanship. He failed, but the fact that he tried says something about both Malloy and the dangerous state of our politics today.

Sanders’ argument is that Malloy and fellow co-chair former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., were unreasonably hostile to Sanders, and that they were “aggressive attack surrogates” for Clinton. As evidence, Sanders pointed to interviews the two men had given slamming Sanders, suggesting that Frank and Malloy would be “unsympathetic” to the views of Bernie voters.

Oh boy.

An eye-rolling DNC rejected …

Continue reading Susan Bigelow’s column published June 3 on CTNewsJunkie.com by clicking here.

Editor’s Note: Along with Shoreline Web News LLC, publisher of LymeLine.com and ValleyNewsNow.com, CTNewsJunkie.com is a member of the Independent News Network (INN). Members publish links to other member’s articles when we choose to do so in our reader’s interests


Op-Ed: Carney Says Proposed State Education Budget Cuts Will Seriously Impact Region 18

State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd)

State Representative Devin Carney (R-23rd)

Does Governor Malloy have a problem with communities that succeed? This is a question we need to ask ourselves. Year after year, the schools of the 23rd District work diligently to provide quality education to our youth. Our teachers and administrators add to the success of our state by instilling the proper foundation to produce the industrial, business, and community leaders of tomorrow. Many of our best and the brightest students chose to continue their education in Connecticut – something of which the governor should be incredibly proud. Just last year the valedictorians from Region 18 (Lyme and Old Lyme) and Westbrook as well as the salutatorian from Old Saybrook chose UConn.

We have seen two budget proposals over the past two weeks that would do damage to the schools in the 23rd District. The Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee released an incomplete budget that would cut Education Cost Sharing (“ECS”) funding to the towns in our district by 33 – 56%. This was bad enough. But, under the governor’s updated proposal, the four towns in the 23rd went from receiving a recommended amount of $1,831,496 in ECS funding to $0 for FY 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017). A total of 28 towns were zeroed-out, while many cities, like the governor’s hometown of Stamford, were held harmless. Talk about a shared sacrifice.

These proposed cuts – made at a time when most local Boards of Finance are crafting their own fiscal year budgets – are unfair. The clear lack of respect and care on the governor’s part is alarming. All four towns in the 23rd District will now have funding gaps and may require local property tax increases to offset them. This would add an even greater burden to Connecticut’s taxpayers and Connecticut simply cannot afford to lose additional wealth at this time. However, that’s where these indirect tax hikes would be directed – all 28 communities being zeroed-out are considered ‘wealthy’.

Although these cuts are debilitating to small towns like ours – which already receive far less back from the state than we put in – we must keep in mind that this is only a proposal.

I remain committed to finding a solution with other members of the legislature to address this inequitable cut to our towns and to solving our $930 million deficit. The state wants people to move to Connecticut and one of our best selling points is our top-tier education. While we are faced with many serious and pressing economic issues, predominantly the ongoing budget crisis, great public education is one area on which we can pride ourselves.

I have written a letter to the governor urging him not to turn his back on the children and the taxpayers of the 23rd District and to request that he amend his updated budget and eliminate these cuts. The taxpayers of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook provide a great deal to this state and the deficits would be much, much higher without us. If either the legislature’s or the governor’s cuts are enacted, then it would be only fair that some of the approximately 380 unfunded state educational mandates be eliminated.

Instead of education, the governor and the legislature must look to balance the budget through real structural changes in the way state government is run. Changes could include pension and benefit reform, re-negotiating of union contracts, a moratorium on unnecessary government projects, serious spending and bonding caps, and tighter controls on overtime. When I last checked, many don’t live in Connecticut for bloated government overtime, but they do for our great schools. In fact, it may just be the only thing keeping them here.

To read my letter to Governor Malloy: click here

To see how Connecticut towns fare under the Appropriations budget: click here

To see how Connecticut towns fare under the governor’s budget: click here

To read the governor’s budget proposal: click here

To see the approximately 380 unfunded educational mandates: click here


Op-Ed: Hains Park Boathouse Options Could Save Funds While Also Supporting Rowing Program Needs

As an engineer and rower, I frequently look at form and function and have provided several suggestions to the Hains Park Boathouse Improvement Committee (HPBIC).  When developing a project, each feature should be considered for its benefit and its cost. The newest Boathouse plan for Hains Park in Old Lyme favors form over function, and is less sensitive to disruptions and cost.  What is not known by those missing the Boathouse Committee meetings is that less expensive proposals have been raised that were able to meet the rowing program “needs” that did not “tear down” the existing, structurally sound Boathouse, which has one 28 ft. wide bay and one 16 ft. wide bay. 

However, these proposals were dismissed by the majority of the Committee because they said the rowers need three 22 ft. wide bays with an associated increase in aisle width between boat storage racks from the existing 4-5 ft. to 10 ft. (although an 8 ft. minimum is recommended by the US Rowing Association.)  Creative proposals to rearrange the boat storage layout recommended as a no-cost option by the boat rack supplier to achieve wider aisles with the existing 28 ft. and 16 ft. bays  – with use of a single line of “rolling racks” in the larger bay (see photo below) – plus the addition of a third 22 ft. wide bay, were summarily dismissed.   

The author suggests that rolling boat racks similar to those shown in this photo would offer a cost-effective alternative in relation to the Hains Park Boathouse construction.

This image shows an example of the boat racks suggested by a supplier as a cost-effective alternative in the design of the Hains Park Boathouse. Photo submitted.

For example, all of the boat storage needs and 10 ft. wide aisles can be accommodated by placing one line of rolling racks and two rows of fixed racks in the 28 ft. bay, and one row of fixed racks in the 16 ft. bay, plus two new sets of fixed racks in an “addition” (attached or detached) to the existing Boathouse.  In the lowest cost option I proposed, a new boat shed (22 ft. x 84 ft.) would be built next to the existing Boathouse.  Given that it is pre-engineered by a company specializing in storage structures, it can be constructed very quickly with limited disruption to the existing facilities, with an estimated cost of  less than $200,000 – including ties to the existing structure.   

The primary reason given for dismissing all of the more cost-effective “addition” options was that they would be 6-8 ft. wider than the new Boathouse proposal (at 66 ft.) and so they would not allow the replacement basketball court to remain next to the Boathouse.  However, the committee now proposes moving the basketball court to a different area of the park both because of the Boathouse’s larger footprint and to save one maple tree.  Thus, moving the basketball court is no longer a reason to reject consideration of any of the more cost-effective “addition” options.   

Even if one allotted another approximate $150,000 to extend the back of the existing Boathouse for added flex-space, changing areas, and small storage/office spaces, the “addition” options have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars over tearing-down the existing Boathouse and re-constructing “new.” 

Currently, the majority of the committee is pushing to proceed with committing $670,000 on just Phase 1 of project (which includes the new Boathouse) before they have estimated a “total project cost” for the “total project plan”, which includes public toilet upgrades, pavilion, and the remaining site work.  Thus, there is a significant risk that the full project cost with the new Boathouse plan may not come in within the $883,000 budget (comprising the $478,000 STEAP grant and $405,000 from Old Lyme taxpayers.) 

At this point, seriously considering more innovative boat storage options that save the existing Boathouse is recommended.  The rolling racks that can save the existing boathouse and significantly reduce the need for Old Lyme tax dollars should also be seriously evaluated or investment should be made in features that expand the functions of this park for the benefit of all.

Editor’s Note: The author , Stephen P. Dix, is a Professional Engineer who has been working with the Town of Old Lyme in various capacities for over 25 years, primarily supporting their Sewer Avoidance Program.  More recently he teamed up with Lombardo and Associates to propose a more cost-effective solution that included  water reuse.  Previously, he served as Technical Director for Infiltrator Systems in Old Saybrook for 10 years following an appointment at West Virginia University as Director for the EPA’s National Small Flows Clearinghouse.  Dix is recognized for his research in the science of soil-based treatment systems with publications and patents in this area.  He currently runs his own consulting firm that helps environmental corporations develop new technology; the firm also trains engineers and professionals in this field.


Op-Ed: Lyme P & Z Needs to Separate “Agricultural” Activities Associated with Farms from “Commercial” Activities

Editor’s Note: Last week, Christopher Roosevelt of Lyme sent the letter below to the Lyme Planning & Zoning Commission on behalf of the Lyme Rural Protection Group. We are publishing it as an Op-Ed due its length.

‘I thought I would reiterate my recommendations regarding separating farm/agricultural pursuits from “commercial” activities of wine tastings and wine sales.

First, as a very fundamental proposition, the Connecticut farm winery act specifically anticipates and clearly leaves the authority to localities to separate the agricultural aspects of a farm winery (widely supported by many in the Town) from the “commercial” aspects such as wine tastings and wine sales.  I understand that this may impose very modest additional costs on a farm winery to resolve having space in an existing commercial district to conduct such tastings and sales, but it clearly goes a long way to support and maintain a town’s residential and rural character, something the vast majority of Lyme residents support.  I hope the Lyme P&Z Commission carefully considers that option and implements it with any new Code changes.  I know that quite a few residents, myself included, would personally and financially support the location of such “commercial” aspects of a farm winery in existing “commercial” districts with personal contributions until the commercial results help to support such activities.  Who is going to pay me back for the commercialization and loss of my rural, residential neighborhood?

Second, I have talked to many residents of the Town of Lyme representing both major political parties and there is clearly a major lack of knowledge and familiarity among the vast bipartisan majority, including a few party leaders, with regard to the proposed zoning code changes.  That, in and of itself, is not a good way to make policy or change regulations, unless, of course, your Commission does not want informed public participation.  I would suggest that you as Chairman and the Commissioners of the Lyme P&Z Commission carefully consider holding at least two or three “town meetings” in two or three areas of the Town to inform and educate the Town’s voters about what is being proposed and what the implications may be in a number of areas, but at least for definitions of “farms” in the Town and the possible tax revenue implications of residents claiming their properties are “farms” and asking for tax reductions.  I think there are many areas in the proposed changes where implications for the Town as a whole have not been carefully considered and may adversely impact the Town.  This should not be done in a hurry up manner or to simply adopt new code measures only to get one winery approved.  That is very bad policy and even worse practice.

Lastly, I would suggest that you and your fellow Town representatives remain aware that there is deeply felt (and quite wide spread) disappointment and criticism on the part of many in the Town for how all this has been handled by the Lyme P&Z Commission.  The words “old boy network” have been used frequently with me.  The possibility of a petition for a referendum on the subject has also been frequently mentioned.  You may have recently won election, but other elections will be happening and this may be a subject for discussion very soon.  That is the ultimate recourse of voters who may be told that the Lyme P&Z is doing all that is legally necessary but, in fact, is not looking out for the best interests of the Town and its voters.  I am a believer in informed, participatory democracy.  That is clearly not happening in this instance.

Thank you and your fellow Commissioners for considering this message.’


Op-Ed: Proposed Northeast Corridor High Speed Rail Route Cuts Through Old Lyme Historical District, Public Comment Now Extended to Feb. 16

Proposed routes for high speed rail track under Amtrak's Northeast Corridor modernization plans.

Proposed routes for high speed rail track under Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor modernization plans.

One month ago, with little fanfare, the Federal government announced a plan to modernize the Northeast Corridor by rerouting high-speed rail lines over a new bridge crossing the Connecticut River, across the saltwater marshes at the Lieutenant River and through the historical district of Old Lyme.

The plan appears so nonsensical, from a local perspective, that it is very easy to dismiss out of hand. It will never happen. A high-speed rail through our little town, the home of American Impressionism? A town so wonderful, in its own way, that from a local perspective we feel well-neigh untouchable.  It will never happen.

But then, I ask you, when did you first hear of the plan? And why not? Public comment was originally scheduled to close on January 31st. It has been extended two weeks until February 15th. After that, I am told, our leverage will be immeasurably weaker, and our task considerably more difficult and more lengthy. This odd silence should give us pause. Why haven’t we heard?

To be sure, this is a slow train. And it will take years of revision and appropriations, and very likely it will never happen in its entirety. But I urge you to look at the plan. It’s available for study and comment at www.necfuture.com. There is no doubt that at least part of this plan will happen. The Connecticut River crossing will be modernized. And the preferred alternative—there are three—will be chosen later this year. If Alternative 1 is chosen as the preferred option, even if it is later blocked, it will hang over our town for a decade, or more, promising destruction, lowering property values, troubling mortgages.

Yes, from a local perspective the plan is absurd, but the plan was not written from a local perspective. Alternative 1, the plan that most directly impacts Old Lyme, from the Federal—even on the state level—appears, on its face, the most sensible, the least expensive, the least impactful. In fact, if you look carefully through the footnotes, which discuss in detail the cultural and historical casualties, you will find that for the entire rail line from Boston to Washington, D.C. only one town is slated as a serious loss: Old Lyme. That should give us pause.

In fact, what concerns me most about Alternative 1, is just how sensible it appears, if you’ve never visited Lyme Street, or paddled down the Lieutenant or heard of the Old Lyme Art Colony.  One plan will be chosen. Let’s not make it easy for the politicians, the planners in Washington and Hartford.

Please contact our representatives at the Federal level, in particular, and submit public comment at http://www.necfuture.com/get_involved/ . We only have two weeks.

Dr. Gregory Stroud
Old Lyme, CT


Op-Ed: Thoughts on Old Lyme’s Wastewater Situation and Where Blame Lies

With my growing family, my wife and I moved to Old Lyme over 55 years ago.  Then it was another coastal town with a small, stable year-round population and a large vacationer transient group who came here to enjoy the Long Island Sound shoreline beaches for about 10 to 12 weeks in summertime.  Many of these visitors scheduled their time here to mesh with summer school vacations. Some owned cottages, others rented for a week or two, and others for the season.  These cottages were clustered to be within walking distance of The Sound.  The average family had but one car, which the husband took to work, and he would drive to the shore only on weekends.

One example of such a cluster of cottages in Old Lyme was aptly named White Sand Beach.  The sand was dug from borrow pits on Buttonball Road, about a mile inland from the shore.  It was fine, white, and free of clay or soil.  The developer of this community spread this sand on top of a salt-hay Spartina marsh.  Now, Spartina grass is nice to look at but doesn’t lend itself to beach recreation.

This beach community, and others like it, were frequently state chartered beach associations with enumerated powers and responsibilities.  The developer provided paved roads and summer potable water from upland wells.  Water delivery was limited to summer, and many pipelines were hardly buried or were not buried at all.  Winter freezing was not a problem since these pipelines were all drained annually when the summer season ended.  It didn’t matter since the occupants were gone and would not return until the following June.  This pattern repeated itself in several Old Lyme chartered beach associations.

Septic waste disposal was primitive in many instances.  Cottage house lots were rarely large enough to support a conventional septic tank and a leach field plus a reserve leach field.  Some were simply a punctured 55-gallon steel drum that then drained quickly into the ground.  Mother Nature sustained this insult for only 10 or 12 weeks a year, but as the years rolled by – new technologies and new lifestyles put new loads on the natural remediation processes.  Better roads, more autos, longer vacations, and disposal garbage grinders all contributed to additional loading on these already inadequate septic systems.

The thin layer of white sand over a mat of roots and dead Spartina grass and marsh muck is not the ideal soil for aerobic digestion of human waste.  Smells of anaerobic decomposition would come and go, and sometimes the wastewater would actually erupt on the ground around a cottage.

The beach communities limped along in part because there were no drinking water wells near these failing wastewater “systems”.   Remember, potable water was piped in.  Sanitarians knew how to correct the problems, but other forces were also in play.  In Old Lyme, our Registered Sanitarian, operating under the rules of the Connecticut State Health Code, and inhibited by rules from the State Department of Environmental Protection, had few legal tools to combat pollution.  One attempt was by stamping the land records with the words “Summer Use Only”, but after several years, a court found the procedure to be invalid.

As time went on, land values rose, and those summer cottages on postage stamp lots continued to be enlarged, and insulated, and heated, and occupied for longer and longer periods.

Concurrently, several other things were taking place.  The State Legislature that created a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) gave them a blank check for jurisdiction over sewage treatment plants.  Also, they were granted power to regulate wastewater discharges of over 5,000 gallons per day.  The State Health Department retained its control over small flows, but they were restrained from any treatment except the passive septic tank-leach field arrangement.

Furthermore, the DEP also assumed powers over what they called “areas of special concern” and they thus claimed jurisdiction over a neighborhood. Also, they claimed jurisdiction over all wastewater treatment which employs modern technology.  The Health Department must restrict itself to the passive septic tank-leach field treatment.

Now both of our neighbor states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, permit technology which by aeration and circulation, a home septic system could accommodate greater loads.  This may not be done in Connecticut according to the DEP (now renamed DEEP), even by a registered sanitarian whose work is supervised by a health director, and according to the published Health Code of our State Health Department.  This, it seems to me, is simply a turf war in Hartford for control and the desk in the corner office.  Registered Sanitarians, in both the DEEP and the Connecticut State Health Department, have the same qualifications and must pass the same examinations.

I believe that the drive to sewerize in Old Lyme is mostly from people and organizations that have motives far apart from economy and the environment but rather for power or money.  They should recuse themselves from decision-making since their views are tainted.

Take note also that several of the beach associations in Old Lyme are charted by the State Legislature, and the charters clearly state that these associations may, if they wish, control their wastewater.  However, this control would be at their expense.  This is not quite what sewer proponents are advocating.  They seem to want these projects to be town-wide and not at their expense.  Rather, they seem to expect the municipality, or the state or federal government, to expend tax revenues to correct the problems of their increasing usage of lots that were never intended for year-round occupancy.

I believe further that the DEEP is the fox in the henhouse, making and enforcing rules, with little or no supervision or oversight by the legislature.  For example, the State Health Department publishes a health code, but the DEEP has no comparable document.

If the DEEP is to dump its treated effluent from sewage treatment plants into our streams and rivers, that water should be pristine drinking water quality, and if it is pristine, then why is it not replaced into our aquifers or our ground waters?

Dilution is not the solution to pollution, and the DEEP is the culprit.


Op-Ed: Valley Warriors Need to Reconsider Outdated, Distressing Mascot

valley regional2I am a proud alum of Lyme-Old Lyme High School, class of 2010. I could not have asked for a better education or community. One of the most important experiences I had as a student there was my involvement in athletics. I enjoyed every moment of cross country that did not involve running, and during basketball games, I ensured that the team’s bench remained warm at all times. I also supported my friends in their athletic pursuits, especially those dedicated enough to travel to another school to play football for the Valley Regional Warriors. Having heard about their growing success, I’ve begun to follow along once more and I’m proud to see that some of the team’s best players are from LOLHS, some of whom I know from my time as a summer camp counselor in town. However, I was saddened to see that the image used for the mascot is an antiquated, stereotypical depiction of Native Americans.

The image used to represent the “warriors” is a red face with black hair and two loosely hanging feathers. It is, in my opinion, a highly problematic image. The image would be problematic anywhere, but it is particularly troubling given the region’s history of violence against native peoples. The Pequot War, the war that ensured colonial hegemony in Connecticut, culminated with the Mystic Massacre of 1637, during which colonists and their native allies attacked a Pequot village and shot or burned to death over 400 hundred men, women, and children. The attackers targeted the village after bypassing a stronghold of warriors, knowing that non-combatants would put up less of a fight. To misappropriate the imagery of that time period is a deeply uninformed way of grappling with our violent history.

This imagery also promotes a racialized view of American life. The idea that there is a race of “red” people is an idea that Euro-Americans constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries to justify campaigns of conquest and displacement. Far from being an ideology of the past, this racism is still very much alive and dangerous. Few people know that police kill Native American men at about the same rate as African American men. It has been encouraging to see the removal of imagery that glorifies the Confederacy and chattel slavery, and we must now remove symbols that trivialize the centuries-old abuses of native peoples. Only then can we begin to combat the caustic racism that continues to permeate our society.

Finally, using Native Americans as mascots promotes the myth of the “vanishing Indian.” This myth, which dates back to the early-19th century, contends that Native Americans died out in the course of American history, unable to adapt to new contexts or hold their lands. The myth could not be more wrong. Native peoples, who represent countless languages, cosmologies, and identities, have displayed remarkable resilience and have been intertwined in American life since the early-colonial period. Native peoples have shaped American politics, contributed to the American ethos, and served in our wars in greater proportion than any other population. And they have fought tenaciously to preserve their lands and cultures. While they lost a great deal under the onslaught of imperialism, and now grapple with the resulting poverty and trauma, they are proud of what they have maintained. I’ve travelled to numerous reservations—I recently returned from a month-long trip to the beautiful Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota—and the people there work tirelessly to elevate their communities without losing sight of their heritage. They continue to fight, every day, to revitalize their languages and resist new forms of encroachment, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline. They’re not a novelty or a relic of the past. They are students and teachers and parents and artists, and they cannot be encapsulated by a picture of a red face and feathers.

I’m being oversensitive, you might say. Perhaps. The mascot debate is by no means our most important. But it’s a good place to start. So can we change the image used by Valley Regional’s football team? The important things—the lines on the field, the minutes in a half, the positive impact of playing on a team—will remain unchanged. This problematic image will be the only thing to go, and when it does, our boys will have even more to be proud of.

Editor’s Note: Michael McLean graduated from Lyme-Old Lyme High School in 2010.  He went on to obtain an undergraduate degree from Trinity College in 2014 and is currently studying for his PhD in American History at Boston College.  He is a contributor to the online history magazine, “We’re History” at http://werehistory.org.



Op-Ed: We Can All Help Protect Long Island Sound 

State Senator Paul Formica

State Senator Paul Formica

Water quality begins at the point of discharge, not in relocation of bottom materials from one location to another.  It is a very important distinction to make when talking about one of Connecticut’s most precious assets, Long Island Sound.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently released a draft Dredged Material Management Plan.  Digging up the material at the bottom of our waterways is critical to ensure public access and commerce.

This scientific plan is currently under public review.  It clearly shows open-water disposal to be the most cost effective and environmentally compatible method for getting rid of bottom material.  According to the Army Corps of Engineers, open-water placement for the majority of dredged material is the best way to protect Long Island Sound.

Why should Connecticut care?

Dredging is an economic necessity in maintaining access to and from the public waterways, harbors, rivers, coves and marinas. Consider the following about navigation-dependent activities:

  • They produce more than 55,000 jobs
  • They create $1.6 billion in federal and state tax revenues
  • They produce $9.4 billion of economic output in the Long Island Sound region
  • They generate $5.5 billion per year for the Long Island Sound Region’s State’s Gross Product

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has stated their support for this plan.  It has taken ten years to complete.

What happens if no action is taken on this plan?

No action will result in skyrocketing dredging costs, the closure of Long Island Sound open-water placement locations within a year’s time, fewer maintained ports and harbors, and significant reduction in access – all of which will substantially impair the regional economy.

I urge everyone to join me in supporting this project and helping to protect this Connecticut jewel.

Public hearings will be held Wednesday, Sept. 16, and Thursday Sept.17, one in New York and one in Connecticut.  Please check my website for updates on where and when they will happen.

Your comments can make a difference.

You can read the plan by visiting www.nae.usace.army.mil/ or write to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
New England District
ATTN: LIS DMMP/PEIS Program Manager Meghan Quinn
696 Virginia Road
Concord, MA 01742-2751

Editor’s Note: Senator Paul M. Formica is a member of the Energy and Technology Committee of the General Assembly.


Op-Ed: Connecticut’s Publicly-Funded Campaign System Is A Joke

Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates

Here’s one last poll I’d like to see the numbers for — how many Connecticut residents woke up Wednesday morning excited about four more years of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy?

Unfortunately for Republican candidate Tom Foley, it appears voters chose the devil they know (or is it the porcupine?) instead of the devil they didn’t know …

Click here to read the full article by Suzanne Bates, which was published Nov. 6 on one of our partner news websites, CTNewsJunkie.com.