SCENES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
The Halls Road Improvements Committee FAQs
The Halls Road Improvements Committee is working with Yale Urban Design Workshop for conceptual design work.
A budget for the conceptual design work was approved at Town Meeting last year. The budget is $20,000 and an authorized expenditure, including additions, of up to $26,400, over the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years.
The following are some Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Halls Road Improvements project posted in Lymeline.
January 28, 2019
Question 1: Why should the town get into the development business? Isn’t that better left to private developers?
Answer: It shouldn’t and yes. We are not suggesting that the town take charge of development on Halls Road but, rather, that we take steps to encourage private parties to develop the neighborhood in a manner and direction that will comply with current requirements (safety, complete streets, ADA accessibility, etc.) and best serve the needs of the community. These steps would include adopting a “master plan” and guidelines for future development, investing limited funds in infrastructure and public spaces, and making appropriate changes to the town’s zoning code and Plan of Conservation and Development, all intended to allow for and encourage private developers to invest in upgrading existing structures and undertaking new construction.
Question 2: Halls Road is fine the way it is—why is the town considering changes?
Answer: Halls Road, our central commercial center, has developed haphazardly over many years. It is inhospitable to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, portions of it are esthetically unattractive or looking tired, and residents currently have to leave town to seek products or services they cannot obtain locally. If nothing is done, we are concerned that the business environment will deteriorate, businesses will close, and even fewer goods and services will be available. With thoughtful planning and inducements, we should be able to:
i. improve the business environment, thereby assisting existing businesses, attracting new ones, and growing and diversifying the tax base;
ii. create a physically-attractive neighborhood, safe and inviting for pedestrians and bicyclists;
iii. stimulate the development of housing that is inviting to down-sizing residents and to young folks wanting to move to town; and
iv. provide public spaces for civic events and recreation.
The ultimate objective is to create a vibrant town center that has more to offer the citizens of Old Lyme and is one we can be proud of.
Question 3: What is the new plan for Halls Road?
Answer: The plan does not yet exist; it is still developing and is flexible. The goal is to reach majority agreement on what the Halls Road neighborhood might ideally look like. Initially, we held a public meeting to obtain feedback regarding those elements residents would like to see included. The meeting produced many ideas, including the ability to park once and walk the entire road, creation of green space with a community gathering area, development of mixed-use facilities (or a mix of uses), and esthetic enhancements.~~We recently held a second public meeting to gain further input, and will hold more meetings in the future. The Yale Urban Design Workshop is assisting us in developing a master plan, but we need substantial input from town residents and stakeholders in order to come up with sound ideas that enjoy widespread support.
Question 4: What is the process for developing a master plan?
Answer: Once we have enough public input to begin to see the outlines of a plan, we will present these ideas to local and state governmental authorities for input and necessary approvals. At the town level, the plan will likely need buy-in from the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Zoning Commission and the Planning Commission, as well as amendments to the zoning regulations and the Plan of Conservation and Development. At the state level, we will need approval from the Department of Transportation, which owns Halls Road. A master plan can be finalized only when it enjoys broad public support and satisfies governmental requirements.
Question 5: What is the anticipated time-frame for implementing the plan?
Answer: The Committee intends to develop a master plan and set of guidelines for the future development of Halls Road. The plan would consist of several phases to be pursued in an orderly sequence over time, so that work done in one phase supports, or at least does not interfere with, improvements to be made in a subsequent phase. Each phase will also be expected to “stand on its own,” in the sense that its completion will add value to the town even if subsequent phases are not pursued. For example, an initial phase might consist of improving access, such as by adding sidewalks, a bike path, improved signage, and a pedestrian bridge over the Lieutenant River. The timing and exact nature of subsequent phases, and the changes that will be implemented, will of course depend on future events, including available funding and the decisions made by private developers and property-owners. Hence the timing is unpredictable, but this is surely a multi-year process over which the master plan will evolve, perhaps substantially but consistent with the guidelines, to address changes over time in the town’s commercial and residential needs.
Question 6: Will the plan result in unfettered growth and additional traffic?
Answer: We view this project as a rehabilitation of the Halls Road neighborhood, and any potential growth must be managed to fit the needs and the character of the town. For example, we would encourage architectural design in keeping with the small New England town flavor of Old Lyme. There is no intent or appetite to change our “town business center” into a dense retail environment but, instead, to attract a limited number of businesses that our neighbors would like to enjoy locally (e.g., a restaurant, coffee shop, bakery, jewelry store), and enhance the patronage for existing businesses. These changes would increase auto traffic somewhat. However, we intend to limit congestion through a design that encourages folks to park once and then walk the neighborhood, rather than drive from place to place.
Question 7: How can this plan survive the overflow traffic from tie-ups on I-95?
Answer: These tie-ups will not be materially exacerbated by a normal increase in Halls Road traffic, and they occur infrequently enough so that they should not discourage business development along the road, which is currently a pass-through. The plan might call for locating parking behind the main shopping and business buildings and creating tertiary access roads and walkways, which would mitigate the Halls Road bottleneck. For example, we might explore the construction of a local access road south of the current Old Lyme Marketplace buildings (the Big Y plaza).
Question 8: Will private property owners be required to make changes or invest money?
Answer: No one will be required to do anything. Other than the state right-of-way along Halls Road, the real estate in question is privately owned and changes must be voluntary.
The expectation is that property owners will see the advantages of making changes to their property in order to increase profitability. Alternatively, they may discover that they can sell their property at an attractive price to a motivated developer who is ready to invest in a significant project consistent with the town’s guidelines.
Question 9: How will the plan be financed and how much will it raise property taxes?
Answer: The objective is to have this project be tax neutral or result in a tax rate decrease because of an increase in the tax base. The public infrastructure would hopefully be financed, at least in part, through state and federal grants, and from new tax revenue generated by the new construction, although this might initially require town bonding. The private development will be financed by developers and property owners, who may also help pay for common amenities such as wastewater management, sidewalks and landscaping. The town might consider creating a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District like the one just approved in Old Saybrook, under which new tax revenue generated by new construction may be allocated, in whole or in part, to improvements in the district and to financial inducements to developers. In all events, any material town expenditures will have to be approved at a town meeting.
On Election Day, November 6, 2018 Old Lyme voters exceeded 70% in voter participation.
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2018 Veteran's Lunch at the Lymes' Senior Center
Did You Know?
In Support of Proven Leadership
The Facts Regarding The Day’s Port Authority Story
The misinformation began with a July 23, 2019 column in The Day by its gadfly columnist, David Collins, an unabashed critic of the Connecticut Port Authority and its efforts. He implied that, in her recent role as chairman of the Port Authority, Bonnie Reemsnyder caused it to buy over $3,000 worth of photographs from her daughter (actually $3,250). He also questioned why she was appointed to the board. The following morning, having made no effort to get the facts, the Governor sought her resignation.
In reality, the transaction occurred two years earlier, in 2017, when Bonnie was not chairman. While it is true that the Port Authority contracted with Bonnie’s daughter, Bonnie played no role in the initiation, decision-making, or approval of the acquisition. Indeed, the moment Bonnie learned that her daughter’s services were being entertained, she officially recused herself from any role in the matter. Furthermore, the purchase was not of photographs but of sound-insulating panels needed for the noisy office, imprinted with Bonnie's daughter's photographs.
Throughout the transaction Bonnie fully complied with all relevant legal and ethical rules. For example, the applicable state statutes provide that: "A public official . . . who has a substantial conflict may not take official action on the matter," Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-85. Instead, the official shall, unless an exception applies, "excuse himself or herself from the matter. . ." Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec.1-86 (a). Hence these statutes, consistent with conflicts of interest rules generally, usually prevent an insider with a close relationship with a vendor from participating in the decision, but they do not limit the organization's ability to complete the transaction if it is in its best interests.
Collins was also misguided in wondering why Bonnie was appointed to the board. He was apparently unaware that she was the First Selectman of Old Lyme and that the Port Authority statutes require the board to include a municipal official from a coastal community with a population no greater than 50,000.
Having said this, it is clear in retrospect that Bonnie, the Port Authority's executive director and its chairman were all insensitive to the possible appearance of impropriety with the transaction. Bonnie sincerely regrets that, and lessons have been learned.
Protecting Our Town
Old Lyme's Fiscal Health is Rated Among the Most Healthy in CT!
Check out the study results by the Yankee Institute For Public Policy
"First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder lauded town employees last week in connection with a think tank’s finding that the town is among the most fiscally healthy municipalities in the state."
Have You Seen Hartford Avenue Lately?
Check it out! www.theday.com/article/20180504/BIZ02/180509632/
Have You Seen The New Cross Lane Playground?
Check it out! http://lymeline.com/2018/04/community-comes-out-to-celebrate-cross-lane-playground-opening/
Alternative Police Options Under Discussion
Check the Town of Old Lyme meeting calendar for meetings
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