OLD LYME — Abutting neighbors of 58 Hartford Ave. in the Sound View neighborhood received notices on Saturday by mail that owner Frank Noe intended to apply to the town for a demolition permit to take down the long-vacant 1930s-era dance hall in late September or early October.
“The former O’Connor’s Dance Hall, or O’Connor’s Twin Gables at 58 Hartford Avenue, is the only Tudor Revival-style building in the district,” according to a 2018 application for listing on the National Register as one of 141 contributing resources in the proposed Sound View Historic District. “The largest commercial building in the district, it is one story in height and has a wide, rectangular footprint. Now vacant, the former dance hall displays Tudor Revival elements, such as its steeply pitched prominent front-facing gables and decorative original half-timbering.”
The vacant structure, a fixture on Hartford Avenue, was built in 1930, and is now clad in wood and vinyl, and boarded up.
The notice comes in the wake of a successful August 13 referendum to authorize bonding funds for installing sewers in Sound View and an adjoining neighborhood along Route 156.
Sewers were “one piece of the puzzle,” said Noe by phone Saturday. “I need sewers to do any potential development of the property.”
The other puzzle piece was a state statute that overrides Old Lyme’s zoning regulations, which Noe said former zoning enforcement officer Keith Rosenfeld discovered.
“There are two zoning regulations in the Town of Old Lyme. One says if the building burned down, I would have to rebuild it in a year. The other says if I voluntarily knocked it down, it could never be rebuilt,” Noe said.
He said he filed for a demolition permit a year ago and the state statute gives him the right to rebuild without the restrictions of a time frame.
The statute will limit Noe to building in the same footprint. “If we propose anything, it will be some kind of residential” such as townhouses, he said.
“We’re not doing anything during the summer, we’re waiting for the end of September… end of the season,” he said. “We’re excited to see it come down — it is a big eyesore.”