Zoning Proposal to Double Setback Near Water Raises Questions and Opposition in Old Lyme

131 Shore Road, Old Lyme (Credit: CT Examiner/Hewitt)


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OLD LYME — Multiple town commissions and members of the public are expected to raise objections to a proposed text amendment to Tidal Waters Protection regulation at Tuesday’s meeting of the Zoning Commission in Old Lyme. The amendment would double the current 50-foot setback to 100 feet along coastal and riverfront properties.

“Most, if not all, of the wetlands and waterfront that the proposed amendment seeks to regulate is within the jurisdiction of the Harbor Management Commission,” read an email on Wednesday from Steven Ross to Jane Cable, chair of the Zoning Commission, questioning why the proposed amendment hadn’t been referred to the Harbor Management Commission that he chairs.

“Failure to send the referral to the HMC could lead to legal challenges in that not all town commissions with jurisdiction were notified and sent the proposed amendment for comment,” he wrote.

In an email, Cable replied that she has “no problem with a submission to the Harbor Management Commission as a courtesy, not a necessity.”

Ross, who was reached by phone on Wednesday night, said that the Planning Commission would submit a letter to Zoning on the proposed amendment before its next meeting on Tuesday. Ross is also vice chair of the Planning Commission.

“This has the potential to affect a large number of people along the shoreline here in Old Lyme and every marine-related business and nobody knows about it,” he said. “If I interpret it right, it’s going to take a lot of properties that that currently conforming and make them nonconforming.”

In his email, Ross asked that the amendment be sent to all marine-related businesses in Old Lyme.

“All the marinas would be significantly impacted by the proposed amendment and should be aware of the potential regulatory restrictions it would impose on their businesses,” he wrote.

He urged the Zoning Commission to publicize the proposed amendment, and encourage public comment prior to making a final decision.

“There has been no distribution of information regarding the amendment to property owners who would also be affected, to my knowledge. Communication with the taxpayers for an amendment with the degree of regulation proposed, perhaps through press release, would provide for transparency and facilitate the ability to offer comments before any approval,” he wrote.

In a post on Facebook, Old Lyme resident Michael Barnes urged property owners to attend the Zoning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15:

“Live in Old Lyme or own property in town? Own along any oceanfront , waterfront or riverfront or within 100 Feet of one? Black Hall River, Lieutenant River, Back River, 4 Mile River, Point O Woods, Old Lyme Shores, Old Colony Beach, Miami Beach, White Sands Beach, Hawks Nest Beach, Shore Road, Sill Lane, Pilgrim’s Landing, Shore Road, Halls Road, Lyme Street Whippoorwill Road or any other tidal wetlands or waters then you need to be informed of these changes that will affect your property … It’s all about control and hiding under the hat of environmental protection! Be heard or loose your chance to comment forever.”

Controversy surrounding a house currently under construction at 131 Shore Road spurred the amendment, according to zoning vice chair Jane Marsh, who spoke to CT Examiner after the Sept. 9 meeting.

The construction, which includes a substantial bulkhead and is situated near to marshland, was approved for a variance by the Zoning Board of Appeals.