Peter Cable, Amanda Blair, Bill Dunbar and Evan Griswold review plans (CT Examiner/Werth)

Proposed Subdivision Sparks Debate Over Open Space

in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — A 3-lot, 45-acre subdivision is proposed for 19-1 Great Oak Road, off Short Hills Road, in Old Lyme by Ron Pelletier of CAWIAMCA LLC.

The project, called “The Oaks – Phase 2,” would extend Great Oak Road and construct three single-family homes set back from the road, in addition to providing open space located near to the road.

The open space comprised mostly of wetlands – called the Joseph Parcel – make up less than the 15 percent contribution recommended in Old Lyme’s planning and zoning regulations as a guide to developers, a point of contention at the meeting.

Plan of the subdivision, “The Oaks – Phase 2,” submitted as part of the application

“I would prefer not to take that land on a trade. You are negotiating for something that is worthless to him, as a matter of fact it’s a negative to him,” said Gary Gregory, member of the Open Space Commission and Inland Wetlands Commission. “That land is already preserved because you can’t do anything with it. We should be going after something else, like more forest.”

Commission member Gregory Futoma, added that giving the land to the town would actually be a plus for the developer if they plan to join the properties in a homeowner’s association. This way, the residents would not be responsible for paying annual property taxes on the shared piece of land, Futoma explained.

“We should be asking for another piece of the property,” Gregory said. “He could buy another piece for us somewhere else or he could give us some money in lieu to purchase other land, there’s multiple ways he could do it.”

Others on the commission, including co-chair Amanda Blair, disagreed, saying that any acquisition of open space that connects to already protected open space is a benefit.

“This doesn’t really comply, but it’s preferable because it’s a connected piece. I understand that it doesn’t meet what our requirements are,” Blair said in a tense discussion with Gregory at the Friday morning meeting.

Blair said she hopes the parcel will help the commission and the Old Lyme Land Trust build the cross-town trail they have been working toward as they acquire land around town. Gregory, however, pointed out that land along a road may not be the best place for a hiking trail.

Many members of the board agreed it was important in their recommendations to the planning commission to lead with the fact that the offered portion of open space is less than 15 percent of the total acreage.

“I’d rather be a good neighbor then push the envelope,” Blair said. “Ron has a good relationship with the abutting landowners, maybe one of them will donate or sell us a parcel.”

The commission in a 6-1 vote, decided to accept the Joseph portion and request a fee interest equivalent to the acreage of 15 percent of the 45-acre property.

The project is still pending approval from the Inland Wetlands Commission and the Planning Commission. The Inland Wetlands site walk is scheduled for January 4, but their next meeting – and vote – will not take place until the end of the month.