Old Lyme Board of Selectmen Talk Beavers, Sewers, Reviewing Roles of Commissions

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OLD LYME — The Board of Selectmen provided updates at their Monday meeting, on projects planned for the Sound View neighborhood, continuing struggles with beaver dam flooding around Black Hall Pond, and announced plans to review the roles of town committees

Beaver flooding

Several town boards — including the Open Space Commission and the Flood & Erosion Control Board — have been made aware of problems posed by beaver dams in the area around Black Hall Pond, First Selectman Tim Griswold said. The dams block water flow and cause water levels to rise, which has left one resident unable to do laundry and worried about showering in his own house.

The problem is at “something of a gridlock,” Griswold said, because officials have not yet been able to identify a specific dam causing the problems. The responsibility to remediate the dam would likely fall to whoever owns the land underneath the water that the dam sits on, Griswold said. This could be a town entity, such as the open space commission, or it might be a private property owner.

“If it’s not town property it wouldn’t be our problem, but we do want to facilitate the solution,” Griswold said.

Griswold said that the affected homeowners and officials are considering flying a drone up the stream that feeds into the pond to try and identify the dam. 

“If we could figure out where they are and who owns what, then we could hopefully corner a corrective action and then we could get that water down,” he said.

Griswold said that whoever is tasked with removing the beavers will have the option to choose between lethal and non-lethal methods to remove the animals.

“I know trapping might get people excited, but we need to figure out a better option than what we have now,” Griswold said.

Future for Halls Road and other town committees

Selectman Mary Jo Nosal said that she would like for the Board of Selectmen to review the charges of several town committees. In particular she named the Halls Road Improvements Committee which was tasked with redeveloping the town’s main shopping district, a prominent issue in November’s elections.

“I’d like to know where the committee stands,” said Nosal, the lone Democrat on the three-member Board of Selectmen. “Is the Board of Selectmen going to encourage that committee to continue working? Is the charge going to change? I would like to discuss a timeline on that.”

Griswold and other Republican candidates swept the competitive seats in November’s elections in part by campaigning on a more restrained view of Halls Road development than offered by Democrats. After the election, the Democratic chair of the Halls Road committee, Bennett “B.J.” Bernblum submitted his resignation.

Griswold responded to Nosal, “The Halls Road Committee, I think we want to continue the work of … I’m not just going to say that we don’t need it anymore. There are certainly aspects of the plan that they’ve been working on, such as a sidewalk proposition, that I think would be very important to keep going on. Maybe we want to have a session with them and talk about the master plan first, but that’s certainly not to get rid of it.”

Nosal proposed that the selectmen also review the roles of other committees. For one example, she suggested that the Sustainable Old Lyme group could be merged with the town’s Conservation Commission.

Griswold agreed that this kind of review would be valuable.

“If we have too many committees,” he said, “and it sounds like we have quite a few, then if their purpose has been served then maybe that energy could go into a standing board or commission, that would be good. I think this is housekeeping and we could move to do that.”

Collaborating with chartered beaches on sewers

Griswold said that he’d like to see town officials working more closely and collaboratively with Old Lyme’s three chartered beach communities on current plans to sewer portions of Old Lyme along the shoreline.

“I’m hoping we can have the three private beach associations in the town of Old Lyme unified here and that we can do things in concert because if Old Lyme is working somewhat independently that could be perhaps more expensive and more time consuming,” Griswold said.

He said that he expected town officials to meet soon with leaders of the beach communities to look for ways to collaborate.

Last week, the Water Pollution Control Authority met and discussed their plans to spend up to about $25,000 for a land use attorney and an appraisal consultant to study how a change in town property values for this year’s grand list revaluation could affect how sewer costs are passed onto residents.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Hartford Avenue resident Kathleen Tracy, who lives on the town beach, expressed frustration that sewers project seemed to be slow-moving and that the town was lagging behind the beach communities on planning.

“The other three beaches have come together and moved forward to get this moving,” Tracy said. “The town, are we going to move with those three beaches and if so how many meetings does it take to come up with answer. I know many residents of those beaches who have gone to meetings and asked questions at those meetings and the questions are not answered.”

Sound View sidewalks

Selectman Mary Jo Nosal said that the town is “pretty darn close” to having a completed agreement with the engineering firm hired to do design work for sidewalks around Sound View. The town’s attorney returned suggestions to the engineering firm and the firm has made those changes to the agreement.

Griswold said that the committee tasked with the making recommendations on that project will meet Tuesday — the day after the Board of Selectmen meeting — at 5 p. m. in Town Hall. Griswold said he hopes that meeting will bring the town closer to a final vision of the construction.

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