Caution, Leverage, Deadline, Weigh on Delayed Vote for Easements in Old Lyme

Portland Ave, Old Lyme, CT (Copyright Google, 2020)


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OLD LYME — The decision to delay a town-wide vote on securing easements through Sound View came as surprise to local leaders of the three chartered beach communities hoping to break ground on sewer construction in the fall.

“The bidding process is about a six-month process and we can’t go out to bid until we have these easements. We want to start construction in September or October of this year, so we need to go out to bid next month,” said Frank Noe, Water Pollution Control Authority chair of the Old Colony Beach Association, by phone Thursday. 

The town’s decision is “affecting the beach communities quite a bit,” said Scott Boulanger, president of the Miami Beach Association by phone Thursday. 

Noe said the town’s decision to remove the vote on easements from the annual town meeting on January 27, came at the last minute. “There was a question of language that came to us at the eleventh hour that they weren’t happy with in the agreement… the liability and all that kind of stuff.”

An agreement on easements would allow the three chartered beach communities to install an underground gravity-fed sewage collection pipe from Old Colony Shores and Old Lyme Shores beach associations, across privately-owned and town-owned properties, to a planned pump house at 73 Portland Ave., a private lot in Sound View owned by Scott and Kathleen Boulanger. A force main would then be constructed traveling north underground from the pump house along the town-owned portion of Portland Ave. to Route 156. The main would then follow Route 156 east to a planned connection in East Lyme, and eventually to a treatment plant located in New London.

First Selectman Tim Griswold said on Thursday that the decision to delay the vote came at the advice of town counsel Suisman Shapiro of New London, after a review of the plans by Fuss & O’Neill, a Manchester-based engineering firm, turned up what Griswold described as “some sizable deficiencies.”

Griswold said that it was important for the town and the three beach communities to reach an agreement on ownership, cost and cost-sharing for the project before the matter comes to a vote. He said he was opposed to hurrying into the agreement, even if all parties were close to an understanding.

“I don’t think we should be under any undue pressure to sign something until we have all the pieces that would be of consequence to the Town of Old Lyme,” said Griswold. “This is just toward the end of the agreement stuff, there’s not a lot of new stuff to think about, it’s just putting it on paper, and agreeing so that the four parties understand what their responsibilities are and their costs will be. That’s the best way to do it, I would think.” 

Griswold said that the easements offered critical leverage for the town in ongoing negotiations with the beach communities. 

“Seems to me, before you sign the easement agreement, you should know jolly well what you’re getting into with respect to the cost-sharing agreement, make sure there are no surprises after the easement is signed,” he said. “Not that I’m being cynical, just being cautious.”

Boulanger said that the vote on easements is crucial and should be rescheduled as soon as possible.

“We’re going to proceed with what we can proceed with but we can’t do anything without the easements in place for the infrastructure. That’s the way it works, we can’t do anything until those things are in place, that’s what the state of Connecticut requires,” he said. 

“They took a simple easement that was given to them from our engineers and their lawyer turned it into a 14-page document and obviously that’s got to be reviewed,” said Boulanger. “They’re trying to get other things done at the same time and they’re really not ready for joining our system as it is right now.” 

Noe said the delay on the easements vote represented a “typical situation that’s slowing us down.” 

Later, after a scheduled conference call on Friday between Griswold, Fuss & O’Neill, and representatives of the three beach communities, Noe was cautiously optimistic.

“Tim is working with us, he’s trying to meet our timetable,” Noe said. “We’re ironing it out.”

Noe said said that the goal now was to schedule a special town meeting by the end of February for a vote.

“We need easements before we can go out to bid and obviously we want to start in September and do it in the off-season,” said Noe. “There’s no construction during the summer months — we want to put a shovel in the ground in September.” 

Note that the original version of this story stated that the proposed pump house location is in Miami Beach, this has been corrected to reflect that 73 Portland Ave. is in Sound View.