Nixon: There You Go Again

2018 Yale Urban Design Workshop "Long Range Master Plan" for Old Lyme


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The Old Lyme municipal election of November 2019 was, in part, a loud repudiation of the ill‑conceived re-zoning and multi-use redevelopment project proposed by the Halls Road Improvement Committee. But it seems evident that some people didn’t get that message.

As reported in this paper on July 13, the committee is currently considering three proposals for a Master Plan for a major redevelopment of Halls Road, and is again dreaming about spending taxpayer dollars to promote development founded on a zoning change desired by only a few interested parties.

The projected budget for the Master Plan is $48,000.00. And it isn’t clear if this represents some or all of those costs.  This sum of money could be used more wisely perhaps as a rainy day fund .

Need the taxpayers of Old Lyme be reminded that redeveloping Halls Road to include 3-story mixed-use buildings set close to the road — a plan that will ultimately require sewers and a substantial increase in traffic congestion — will not “maintain and protect the character” of Old Lyme, however much committee members claim the opposite?

Sensible residents in this town support the future need for sidewalks, better commercial signage, and plantings which will aesthetically enhance Halls Road.  This can be done without an over-priced Master Plan. 

But this is not the time for such expenditures.

On the pecuniary front, it should come as no surprise to our taxpayers that the State of Connecticut is in a deep chasm of debt.  It was in dire fiscal straits pre-COVID-19.  There is no question that little to no state funding will be available for grants to towns going forward. 

So I ask you: Is it really wise to spend town or state funds on unnecessary development in the midst of a financial crisis?  The prudent among us would say NO. 

The Town of Old Lyme has already spent thousands of dollars on the Yale University Design Workshop to prepare an unrealistic and inconsonant redevelopment plan for Halls Road.  Now we are being asked to fund further reviews of that conceptual plan by yet another firm. 

There you go again.

At its most recent meeting, the committee chair, pushed to explain why an expensive Master Plan was so crucial, had a threefold response:  “we will have the ability to ask for funding, the ability to talk to the CT DOT professionally, and the ability to research existing conditions and what can and cannot be in the Master Plan.”

Logically these arguments hold no merit. 

Firstly, this is a ridiculous time to ask for state or local funding.  The state is broke. The nation is adrift in a financial and health crisis.  If any state funding does become available to Old Lyme in the near future, it should be reserved for things the residents in town actually need. This does not include multi-family, multi-story commercial buildings on Halls Road, to say nothing of the tenuous future for brick and mortar retail development which needs to be taken into account.

Secondly, the Town of Old Lyme can professionally talk to the CT DOT about the limits of what can and cannot be constructed on this state road at any time. No master plan required.  Please recall that when I-95 is shutdown on either side of town, the alternate route for heavy traffic flow is Halls Road.

Finally, developing a Master Plan “to research existing conditions and know what can and cannot be in the Master Plan,” makes no sense.  If that isn’t getting the cart before the horse, I don’t know what is.

There you go again.

The good news is the majority of town residents and Halls Road private property owners don’t support your objectives.

R. Andrew Nixon
Old Lyme