OLD LYME — “I’ve lived in town for 30 years and it seems like a great opportunity for what the town needs. We’re going to ‘do well by doing good.’ What we’re trying to do is make something that we’re proud to build and own and to provide as another housing alternative,” said Mark Diebolt, owner of the 20.6-acre parcel at 49 Hatchetts Hill Road where he and two partners plan to build a large apartment complex that will include 30 percent affordable units qualifying under the 8-30g statute.
“It’s going to look like a New England village,” said Diebolt of the 11 buildings that will contain a total of 224 units. “They’re going to look like Old Saybrook [Post and Main]. They built that New England village look on 10 acres and we’re going to do it on 20 acres.”
Diebolt, who is managing partner of the group, said the partners chose to use 8-30g because it will allow them to build a large number of multi-family housing units while providing the opportunity to include and cover the cost of the affordable apartments.
In 2005, a previous developer submitted a plan to build 16 luxury condos on the site that were extra-large two-bedroom units. That year the Zoning Commission approved the plan for multi-family use under a special exception. But then the recession hit, the project was never built, and property eventually reverted back to Diebolt.
The new project, which will require a new approval from the town’s Zoning Commission, will be marketed as luxury apartments with plenty of amenities, including a community building, a pool, a theater room, a workout room and a “bark park” for dogs.
“This is going to be as modern as it gets. We’re going to try to do LEED building certification. We’re not trying to flip it or build it cheaply, we’re going to put in all the nice amenities in an apartment home for the long term because that’s our goal,” he said. “You can always sell quality a lot better than something you have to make an excuse for.”
He acknowledged the number of units is substantial, but said they will not be in a monolithic building.
“They’ll be individual buildings, not a high rise. Other than the driveway, you won’t be able to see the units. We have 20 acres to play with so they’re all going to be on different elevations,” he said.
The buildings will be placed to take advantage of the hilly topography of the site. Diebolt said he and his partners are also planning for other innovations, including underground parking to reduce the amount of impervious surface. The majority of the units will be two-bedroom apartments, with some one-bedrooms also available. There will be no studios or three-bedroom apartments.
The project will bring the town about $400,000 in tax revenue annually, by Diebolt’s estimate.
With a sewage pump station close to the property, negotiations are underway for water and sewer connections to East Lyme and New London, he said.
“There is capacity in New London for the amount of effluent that we would generate but it’s a function of allocation, who has access to that sewer pipe,” he said. “We’re checking into it now. We’re working with Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority and also the East Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority.”
According to the Connecticut Department of Housing 2019 Housing Appeals List, 1.63 percent of Old Lyme’s housing stock qualifies as affordable housing under state statute, or 82 units out of 5,021 total housing units. The project would increase that number by 67, bringing the town to nearly three percent affordable housing, which Diebolt said is a substantial increase for Old Lyme where finding building sites is difficult.
“I think that will look well for the town and it’s because of the town topography and everything else there really aren’t any other sites that I know of,” he said.
Diebolt said the affordable apartments will be marketed to “young people out of college, a young teacher or older folks who might have assets, but their income is smaller now.”
According to Diebolt, the project will be “180 degrees different” from the contentious Hope Partnership project that was proposed for Neck Road in 2018.
“I went to those meetings, I listened to what people said and they said, ‘We want this, but we don’t want it there.’ And this is the perfect ‘there’ because it’s out of sight out of mind. No one will even know it’s there,” he said.