OLD LYME — Parking and a historic right of way to a public landing on the Connecticut River dating to 1701 were blocked by an nearby landowner placing boulders to limit access in November.
The town-owned landing, parking area and right of way are wedged between two parcels of land — 12 and 19 Tantummaheag Road — that were purchased by George Frampton and Carla D’Arista in September.
“The issue is not about public access. We love people walking down the lane. We want to maintain public access. But the issue is about the use and parking of vehicles,” said Frampton by phone on Dec. 23.
At the Nov. 10 meeting of the Harbor Management Commission, member Teri Lewis said that the property owners had placed “seven large boulders with some blocking access to the public area.” Commission chair Steven Ross said he was aware of the problem and had contacted First Selectman Tim Griswold to discuss the issue.
The commission affirmed in minutes of the meeting that “the owners cannot block access.”
In the minutes of the same meeting, members Mike Magee and Richard Shriver also claimed that “a woman who tried to launch her kayak off the public access on Tantummaheag Road was harassed (in her words) by the new owner of 12 Tantummaheag Road.”
Ross clarified in a Dec. 23 email that he had spoken with the kayaker and that the incident had occurred in Sept. According to Ross, the kayaker said she had used the landing previously and had tried to launch her kayak but the water was too shallow. “As she was returning to her car, the property owner (Carla) yelled at her to leave,” Ross wrote.
Ross said the commission received two other complaints involving parking at the site and that the new commission chair in January, John MacDonald, will handle the matter.
A request for pedestrian use only
In a Dec. 4 letter to the Harbor Management Commission, Frampton said safety and security issues related to the town property needed to be addressed. He said the Old Lyme Harbor Management Plan limits parking to one car on the site but the town does not monitor or enforce that limit, “nor impose or enforce any reasonable use requirements, speed limits, or other restrictions at all.”
Frampton said his wife and the family dog were “nearly run over by large vehicles speeding down the narrow one-lane roadway” twice. He said issues of trespassing had continued on an “almost daily basis” with people walking through the yard, cars driving on the lawn and parking there, and trucks and cars routinely using the driveway.
In the letter, Frampton and his wife requested that the commission “consider designating this lane for pedestrian use only” and to make a provision for space on town property near the stone wall for one car to park and turn around.
“These are changes that are in the public interest: protecting our safety and security as well as that of our adjacent neighbors; allowing access under reasonable conditions for all hikers, birdwatchers and neighbors, as well as the occasional kayaker; protecting the ecology of the cove and preventing further erosion to the lane and path to the water caused by tire tracks; protecting all public access but effectively enforcing the current limit of one parking place,” he wrote.
Right to public access
Frampton brought copies of his letter to the Dec. 8 harbor commission meeting.
Prior to the meeting, according to the minutes, Ross and Griswold visited the site and spoke with D’Arista about “her concerns for safety, parking, access and privacy.” Ross and Griswold said the commission would discuss her concerns and the rights of the public and would make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen.
At the Dec. 8 meeting, Ross said Frampton had taken action “that impedes the right of the public to access with at least three formal complaints made by members of the public claiming harassment by the property owner.”
Ross asked Frampton to remove the boulders as soon as possible and Frampton agreed to do so, according to the minutes.
The commission voted to table the recommendation to the Board of Selectmen until “more information could be gathered and a meeting with the property owner could be scheduled.” An amendment stipulating that Frampton remove the boulders by Dec. 12 was defeated. Ross and Frampton agreed to meet on Dec. 12, but whether that meeting occurred is unclear.
A solution in January
At the Dec. 21, Board of Selectmen meeting, Griswold said he would discuss a solution with MacDonald and Frampton in January.
Griswold asked how many cars were normally parked on the site and said that number should be used as precedent rather than the number specified in the Harbor Management Plan.
Selectman Chris Kerr said that a survey of the properties should be performed and the rocks removed.
“What’s going on here is this guy is encroaching on town property. We can handle the car issue later, but the rocks are on town property,” Kerr said.
Selectman Mary Jo Nosal said she had attended the harbor management meeting and was surprised that the commission tabled the recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. She said the people who spoke at the meeting wanted the encroachments removed and the town landing to be returned to its previous state.
Nosal said the sign for the landing, which was temporarily replaced with a private property sign, should be re-posted.
Gary Gregory, a resident of Old Lyme, told the selectmen that the town sign disappeared the same day the private property sign and the boulders appeared.
“The owner said he didn’t know anything about it,” said Gregory. Griswold said he wanted to keep the conversation with Frampton as friendly as possible. “We will inquire about the sign and if the rocks are still there, I can call him,” Griswold said. Kerr said he still preferred a letter be sent to Frampton with a deadline for removing the rocks.
Gregory called the removal of the sign and the placement of the rocks “a dastardly act.”
“That guy is stealing property from every citizen in this town. We should be very angry about it … That’s town property and it belongs to the town citizens,” he said.
A recommendation will be drafted for discussion and vote at a special virtual meeting of the Harbor Management Commission on Jan. 12, Ross clarified in his email.
“Most of the recommendation will specify signage, delineation of boundary lines with boulders or fencing or some such thing. The location of parking is the issue yet to be determined. Vehicle access will not be prohibited regardless of the adjacent property owner’s request,” he said.