OLD LYME — At its Thursday meeting, the Halls Road Improvements Committee addressed two officers of Essex Savings Bank concerning the committee’s opposition to a Big Y Express gas station and convenience store proposed for a property on Halls Road that is owned by the bank.
“One of our biggest concerns is putting in a gas station on this property goes in exactly the opposite direction of what we were trying to get to,” said committee Chair Edie Twining, who said it was unlikely that the property will ever be redeveloped for another use once the infrastructure for a gas station is constructed.
Gregory Shook, president and chief executive officer of the bank, who attended the committee’s Webex meeting with Lynn Giroux, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of the bank, responded that the bank has invested $1.3 million to improve the aesthetics of its facility at 101 Halls Road, which is adjacent to the 1.33-acre parcel at 99 Halls Road and the connecting .85-acre parcel at 25 Neck Road where the gas station is proposed.
“Clearly we’re very invested in the quality of life and the health of the people and businesses in all the areas we serve — they’re all our clients,” he said.
Shook said the bank had spoken with five or six people from the neighborhood about selling the property, but “it just sat there.”
He said the bank considered building on the property but decided against it. A number of months ago, the bank signed a contract with Big Y Express, owned by Nouria Energy Corp. of Worcester.
“Because it’s a private transaction I really can’t say much, but we certainly wanted to call Edie today to make sure she understood that we certainly care deeply and support the Old Lyme community … we’re still going to be a citizen there, but you’re going to have to let the process go forward,” Shook said.
Twining said that if property were re-zoned, the bank would have greater options for selling the property.
“We would love to be able to put the brakes on of course and wait till we have our master plan in place and get the rezoning running so that there’s more opportunities. You guys are stuck with this commercial zone too and as it becomes more of a mixed-use residential and commercial that will open up more opportunities for Essex Savings Bank to see something different than a gas station there,” she said.
Committee member Howard Margules said while he understood that the bank needed to sell the property, the town does not have enough demand for a second gas station.
“So what it’s going to serve is traffic flow on I-95, which could create additional traffic and trucks. It won’t generate other business in town, it’s really just for people traveling on I-95,” he said.
In addition, car manufacturers are transitioning to electric technology, which will decrease the demand for gas stations in the future, Margules said.
The proposed project is located between the Connecticut and Lieutenant rivers, which raises environmental issues, said committee member Deb Czarnecki, who added she was concerned that the parent company services fleets and that a convenience store could hurt business at Andy’s Deli on Halls Road.
“I am very disappointed at Essex Savings Bank, that they want to remain good neighbors and that they’re just going to sell this out,” she said. “I mean, really, put a gravel pit there, that’s about what they’re doing.”
After further discussion, the committee voted unanimously to draft a statement opposing the gas station.
On March 23 at 6 p.m., the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission will hold a public hearing regarding whether the Big Y Express project represents a significant impact to the environment. Click here for the agenda and a Webex link.