The following resolution was approved by the Old Lyme Economic Development Commission.
The Old Lyme Economic Development Commission (EDC) is tasked with supporting and encouraging a vibrant and sustainable business climate in Old Lyme, scaled to the resources and needs of the town. We seek the optimum development of business opportunities in Old Lyme. The mix of businesses in a particular area such as Halls Road can have a significant impact on the climate for all businesses there, current and future. Planning, therefore, becomes important.
Because Halls Road connects the northbound and southbound halves of Exit 70 on I-95, its current commercial-only zoning makes it most attractive (in the current business climate) to regional and national chains whose businesses are aimed at highway traffic, and not at the needs of our small town.
For decades Old Lyme’s planning documents have explicitly said the town should give preference to businesses that support the needs of the town and discourage those aimed at servicing I-95 traffic. They have sought to prevent Halls Road from becoming a series of truck stops and fast-food venues.
Halls Road has only a limited space that can ever be developed. The town should do what it can to ensure that this limited area is developed in such a way as to best serve the needs of the town and its businesses, present and future. Each new development has an impact on the range of possible future developments. If the Halls Road plan calls for mixed use in a walkable, bicycle-friendly, town-center environment, then each new development in that area must support that long-term goal. Any step in a contrary direction (e.g. toward truck stops, warehouses, factories, big-box stores, etc.) works to prevent the accomplishment of the long-term goal, and should be prohibited or strongly discouraged in this area. These contrary developments are not just sub-optimal uses of a limited resource (buildable land). Their presence significantly reduces the chance of getting the investments we do seek in that area: a mix of smaller-scale market-rate housing combined with shops and restaurants that serve the population of Old Lyme.
The Halls Road plan is near completion. The next phase includes changing the zoning along Halls Road to reflect the goals of the plan. This will give future investors a clear sense of what types of development are encouraged along Halls Road and which types are not. Clarity is good for business. If Old Lyme does the planning and zoning work correctly, it will attract the kinds of investment we want, and help transform Halls Road into a sustainable, mixed-use, commercial area more in keeping, both visually and functionally, with the small town feel of Old Lyme. Bad developments today obstruct more and better investments in the future. Today, investors interested in mixed-use developments like those envisioned in the town’s plan cannot consider Halls Road because it is zoned “commercial-only.” They are not allowed to compete with truck stops or storage warehouses for the limited property there.
We think it would be wise to declare a moratorium on zoning approvals for projects along Halls Road, effective immediately, pending the completion of the Halls Road plan and any new zoning regulations based on it. It is not fair to our town or to investors to move forward with projects while the rules are in flux. We cannot support near-term projects that would work to prevent or degrade future developments of higher long-term value.
Chair, Old Lyme Economic Development Commission