Halls Road Committee Must Address Due Process Concerns

With a meeting of the Halls Road Improvements Committee scheduled for tonight, I’ll keep this to the point.

While it is true that the Connecticut General Assembly grants the Old Lyme Zoning Commission wide latitude to consider and approve changes to zoning regulations, that latitude is constrained by the public’s right to due process, including the right of the public to meaningfully comment on the substance of a hearing.

Unfortunately for the committee, the courts do not care whether violations of the law involve Democrats or Republicans, the best or worst intentions.

The reality is that the committee stumbled into a legally flawed process in its attempt to amend the town’s zoning regulations, and in effort to correct some of its more egregious errors, the committee violated the law yet again.

Let me explain.

In its initial application, the Halls Road Improvements Committee presented the Old Lyme Zoning Commission with what has been described by the chair as a 61-page work in progress.

The intention of the committee then is for members of the Zoning Commission, the Halls Road Improvements Committee, and the public to provide suggestions, and make changes – a collaborative approach, if you will, to a living document.

I understand why that all sounds good, but the reality is that it’s a terrifically bad way for the Town of Old Lyme to conduct a hearing, and to amend its regulations.

In simple terms, answer me this… How does the town intend to ensure the public’s right to due process — to provide adequate notice, and allow for meaningful public comment — of a moving target?

And I’m not just supposing.

On Oct. 29, without legal public notice or public meeting, the original Oct. 12 regulations were revised and reposted, with numerous and substantive changes on behalf of the town. 

We have no idea who wrote those changes, on whose advice and to what end – was the chair of the Halls Road Improvements Committee contacted by any property owners? Did members of the committee discuss among themselves these changes? Were the revised regulations drafted with adequate legal or professional expertise? Was First Selectman Tim Griswold aware of the changes?

No doubt, Griswold, a Republican, erred at the onset in introducing draft regulations, but for the local Democrats to blame him for that misstep and still push the same process would be too clever by half.

Here’s hoping committee members of both parties tonight recognize the opportunity for a better process.

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