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Old Lyme Property Owner Asks to Reconfigure Stalled Storage Unit Project

OLD LYME — Eighteen months after receiving approval to build four storage buildings at 224 Shore Road that included an office and maintenance shop, Mar Holdings, LLC has asked to change the size of the project to two larger buildings on a slightly smaller footprint, citing increased costs of materials due to the pandemic. 

At the Zoning Commission public hearing on the project Monday night, neighbors raised concerns about the hours of operation, permitted uses, environmental damage, lighting and noise — echoing their concerns from the original permit approval on July 13, 2020. 

Robert Doane, an engineer who represented Mar Holdings, presented a new site plan that showed a 40-foot by 160-foot building and a 40-foot by 165-foot building, but details about the height of the buildings, the dimensions of the interior units and the placement of doors and lighting were not included.

Site drawing of 224 Shore Road, showing two buildings instead the previous four.

He said the new buildings will be oriented north-south on the site instead of east-west on the 1.7-acre site.  He said the square footage was the same but the number of units could change because of the new configuration. 

Identical to the original project, the buildings would contain an office space and maintenance shop where owner Frank Maratta, who owns multiple properties, could repair and maintain his trucks and equipment. 

Commission chair Paul Orzel questioned Doane about the bay door heights as well as whether security would be monitored. 

Doane said the bay doors will be 12 feet in height for the owner’s space where maintenance will be done, which will allow the owner to drive in a vehicle. He said there were no plans to add a fence or gate to the property but he expected there would be security cameras in use. 

During public comment, resident Sal Capasso, who lives across the street from the site, said he would file a lawsuit if the Zoning Commission approved the modification to the special permit. 

Lawrence Osoweiki, who lives nearby, said he was concerned about runoff from the site into the water supply and wanted to see details of the modified buildings.

“It’s a maintenance facility that allows storage. We have no clue what this looks like. There’s no rendering. We had a rendering of the old one. It raises questions, why is this happening right now? Should  it be pulled back?” he asked.

Carolyn Miranda, who lives near the site, said there were a number of items stored outdoors on the site, including a boat, an RV, a trolley and a number of old vehicles.

“They’ve been there forever. It looks like an auto junk yard right now. If you give the permit, what guarantees are there that we won’t see a junkyard? Why are those vehicles there? You approved inside storage,” she said. 

Miranda said she was concerned about long term environmental damage. 

“It will take 50 years to correct. We have wells adjacent, we have wetlands, we have a fresh water pond in the back,” she said. 

Dan Bourret, land use coordinator for the town, answered that the Inland Wetlands Commission and the Health District had already approved the project.

Miranda questioned the placement of storage units across the street from residential properties.

“We spend a lot of upkeep on our 156 property. To think that we’d like this across the street — and no consideration of our contentment and joy of our properties,” she said. “Once you destroy the environment – it can take 40 years to get it back. Would you like that ugly building across from you, with all kinds of vehicles and trucks?”

Mary Jo Nosal, a former selectman who was elected to the Zoning Commission in 2021 and whose term will start in Nov. 2022, asked the commission to consider adding conditions concerning noise and the prevention of outdoor vehicle storage. 

Engineer Robert Doane discussed project details with the Old Lyme Zoning Commission.

Commission member Mike Miller asked that outdoor storage be prohibited on the site as a condition of approval. Doane assured Miller that there would be no outdoor storage. 

There was a question of whether the 4-bedroom house on the site had been designated as a 2-family, which would represent a change the use and affect the permit application. Bourret said he needed to check but added that the owner could propose converting the building back to a 1-family if need be. 

Doane told the commission that the new project was nearly the same as the original project but had been adjusted to accommodate the higher costs of materials during the pandemic.  

“Right now they could build the four units but economically it makes more sense to build two buildings. The area of disturbance is the same as originally approved and the statement of use is same as originally approved,” he said. 

Orzel emphasized that the commission needed to see renderings of the new buildings with full details. 

“It’s a little shallow. I would like to see the elevations. I’d like to see actual placement of lighting on the elevations, more detailed elevations,” Orzel said. “Plus, is the residence a duplex or single family and how does that impact zoning regulations?”

The public hearing was continued until next month when it will be held via webex. 

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