OLD LYME — After a several contentious meetings of the Rogers Lake Authority in which residents opposed a proposed DEEP permit for a no-wake zone, about 20 lake residents sat on folding chairs in their association clubhouse to watch Monday’s virtual authority meeting.
“We have about 201 signatures now,” said Dave Evers, president of the Rogers Lake West Shore Association, before the meeting began. “We might reach out to legal teams, we’ll see how it goes. We clearly have a lot of support.”
The room darkened. On screen, Dennis Overfield, chair of the Rogers Lake Authority, began the virtual meeting. He said that as of Friday, the authority had received 160 signatures opposing no-wake buoys that are under consideration as part of a rewrite of the ordinances governing the lake.
“I feel that the RLA needs to see how they want to proceed with this but we certainly owe it to the people who signed this petition a response,” said Overfield.
Janelle James, authority member, said it was important to develop a plan that takes into consideration the concerns of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as well as public comments and data.
“At this point, we don’t have that, and because of that, I personally feel we should stop all the work on these ordinances until we have the information we need to create a comprehensive, vetted plan with the community’s comments considered,” she said.
Authority member Maneesha Joshi agreed with James, and thanked the community for their input.
“I think it is important to get their input on what DEEP is saying the issues are and how we can address this community input. So I agree that we should hold off on all ordinances until we can gather more data, get information from DEEP and talk to the public,” Joshi said.
Mark Hastings, authority member, said he agreed. “Obviously the public is concerned about this and we need to develop a better plan and clearly that’s inclusive to address these things.”
Authority members Toni Phillips and Dick Smith agreed.
Members voted unanimously to put the ordinance review on hold and to devise a plan on how to proceed, with a goal of putting the plan in place in September.
“At our last meeting we had indicated that we were going to get the drafted ordinances to DEEP by May 2 and all that activity is now put on hold,” Overfield said.
The virtual meeting lasted just seven minutes, and a number of residents expressed disappointment that there was no public comment on the agenda.
“This is just a ploy. I don’t trust them. He’s lost all trust,” said Christina Evers, wife of Dave Evers, who watched the meeting from the second row.
Up front, with lights back on, Dave Evers stood and thanked the group for rallying around the cause and urged consistent attendance at future Rogers Lake Authority meetings.
“This was just an overstep of power. The only question going forward is, obviously we need to stay vigilant on this and keep people up to date,” he said. “We really need people at their meetings to keep them in check.”
Kevin Penfield, who sat in the audience, said his family has three generations and a 95-year history of living on the lake. Penfield said the lake was much more congested 10 years ago and there were no accidents even then.
Steven Smith said he came to the lake 60 years ago as a child and has been living here since 1989.
‘“There have been no boating collisions. If they do this there’s going to be accidents and congestion,” Smith said. “I believe with this law, people are going to die.”
David Bourne, who lives on the western shore of the lake nearest to Picnic Island, said he and his daughter measured the distance from the shore to Picnic Island when the lake had frozen over.
“It measures 245 feet, not 230 feet like they’re saying,” Bourne said. He said that area of the lake is already a no wake zone for jet skiers but the revised ordinance would include boats
“There’s never been an incidence,” he said.
Evers told the group he would order 50 signs and reminded attendees that they were $15 each.
On the way out, a few residents stuffed $5 bills into Evers pockets, paying for signs.
“I can put one by the end of the road and put one on the water where boats go by. So I’ll give you $30 – what did you save $15 a piece? – I’ll grab a couple,” said one resident.
Evers said he might order a big truck sign, too.
“We gotta stay vigilant because I have a feeling they’re gonna rethink this and see where it goes,” he said.