OLD LYME — A proposed 200+ bedroom housing development on Hatchetts Hill Road that was stymied for two years by the lack of a sewer hookup will move forward because the property owner has purchased additional land suitable for a septic system.
“It’s definitely a go,” said Mark Diebolt, who owns the 20.6-acre parcel at 49 Hatchetts Hill Road where he proposed a housing development in 2020 under state statute 8-30g. The new plan will likely include 30 percent affordable units to qualify under the law.
Diebolt ran into an obstacle when he proposed hooking up the complex — needing 50,000 gallons per day – to the sewer line that runs from the Point O’ Woods complex in Old Lyme, through East Lyme to New London. He said both East Lyme and Old Lyme rejected his request.
“They turned us down informally. East Lyme didn’t want it and Old Lyme didn’t want us to connect because we’re a private business and that might jeopardize their [Clean Water] funds, which I never really believed in.”
Old Lyme negotiated for 300,000 gallons of sewage to be pumped from four of its beach communities to the New London treatment plant. The project, as yet unbuilt, qualifies for a 25 percent grant from the state-federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund, provided that the sewers do not support new development.
But in June 2022, Diebolt purchased an adjacent 16.25-acre parcel at 54-6 Four Mile River Road with an eye toward installing a septic system for the proposed housing complex.
He said his civil engineer, whom he preferred not to name, did a load test following DEEP regulations and found an area “about the size of a football field” on the property that has the correct soil conditions to accommodate a septic system for the complex.
“I call it the happy valley because it’s not like anywhere else, [which is] all rocky. This is not rocky and it’s no ledge,” Diebolt said.
He said that except for the septic system area, the 16 acres will likely remain as is.
“The rest of the land will probably never be touched – it’s down a hill and it would be too difficult to build a road,” he said. “I won’t say ever, but it’s unlikely. It’s always been planned and there’s plenty of room at the top where the 20 acres is”.
He said the septic system will be one that DEEP has already approved and not an alternative system.
“It’s whatever is in the DEEP handbook, what they are familiar with – manufacturers and models,” he said. “We don’t really need anything that exotic. You know, I mean, we have the space and they’re an engineered system as it is anyway.”
Diebolt said his goal now is to nail down the number of bedrooms that DEEP will allow, based on 150 gallons per bedroom per day.
“It’s going to be over 200 bedrooms but we don’t know how many over,” he said.
After that he said his team can focus on the site plan, laying out one- and two-bedroom units in each building.
He said the project, which he said will likely remain an 8-30g, will look similar to Saybrook Station in Old Saybrook, which has 186 units of which 36 are designated affordable.
“I always say that they did that many units on 11 acres. We’re doing this on 36, so I have a lot more land to play with,” he said. “I’m not going to give away the design details, but I’m really excited about the direction that I want to go — it’s gonna look super nice.”
He said that ultimately he will be a minority partner in the project, which he estimated will cost $50 million.
He said that investors who own similar developments are interested in the project, but since the final count of apartments has not been determined, the final deal has not been signed.
“Let’s put it this way. I’m pretty confident that ultimately this thing’s gonna get built and done,” he said.
He said he hoped the site plan can be finished and submitted this fall.
“The goal is to get going on it — and why wait, there’s no reason to wait. The need is still there,” he said.