Keeping the Old Lyme Historic District From Becoming History

A recent Memorial Day parade on Lyme Street


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To the Editor:

As relative newcomers, we moved to the Old Lyme Historic District for its quintessential Currier and Ives appeal, as well as access to beaches, kayaking, boating, walking, hiking, running, restaurants, hardware stores, home and clothing shops, supermarkets, a wonderful library and much more. We appreciate all the conveniences, and giving our support to local businesses, not chain stores. (Did we mention our impossibly cute house, built in 1873?)

Recently, we came across an article in The Day that reported on a zoning proposal that would have an impact on the Historic District. After some digging as to what is included in the proposal, we have cause for concern that there is little public awareness or debate about the issue at hand.

Before we continue, let us be clear about one thing. We are not rear-view mirror types wishing everything could be like it was half a century ago. We believe change is not only good, it is inevitable. But to proceed with blinders on is unwise and could lead to decisions that we, as a community, live to regret. And that is the problem with the redistricting plan –– a plan put forth by The Lyme Academy of Art –– a proposal that would effectively create a special “arts” zone, known as an overlay, on top of the Historic District, and grant special privileges to nonprofits. Specifically, the overlay would allow nonprofits to add restaurants, retail, housing, and unspecified recreation to name just a few alterations to an otherwise designated residential and historic area.

Should the Lyme Academy of Art plan come to pass, other potential beneficiaries, though not listed on the zoning application, include the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, the Florence Griswold Museum, and the Lyme Art Association.

We are in favor of continuing to grant approvals in the Historic District on a case-by-case basis for all applicants and, in so doing, preserve its beauty for all residents, and our extended community who come from miles around to take in the sights, as they cycle our bike lanes and stroll our sidewalks on a daily basis.

Let history be a lesson to those who propose to change the zoning of our Historic District –– that the character and appeal of Old Lyme has been built over 300 years, but can be lost overnight.

Jonathan and Margaret Mandell
Old Lyme, CT