OLD LYME — With a packed agenda and a large crowd in attendance, the Zoning Commission worked through five public hearings Monday night, including proposals for large-scale storage units on Shore Road, off-site parking for Kokomo’s Restaurant, pickleball courts and other items, in a nearly four-hour meeting that ended in executive session.
The storage units proposal slated for 250 Shore Road, or Route 156, was in its second iteration after the applicant withdrew a 2021 application that faced opposition from more than 100 area residents. Similar to the first proposal, the new project specified three 10,500-square-foot buildings that would be 28 feet in height, 70 feet wide, and 150 feet in length.
Paul Orzel, chair of the commission, said there were no other facilities of this size anywhere along Route 156 between I-95 Exit 70 and Exit 71.
In particular, he said, the 12-feet-wide by 16-feet-tall door openings for the storage units “would be more of a facility better suited to an industrial park than that area of 156.”
The size of the door openings would allow storage of large items, including cars, trucks and boats, according testimony at the March 13 public hearing from engineer Robert L. Doane Jr., who represented the applicant, Kids Realty LLC & Pond Road LLC.
Orzel said the size of the doors indicated heavy commercial use and the navigation of large vehicles that did not take into account the narrowness and curvature of Route 156, nor the public safety of school buses in the area.
In 2020, the commission approved an application for four single-story storage buildings at 224 Shore Road. Another storage facility at 232 Shore Road, built in 1986, includes seven single-story buildings.
“In that stretch [along Shore Road] there is no precedent for this size facility,” Orzel said.
The town fire marshal did not approve the application partly due to the inability of emergency vehicles to maneuver through the site.
After further discussion, the commission voted unanimously to deny the application.
Parking on Hartford Ave.
The commission heard further testimony for a proposal to use 58 Hartford Ave. as off-site parking for Kokomo’s Restaurant, located a block away from the site.
In 2019, property owner Frank Noe demolished a dilapidated 1930’s dance hall on the site and the parcel has sat vacant since. He is proposing the construction of an 8-foot by 10-foot building for selling merchandise and the creation of 24 parking spaces on the property.
During Monday’s continued public hearing, Noe submitted a new site plan, which was not shared with the audience.
The board’s discussion touched on the town’s previous redevelopment of Hartford Ave. that added sidewalks and bump outs and eliminated a number of parking spaces near businesses. Commission alternate Michael Barnes said the town created a parking problem by decreasing the number of spaces. Commission member Mary Jo Nosal responded that the town made the changes for safety and beautification.
Eric Knapp, zoning enforcement officer for the town, said parking would represent a change of use for 58 Hartford Ave. He said Noe has a right to build on the prior footprint of the demolished building but would need to apply for another change of use at that time.
Resident Lenny Corto said he wanted to see the eliminated parking spaces along Hartford Ave. restored. He noted safety issues of people parking on Route 156 and crossing the road to walk down to the beach.
Resident Carolyn Miranda, who lives near the beach, asked the board to keep in mind how the proposed parking lot will affect local residents.
“I’m all for economic development but not at the expense of residents,” she said. “Don’t sacrifice our quality of life for business.”
After questions about how the parking lot would be staffed, the board asked that the amended site plan be shown to the town fire marshal and the director of public works for comments. The hearing was continued to June 12.
Three more hearings
The Old Lyme Country Club applied to build pickleball courts in an existing parking lot at 35 McCurdy Road, which is adjacent to several paddle ball and tennis courts. During the hearing, five neighbors who live on McCurdy Court, which backs up on the existing courts, spoke about problems with players parking on their street and blocking the flow of traffic, as well as players’ yelling and speaking profanities until the late hours of the night. The five neighbors said they had a meeting set up with the country club on Tuesday. Attorney Michael Cronin, who represented the applicant, said his client was willing to meet with them and address the issues. The hearing was continued to June 12.
The commission heard and unanimously approved an application presented by Claudia Weicker, chair of the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, to allow guest accommodations for visiting scientists and interns on the grounds at 100 Lyme St., using three bedrooms on the third floor of the main building and one in the cottage on the site.
Also unanimously, the commission approved new language concerning light pollution that will update the town’s Gateway Conservation Zone regulations. The Connecticut River Gateway Commission proposed the new text and is asking every town in the Gateway to adopt the new regulations.
Halls Road Overlay
At the end of the agenda was a request from the Halls Road Improvements Committee for a pre-application hearing to discuss re-submitting the recently defeated Halls Road Overlay District proposal with updated text.
“They would like to meet with you informally to sort of review where they are with your previously expressed concerns and the Planning Commission’s expressed concerns so that they have a better sense of what they need their application to say,” Knapp told the commission.
He said the committee wants to resubmit in a couple of months and originally asked to meet on Monday. However, Knapp said, chair Edie Twining told him she would not be at the meeting.
Commission member Michael Miller asked about the statutory one year waiting period for resubmittal.
Knapp said the committee will request a waiver of the statute as part of the new application, and it will be at the discretion of the commission to grant the waiver.
The board then went into executive session to discuss the overturned denial of the Halls Road gas station request for a convenience store.
Editor’s note: The storage facilities project would construct three 28-foot-tall buildings, not 35-foot. This story has been updated.