Halls Road Committee to Include Affordable Housing, Declines Release of Draft Documents

Halls Road, Old Lyme (CT Examiner)


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OLD LYME — The chair of the Halls Road Improvements Committee announced on Thursday that the committee’s plan to encourage redevelopment of the town’s retail district will include options for affordable housing when it is resubmitted to the town’s Zoning Commission for approval.

“Because the Zoning Commission agreed that they wanted to make sure that was in the HROD, we will make sure that that gets into it,” said Edie Twining, chair of the Halls Road Improvements Committee. 

In March, the original proposal was narrowly defeated, with one Zoning Commission member, who was an alternate, citing the absence of affordable housing options as a key part of his decision to vote “no.”

Howard Margules, a Halls Road Committee member, said the request to add affordable housing came from the Zoning Commission with input from the town’s Affordable Housing Commission.

“Our attorney will draft the language,” Margules said. 

Besides affordable housing, questions about the role of the Department of Transportation came up during the “informal conversation” between Halls Road Committee and the Zoning Commission, Twining said. 

“[DOT is] reviewing what’s in the master plan. We went over all the different details of sidewalks, signage, crosswalks, park space – and the long and short of it is they said everything that we want to do is possible,” Twining said. 

The department cannot approve  any items until it processes the town’s application for the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program, known as LOTCIP, she said. 

“They did say to make sure that your Zoning Commission was making sure that any additional traffic generation that happened from changes in redevelopment is addressed, to make sure that there’s a traffic study for any new projects that happen for the private sector,” Twining said. 

In related business, David Kelsey, a member of the Halls Road Improvements Committee and also chair of the town’s Board of Finance, pointed out that the Department of Transportation recently installed a crosswalk on Halls Road across from the gas station “where nobody needs this,” apparently without communicating with anyone from the town. 

First Selectman Tim Griswold, who attended the Thursday meeting, said that sensors for the stoplights were also being installed “to make the lights flow more quickly to make things flow better.” 

Twining added that her group wanted to do a review of the soils on Halls Road. 

“Tim and I are working on getting the person to do that review and look at the Ledge Light documents. Because all this road is pretty developed, there’s a lot of good data about what the soil reviews are, so we should have more information about that,” she said.

Next,Twining informed committee members about a Freedom of Information request by CT Examiner for design documents of the Halls Road trails and bow bridge, which include bird- and fish-themed landscape designs according to one commission member. 

“We sent CT [Examiner] a letter written by the town attorney explaining our design materials coming from AI are still in the process, they’re changing regularly as they find out more information,” she said. 

Twining said that providing information before the design documents were vetted by the Halls Road committee and the Board of Selectmen was “premature and would not help the town at all.” 

“It would just confuse them because the idea is in the next couple of months, we’re going to have to open houses to show what AI has come up with for us for the trail bridge design and it’s not like we want to hide it, we just want to have it ready to be seen in a way that works.”

As the committee prepared to move into executive session to view AI’s preliminary designs, Kelsey questioned the need for executive session.

“The executive session is pretty restrictive. I think I’d leave it to the Board of Selectmen because as Board of Finance, we have very few items that go into executive session. So if it’s appropriate, that’s fine. If it’s something that’s a gray area, we should discuss it,” he said. 

Twining said the use of executive session had been recommended by Russell Blair, Director of Education and Communications at the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission. 

“He said, ‘Look, if you’re not ready to show everything publicly yet, you shouldn’t be showing it publicly in this meeting,’” she said. “So it makes more sense to have it as an executive session so that you’re ready to show the town as a whole ideas are fully thought through from AI and they can do a professional job of not throwing things around that aren’t ready.”

Kelsey said he understood the intent but had not seen executive session used in this way before.

“I don’t think it’s controversial one way or the other, I just think it’s an unusual thing to do,” he said. 

Twining responded that “it was unusual to try and publish drawings that aren’t ready to be seen, too – that’s what we’re trying to protect.”

Margules said that the issue was publishing the preliminary stages of the project and having the public react before the project is fully formed. 

“You can do it from the very start and if it gets published, we know how things get out of control here. And people are going to get the wrong impression and it’s happened before, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” he said. 

Twining said future business would include scheduling dates for an open house when AI Engineering could present the plans to the public. 

The committee, as well as Griswold and Selectman Martha Shoemaker, moved to executive session for the presentation from AI Engineers.  


Kelsey, the primary funder of CT Examiner, had no role in the reporting or editing of this story.