Halls Road ‘Is Not, And Should Not Be, A Political Issue’


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To the Editor:

Re “In Old Lyme, the ‘Meat of the Election is in Development’,” by Gregory Stroud (Editorial, Sept. 27):

CT Examiner published an editorial by Gregory Stroud, its Editor in Chief, again attacking — for reasons mystifying to me — the Halls Road Improvements Committee, a committee of the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen.  The HRIC’s sole authority is to make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen. I wish to address here just two of the misconceptions conveyed in Stroud’s editorial.

First, he portrays the proposals of the HRIC as a core issue in the upcoming municipal elections, Republicans vs. Democrats.  This is plainly contrary to fact.  As I indicated above, the HRIC is wholly subordinate to the BOS, which is Republican controlled (2 to 1).  Each and every approval or town expenditure supporting the Halls Road project has been approved both by the Board of Selectmen and by the Republican-controlled Board of Finance (4 to 2).  The HRIC itself has always been bipartisan.  It is currently staffed by 4 Democrats and 3 Republicans (including David Kelsey, the Republican Board of Finance Chair and CT Examiner principal funder), with one vacancy.  Action item votes on the HRIC have typically been passed with little disagreement and are then referred to the Board of SelectmenFinally, in an economic development study conducted for Old Lyme by Advance CT in 2020, “over 80% of survey respondents supported additional development in the Halls Road area.”  This is not, and should not be, a political issue.

Second, Stroud alleges that important decisions by the HRIC are made in secret, and then presented to the public as “done deals.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Besides the fact that meetings of the HRIC, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance are open to the public (other than on rare occasions when executive sessions are needed and permissible), ever since the HRIC’s early days (when I was chair) the committee has recognized the critical need to be wholly transparent and to solicit and obtain the public’s buy-in to any proposal before it could go forward.  To that end any number of public information meetings have been held, and the community’s views have been sought, over the years.  Indeed, two others are currently scheduled at Town Hall with respect to the proposed Lieutenant River bridge and trails (one on September 30 and the other on October 5).  Paradoxically — and contrary to Stroud’s claim — these meetings are being held expressly for the purpose of soliciting input from town taxpayers, rather than presenting them with a “fait accompli.”  Go figure.

Bennett (BJ) Bernblum
Old Lyme, CT