Old Lyme Zoning Votes Down Storage Project in Split Vote, Will Consider Moratorium

Credit: Robin Breeding


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OLD LYME — In a close vote Monday night, the Zoning Commission denied an application for three 28-foot-tall storage buildings at 250 Shore Road for the second time – and again suggested the possibility of a six-month moratorium on storage units.

It was the third time developers Kid’s Realty, LLC and Pond Road, LLC had submitted an application for the project on the 3.77-acre site. Their first proposal in 2021 was withdrawn after more than 100 residents signed a petition opposing the project. 

The commission denied the second application in May, citing lack of precedent for buildings of that height in the adjacent residential beach community. That decision is pending in Superior Court, according to the applicants’ attorney, Marjorie Shansky, at Monday’s zoning meeting.

On Monday, Commission chair Paul Orzel led the discussion by saying he personally did not believe that this type of facility – which he said belongs in an industrial park – “belongs in a beach community where there is no precedent on Route 156 between I-95 exits 70 and 71.”

Other nearby self-storage facilities located at 332 Shore Road are one-story buildings. Four one-story storage buildings have also been approved for 224 Shore Road but the project has not been built. 

“I don’t believe the building and the associated risks involved are a wise decision for this commission to make,” Orzel said.

The proposed lease would have allowed the storage of cars and boats in the building spaces, designed with 12-foot bay doors and 14-foot ceilings with an additional 14 feet above. Storage of a can of gasoline, for example, would have been allowed but hazardous and toxic materials – as defined by law – would have been prohibited. 

But Orzel said he was opposed to the proposal partly because of public health and safety and environmental protection issues. 

“I also believe that with the introduction of that type of equipment that the facility could draw, I am concerned about the maintenance of equipment in that area, the possible spillage of fuels that may not be reported in a proper manner to authorities or even to the managers of the facility,” he said. 

Orzel cited the town’s “appropriateness of use” zoning ordinance that stated that the size and intensity of use for the location shall be “in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the area…” and will not be “detrimental to the orderly development of adjacent properties.” 

“The facility is not appropriate for a beach community and architecturally does not fit into the community as well,” Orzel said. He added that the fire marshal had not signed off on the project.

In favor of the application was commission member Mike Miller,  who said that the lease does not allow hazardous material and that the units will be subject to inspection. Regarding spillage risks, he said there were no drains in the storage spaces, so that liquids would have “no place to go.” 

As far as aesthetics, he said he thought the facility was beautifully designed. 

Miller said that there had been a “hodgepodge” of concerns – including traffic concerns and loss of wildlife habitat, but pointed out the site is a commercial property. 

“The storage units would bring more revenue into our town, and have no impact on our schools and no impact on police and fire. It’s a net plus in my opinion,” he said.

He said that if the commission denies the application and another party buys the property, they could by special permit build “an adult entertainment facility, a package store, a full service restaurant, a club, an inn, a laundry facility, a dance hall, an assembly hall, recreational facilities, a theater.”

“This is the least impactful,” he said, adding that there was always the possibility of an 8-30g affordable housing project if supported by septic and water.

“Be careful what you ask for. If denied, a much more detrimental use could be presented,” he said. 

Also in favor was alternate Sloan Danenhower, who had been seated in the absence of commissioner Jane Marsh, who agreed with Miller that the project was the least impactful and citing the avoidance of unintended consequences – but emphasizing that transparency in inspections would be important. 

“If you leave it up to the owner to inspect the tenants, who knows what could happen – it’s the fox in the henhouse,” he said. 

Opposed was commissioner Mary Jo Nosal, who said the project was “overwhelmingly not in favor by neighbors,” who also cited concerns about property values. She said she had environmental concerns, especially the possibility of a hazardous spill or the consequences of a fire.

Nosal said the size and scope of the proposed development were not appropriate, citing the “appropriateness of use” ordinance. Nosal said the town fire marshal had sent a letter stating he could not support the project.

 “I agree that the architectural design is appropriate elsewhere, not in residential area… and the intensity of this proposal is too much for the area,” she said. 

In opposition was also commissioner Tammy Tinnerello, who admitted that the parcel was zoned for commercial uses, but “after listening to the neighbors” and the appropriateness of use ordinance, she said, “It really doesn’t fit with the beach character of the neighborhood.” 

Following the 3-2 vote, the commission discussed imposing a six-month moratorium on self-storage facilities in order for the commission to decide whether to ban them altogether, develop new regulations or to keep the current ones. 

The commission held a similar discussion at its September zoning meeting.

Previously, Nosal suggested storage facility regulations in Clinton as a potential place to start, saying that it was important to consider bulk standards.

Alternate Michael Barnes said that the market for storage units that can accommodate a boat or car was underserved and he didn’t want to see regulations that removed opportunities from commercial property owners. 

Land Use Coordinator Eric Knapp said he would prepare a document for a six-month moratorium on storage units to be voted on at the February zoning meeting and would set a public hearing in March.  

As to whether the applicant will appeal the latest denial, attorney Shansky said she would have to speak with her client.

Editor’s note: The project plan is to build three 28-foot-tall storage buildings, not 35-foot as previously written. This story has been updated.