State Invites Comment on Draft Four-Year $3.9 Billion Transportation Program

The Connecticut Department of Transportation continues work on plans to remove the two traffic signals on Route 9 in Middletown, one of 223 projects included in the draft 2021 State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP. The draft is the topic of two virtual public information meetings to be held on Sept. 23, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The public is also invited to review and comment on the draft program of projects, as well as Public Involvement Procedures, until Oct. 9.  Middletown project The Middletown project began under the Malloy administration as a way to improve safety conditions and

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Prevailing Wage Rule May Limit Sidewalk Extension to Hartford Avenue

OLD LYME — There is a chance that prevailing wage requirements could significantly raise the cost of the Sound View sidewalks project if the state interprets the application as a renovation rather than as new construction. Public works projects must comply with state prevailing wage laws if they are classified as new construction and cost at least $1 million or as renovations and cost at least $100,000 “This is new construction, in my opinion. I think this is a situation where the regulations haven’t caught up with the evolution of projects. I think we’re not necessarily in a gray area,

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Mixed-Income Housing Development Approved for Site of Former Campbell Grain Building in Pawcatuck

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STONINGTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a five-story, 82-unit mixed-income housing project for the long-blighted site of the former Campbell Grain building in Pawcatuck, during a virtual meeting Tuesday night.  Winn Development, a division of Winn Companies of Boston, proposed the project under the state 8-30g statute for the 1.89-acre site at 15 Coggswell Street and 27 West Broad Street in Pawcatuck. In 2019, 5.93 percent of the housing stock in Stonington was classified as affordable under state statute. The proposed project will lease 30 percent of the units at market rates and 70 percent will be restricted

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Request to Demolish Victorian-era Cottage in Haddam Denied Unanimously

HADDAM — The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Thursday to deny a request for a special permit to demolish a historic residential structure at 140 Dublin Hill Road known as the Leverett Spencer House.  The commission reviewed the application under the Section 15A Historic Preservation by Special Permit, which requires a special permit/site plan review for the demolition of any building listed in the survey, “Haddam Survey of Historical and Architectural Resources,” conducted by the Greater Middletown Trust. The building, which is listed on the survey, is an example of workers’ housing in Higganum during the second half of

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Diebolt Details Planned Housing Development in Old Lyme

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OLD LYME — “I’ve lived in town for 30 years and it seems like a great opportunity for what the town needs. We’re going to ‘do well by doing good.’ What we’re trying to do is make something that we’re proud to build and own and to provide as another housing alternative,” said Mark Diebolt, owner of the 20.6-acre parcel at 49 Hatchetts Hill Road where he and two partners plan to build a large apartment complex that will include 30 percent affordable units qualifying under the 8-30g statute.  “It’s going to look like a New England village,” said Diebolt

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224-Unit Housing Development Considered for Hatchetts Hill Road in Old Lyme

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OLD LYME —  At its Sept. 21 meeting, local resident Mark Diebolt will discuss plans with the Affordable Housing Committee to build a 224-unit, 11-building residential complex at 49 Hatchetts Hill Road, a 20.6-acre site just south of I-95 near exit 71. The complex is expected to include 30 percent affordable housing under state statute 8-30g. Vice-chair Karen Winters told committee members at an Aug. 31 meeting that Diebolt was interested in speaking with the committee, and with other town commissions, about the project.  Committee member Harold Thompson said that he had already spoken with Diebolt about the need for

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Chester Gallery Opens First Friday of Local Artist Work

On Friday, from 5 to 8 p.m., Chester Gallery opens “Chester Artists: Past, Present and Up and Coming,” a revolving show of local artists over the next two months. “From the postcard show I realized there’s a lot of talent in Chester, people I never even knew of. It opened my eyes to more of the Chester artists,” explained Nancy Pinney, owner of the Chester Gallery, where postcard-sized work by local artists was featured in December. “Everyone has a tie to Chester, one way or the other… they lived here, they have a studio here,” Pinney said.  In the main

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Owners of Banner Estates Resubmit Application to Zoning

EAST HADDAM — The owners of the Banner Country Club Estates have resubmitted an application for a zoning amendment change that will allow them to convert a 28,000-square-foot banquet hall into residential units.  Co-owner Anthony Longhitano withdrew a similar application for a change to the Planned Recreational Development/Resort Zone, a floating zone, via email on Feb. 25, the same day the Planning and Zoning Commission had planned to vote on a motion to deny the application. The commission had referred the matter to counsel to craft the language of the motion to deny as a safeguard from litigation, but because of

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Tracy Espy Talks Joining Mitchell College as New President

NEW LONDON — “I see Mitchell really going back to its roots,” said Dr. Tracy Espy, since July 1 the new president of Mitchell College. Espy is the first African American woman to lead the college. Mitchell College has a history of providing exceptional service to students, she explained, including those of different learning abilities. “They’ve had this learning model for years, including when they were a community college. They started as a junior college in 1938 and had their first graduates in 1941.”  In its early publications, the college defined its purpose as providing a well-rounded education for the creation

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Added Costs Raise Questions Regarding Hartford Avenue Sidewalk Plans in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — How far a $400,000 Community Connectivity grant will cover sidewalk construction on the upper portion of Hartford Avenue and a section of Route 156 will remain a question until the town sees the project bids, mostly likely in the late fall with construction planned for March 2021.  If the entire project is to be completed, another question will be how the shortfall, if there is one, will be paid for, especially during the uncertain financial climate of the COVID-19 pandemic.  “Until you get it bid, you don’t really know,” First Selectman Timothy Griswold said by phone on

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Checking in with Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb was in New York City in mid-March to watch a rough cut of the screen adaption of his second novel,  “I Know This Much Is True,” which is streaming now on HBO as a six-episode tv drama.  “I had chosen Mark Ruffalo as the one and only person I wanted to take on the role of the twins and he was so genuine,” Lamb said, in a phone interview on Aug. 20. “My agent sent the book to him. Mark was in Europe filming. He was halfway through and said he already knew that he wanted to do

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Scientists Take the Long View on Saving Eastern Hemlock Stands from Woolly Adelgid.

The hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that has decimated the eastern hemlock population over the last 40 years, is not a parasite — it’s an herbivore.  “Herbivores eat plants,” said Dr. Evan Pressier, an associate professor of biological sciences at University of Rhode Island. “It can be a bit of a dicey distinction, but most people would talk of the hemlock woolly adelgid as an herbivore because it does eat plant tissue. It’s not a parasite in a traditional sense.”  Pressier has spent 15 years researching the hemlock woolly adelgid, known as HWA, and experimented with genetically-resistant hemlocks as well

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Sewer and Water Projects Raise Questions, Upset Neighbors Near Old Lyme Shores

OLD LYME — Questions and complaints have arisen about the residential location of a staging area for Connecticut Water Company that is also the planned site of an odor control system for an upcoming sewer project that will serve three chartered beach associations and the Sound View beach community.  The .91-acre parcel at 308 Gorton Avenue, owned by Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, is deed-restricted as a “play field or for a clubhouse for use only of members of the Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, and for no other purposes.” The deed was recorded on Sept. 22, 1952.  “When we bought

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Connecticut Port Authority Withdraws Support for $1.8 Million Harbor Harvest Project

NEW LONDON — The Connecticut Port Authority has withdrawn its request as a sponsor for a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) grant for a Marine Highway project that would have supported the development of a Harbor Harvest, a waterborne transportation service for farmers and manufacturers in Connecticut and Long Island. “At the time we applied, only public entities were eligible and if a private entity was engaging in these activities, they had to go through a project sponsor like a port authority and so we served in that role,” said Acting Chair David Kooris at the

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John Henshaw Appointed Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director, Brings Years of Experience from Portland, ME

NEW LONDON — The Connecticut Port Authority has approved the appointment of John Henshaw III as its new executive director, effective Sept. 8.  Henshaw, who served from 2007 to 2017 as executive director of the Maine Port Authority and the Director of Ports and Marine Transportation for the Maine Department of Transportation, received unanimous approval from the port authority board on Tuesday in a meeting conducted by telephone.  From 2017 to 2019 Henshaw was chief operating officer for Maine Center Ventures at the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center, a program that includes a consortium of programs at the

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Hope Partnership Housing in Essex to Finish by End of Feburary

ESSEX — On Wednesday afternoon, the sheetrock was up in several of the apartments under construction on the second and third floors of the long, brick building at 90 Main Street known as Spencer’s Corner.  The $5.1 million project, called The Lofts at Spencer’s Corner, invests $4.5 million in construction costs to redevelop one of the central commercial properties in the village of Centerbrook.  “This is exciting, I hadn’t seen these spaces yet,” said Loretta McCluskey, operations manager for Hope Partnership, Inc., as she walked into one of the units under construction.  McCluskey led the way through a sawdust-scented hallway

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$6.9 Million Federal Grant Announced for Low-Income Housing in Connecticut for People with Disabilities

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Housing announced Tuesday that it has received a large federal grant to support rental housing for people with disabilities who have extremely low incomes. The $6.9 million grant will provide an additional 113 new units of housing. According to a press release, the funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “will support up to five years of rental assistance for approximately 113 units of housing in buildings participating in project rental assistance through HUD’s Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program.” Currently 70 households of people with disabilities receive rental assistance

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Lyme Forms Working Group to Draft Ordinance on Short-term Rentals

LYME — After receiving complaints about parking violations and noise disturbances at 26 Old Hamburg Road, a property purchased in February for use as an Airbnb, the Planning and Zoning Commission chose to pursue interim measures until its newly-formed working group can craft an ordinance addressing short-term rentals.  The .1-acre property at 26 Old Hamburg Road consists of a 1-bedroom, 704-square-foot house built in 1859 that has a dock and fronts Hamburg Cove. According to the property card, Tower Benson and Eleanor Bianchini of Worcester, Mass. purchased the property on Feb. 6, 2020.  As a short-term measure, the board asked

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Break Bulk Cargo to Stay a Part of State Pier Wind Project

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The transformation of State Pier into an offshore wind facility exclusive of other uses has been part of conversations at Connecticut Port Authority meetings for months, but a permit application made public yesterday from the Army Corps of Engineers specifies the continuing support of break bulk cargo operations.  “The purpose of this project is to create infrastructure in Connecticut that will serve as a long-term, regional wind turbine generator (WTG) port facility while at the same time continuing to support other existing long term break bulk operations for steel, coil steel, lumber, copper billets, as well as other cargo,” stated

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George White on Theater on the Record

WHITE POINT — It was a blazingly hot day, but George White knew a breeze would find its way to the veranda of the big stone house that’s been in his family for generations.  “The farmers didn’t value this place at all because you couldn’t grow anything here,” said White, surveying the view of Long Island Sound. “But my grandfather started to paint this area and got to know it and this rocky point of land. He knew he wanted it.” White’s grandfather, the artist Henry C. White, was included among the painters of the Lyme Art Colony in Henry

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PURA Orders Eversource to Restore Prior Rates for Electricity to Customers in Connecticut

With public outcry escalating about higher electric bills, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority ordered Eversource on Friday to immediately restore delivery rates that were in effect on June 30. PURA said the agency had received numerous complaints related to the increased delivery charges incurred by Eversource ratepayers and will temporarily suspend approval of the new rates.  “Due to the convergence of a number of recent events, including the July 1st administrative adjustment to certain delivery rate components, the COVID-19 crisis and its corresponding effect on customer energy usage, as well as the higher than normal temperatures this month, Eversource customers

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Sara Bronin Steps Down After 7 Years on Hartford’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Sets Sights on Housing Statewide

“Zoning first arose 100 years ago in the 1920s to help to order the city, to separate uses from each other and frankly to separate people from people,” said Sara Bronin. “While Connecticut did not have explicit racial zoning like many Southern cities did, the effects of Connecticut zoning laws have been no less discriminatory in effect.”  Bronin, an architect and law professor at the University of Connecticut, has stepped down as chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Hartford, in part to work with DesegregateCT, a coalition of more than thirty organizations focused on statewide

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As Eversource Sharply Increases Electricity Costs for Connecticut Customers, Millstone Deal Blamed, Lawmakers Call for Hearings

Questions continue to mount about increases in electricity delivery charges on Eversource bills of many Connecticut residents and businesses since July 1.  Eversource has pointed to a “variety of factors” leading to the increases, but legislators on the Energy and Technology Committee have requested that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) suspend the increase until a thorough review can be done.  According to Tricia Modifica, a spokesman for Eversource, “The biggest factor is the state energy policy that was passed by the state legislature in 2017 that requires Eversource and United Illuminating to purchase power from Millstone Nuclear Power Plant

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ADUs, Affordable Housing and the ‘Missing Middle’ Agenda for Southeast Connecticut

“In the housing and planning world, there is a larger conversation nationally around accessory apartments as sort of an easy way to expand the low cost housing supply in communities,” said Sean Ghio, policy director for Partnership for Strong Communities, a Hartford-based nonprofit founded in 1998 with a grant from The Melville Charitable Trust to advocate on issues of affordable housing and homelessness. In zoning terms, an accessory apartment, also known as a granny flat, in-law suite, guest cottage or garage apartment, is an “Accessory Dwelling Unit,” or ADU, which is a secondary, smaller housing unit on a residential single-family

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Nickerson Calls 3-3 Vote, Lack of Public Say on Funding for Public Safety Building, a ‘Travesty’

EAST LYME — First Selectman Mark Nickerson strongly criticized the Board of Finance for denying a request Monday night to bond additional funds to renovate the Honeywell building for use as a public safety facility — a decision that removes the question from going to a public referendum.  “It is a travesty that the citizens of East Lyme have been denied an opportunity to vote on a referendum of this plan,” Nickerson said in a press release on Wednesday. “Our town stepped up 16 months ago and overwhelmingly voted to buy the Honeywell building and finally move toward a permanent

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10 Days Before a Deadline to Vacate State Pier, No Easy Solutions for the Connecticut Port Authority

NEW LONDON — With only 10 days before a deadline to vacate State Pier, the Connecticut Port Authority offered a limited extension on Tuesday to a salt distributor and two commercial fishermen who had been told to leave no later than July 31.  The deadline was extended at the request of the users, which at the time could be granted by the terminal operator Gateway, according to Andrew Lavigne, manager of business development and special projects at the Connecticut Port Authority. In February, Danish wind giant Ørsted and partner energy provider Eversource reached a final agreement with Gateway Terminal and

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Old Lyme Moves Forward on Sewer Agreement, Haines Park Bathrooms

OLD LYME — After a long discussion held in executive session, the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed to authorize First Selectman Timothy Griswold to sign a cost-sharing agreement between the Town of Old Lyme and three chartered beach associations for a sewer project.  “We will have our attorney keep us informed of the other parties that are needed to sign and once it’s all finalized, we can [place] it in the public domain,” Griswold said.  Town voters approved a $9.5 million sewer construction bond on August 13, 2019 for Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town Area B. The project cost is expected

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State Announces Grants for Towns to Develop ‘Proactive’ Plans under 2018 Affordable Housing Mandate

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Housing has announced grants to 43 municipalities for technical assistance in developing affordable housing plans required under the 8-30j state statute.  The law, enacted in 2018, requires every municipality to “prepare a plan to increase affordable housing, beginning in 2021.” The plan will “specify how the municipality intends to increase the number of affordable housing developments in the municipality” and must be prepared or amended and adopted at least once every five years.  The state opened the grant application process from March 9 to June 30 to small municipalities with populations below 50,000. Eligible

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Peter Anton Opens Show of Outsized ‘Confectionary Sculpture’ at Lyman Allyn

NEW LONDON — For sculptor Peter Anton, food is a portal to celebratory memories and a kind of “sensory snapshot” that connects us to emotions ranging from happiness to obsession.  “We use sweets to celebrate and we also use them for comfort when we’re depressed and we reward ourselves with sweets,” said Anton, who creates giant renditions of ice cream cones, cakes and confections. “As an artist, I love color and textures and you can’t top a colorful dessert.” In “Sweet Dreams: Confectionery Sculpture,” at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Anton will show 35 of his outsized, hyperrealistic works, including

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Hunts Brook Farm Rethinks the Small Farm Model

QUAKER HILL — The era of the country farm stand by the side of the road where farmers left fruits and vegetables and customers paid by the honor system is over as long as the pandemic continues.  “We have a lot of people who just pull in thinking that our stand is open,” said Robert “Digga” Schacht, who owns Hunts Brook Farm with his wife, Teresa.  He has set up an on-site, socially-distanced farmstand twice a week to provide for customers who once shopped at his honor stand as well as his booths at a number of farmers markets.  “That

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