Halls Road Committee Accelerates Rezoning Plans

OLD LYME — At a special meeting on Wednesday night, the Halls Road Improvements Committee voted unanimously to accelerate the creation of rezoning language for Halls Road for the creation of a village district that will include mixed use, multi-family housing, and residential development.  The committee voted to direct BSC Group to craft the new zoning regulations — which are part of Phase III of the master plan proposal — despite a number of tasks in Phase II that are not finished.  Committee Chair Edie Twining said the outcome of many of the items in Phase II — sidewalks, bike lanes,

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Sidewalks Project Sparks Neighbor Complaints on Hartford Ave

OLD LYME — The concrete sidewalks have been poured along the upper half of Hartford Ave. but members of the committee organizing the planning and construction have been fielding complaints from a number of homeowners in the Soundview neighborhood. “There are rocks all underneath the asphalt, which is going to just crumble and break,” complained Tom Portlelance, pointing to the edge of newly installed asphalt connecting their gravel driveway to the concrete sidewalk at 31 Hartford Ave. First Selectman Tim Griswold, who stopped by to talk to the Portelances on Monday morning, agreed the asphalt was crumbling. “There are rocks

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Buyer Explains Halls Road Purchase, Big Y Withdrawal

OLD LYME — Essex Savings Bank has accepted a cash offer for 99 Halls Road from town resident David Kelsey, putting an end to a controversial plan by Big Y Express to open a gas station and convenience store at the location. “The reason that the deal is off with a gas station is because I’m buying the lot,” Kelsey told CT Examiner Sunday night. “My purpose of doing what I’m doing is to just take it off the market — I don’t want a gas station there.” In a letter to the Inland Wetlands Commission, Big Y Express withdrew

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Five Questions on Zoning and Housing with Jason Rojas

State Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, is a sponsor of H.B. 6611, the “Fair Share” affordable housing bill, which was killed in the Judiciary Committee on May 3. The bill would have assessed affordable housing needs statewide and allocated a “fair share” goal by region based on a formula that included a town’s wealth, median income, and percentage of poverty and multifamily housing stock.  On Friday, Rojas spoke with CT Examiner about housing and zoning issues in Connecticut. He is the vice chair of the Legislative Committee and began serving as House Majority Leader in 2021. What should the state’s

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Larry Lazor, an OB/GYN, Launches Bid for Larson’s Seat in Congress

Dr. Larry Lazor, a Republican, has announced his candidacy for Connecticut’s 1st Congressional District. If chosen in the 2022 Republican primary, he’ll run against Democratic incumbent Rep. John Larson, who has held the seat since 1999. Lazor, a resident of West Hartford, is an OB/GYN at Hartford Hospital. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in 1990.  CT Examiner caught up with Lazor for a zoom call on Wednesday to talk about his campaign, his work as a physician and what he sees for the future of Connecticut. The following is edited transcript of that conversation. Why are

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A Contentious Meeting as Halls Road Committee Debates Speed and Scope of Planning

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OLD LYME — In light of a controversial gas station proposal that was withdrawn on Monday, and another service plaza rumored to be underway, the Halls Road Improvements Committee grappled with how to expedite zoning changes at a virtual meeting Thursday night.  The discussion, which became contentious at times, followed a presentation from BSC Group of phase two of the Halls Road master plan. The conceptual drawings showed town investments along the Halls Road right-of-way and municipally-owned land, including a sidewalk-bikeway beginning at Lyme St. that would entail building a boardwalk in one area and a bow bridge to cross

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Halls Road Project to Feature Local Produce, Lupo and Red Hen Chef

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OLD LYME —The little yellow house at 96 Halls Road — once a plant nursery, vacant for almost a decade — may soon become Long River Local, a retail food shop featuring local farm produce, prepared foods, sandwiches, salads and coffee.  “We want to connect chefs to farmers to consumers,” said Walker Potts, proprietor of Long River Farm in Old Lyme, who will supply produce to the new shop.  Local chef Shelley DeProto, of the former Red Hen in Old Saybrook and Lupo in Chester, has applied for a special exception change of use from retail to food service for

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Housing Activists Call for Action at Rally in Deep River

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DEEP RIVER —  At the front steps of Town Hall on Saturday about 75 people rallied in support of housing equity, zoning reform and S.B. 1024 — a housing and zoning bill that will likely advance to a vote in the General Assembly during the legislative session ending June 10.  Three groups — DesegregateCT, The Valley Stands Up, and March for Justice — co-hosted the “Rally for Housing Justice,” which included speakers who urged attendees to tell their state representatives and senators to support S.B. 1024.  “Legislative leadership must call this bill, we want for it to get a vote. We

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Affordable Housing Advocates Look to Revive ‘Fair Share’ Bill Before End of Session

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On Monday, House Bill 6611, the so-called “Fair Share” affordable housing bill was killed in committee, but State Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, who sponsored the legislation, said he is not giving up.  “My strategy is I am going to talk to [State Rep. Craig Fishbein, D-Wallingford] who had threatened to filibuster the bill, which is exactly why it died. I’m actually going to talk to him and see if there’s an opportunity to find some middle ground,” Rojas told CT Examiner on Thursday. The Fair Share legislation would have assessed each town in Connecticut with a goal for affordable

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Zoning Commission Denies ‘Smoke on the Water’ Application as Incomplete

OLD SAYBROOK — The Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny without prejudice the application of Smoke on the Water for a 300-seat outdoor restaurant at the former Dock & Dine, citing an incomplete application for the project at a virtual public hearing Monday night. Commission Chair Robert Friedmann said the commission had the choice to continue the public hearing or to deny the application without prejudice. The latter would allow Jon Kodama, who owns the property, and his business partner, Chef Colt Taylor, to reapply.  Kodama and Taylor were required to submit a complete application 14 days prior to the

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Madison the Site of a Rally for Local Control of Housing and Zoning

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MADISON — In front of Town Hall Saturday, about 45 people, including local and state legislators and members of CT169Strong, rallied against several proposed housing and zoning bills that they said will transfer local control to Hartford.  “The issues that really resonate in Madison are local control — we’re a very engaged community here, people come out and they have opinions. We are really good at problem solving in a way that works for Madison, so I can’t support anything that takes local control away from us,” said Madison Selectman Bruce Wilson, who was among the speakers at the rally. 

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Salim Furth Takes 5 Questions on Zoning and Housing

Salim Furth, who is the director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, recently spoke with CT Examiner about housing and zoning issues in Connecticut. He is a senior researcher specializing in macroeconomic trends and policies. With economist Emily Hamilton, he recently published an op-ed on housing affordability in Connecticut.  This is the second in a series of interviews on housing and zoning in Connecticut. The first is available here. 1. What should the state’s role be in providing affordability for Connecticut residents? There is a supply side and a demand side — the demand

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Cultured Studios Opens Shades of Melanin in New London

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NEW LONDON — Artist Kern Bruce began painting a mural at the pop-up show, “Shades of Melanin,” at Cultured Studios Friday night.  “Over time the mural is going to grow and I’m going to be incorporating people that are in the gallery tonight writing different messages about what they’re grateful for and people that they’ve lost,” he said. “So, it’s a living, breathing testimony of life, purpose and perseverance despite the odds.  Bruce, 38, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, said he wanted to make a piece in honor of Black history month and Women’s history month, which were

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Gateway Approves Outdoor Restaurant Application, Outlines Further Issues for Old Saybrook Zoning

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The Connecticut River Gateway Commission approved Smoke on the Water, a proposed 300-seat outdoor restaurant in Old Saybrook, but agreed to send a letter to the Old Saybrook Zoning Commission outlining a number of concerns outside of Gateway’s jurisdiction. The Zoning Commission is scheduled to consider the project at a public hearing on May 3. Torrance Downes, who serves as senior planner at Gateway, explained in an email to CT Examiner that such issues as ambient smoke, days and hours of operation, noise levels, traffic and the other details are under the jurisdiction of the town’s Zoning Commission rather than

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Susan Lisbin at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery in New London

NEW LONDON — “I’m interested in relationships, how we relate to each other, whether it’s standoffish or tensioned,” said artist Susan Lisbin, whose solo exhibition,” The Human Side, opened Thursday at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center.  Her pieces — oil paintings and clay sculpture — explore organic and anthropomorphic forms that reflect a sense of experimentation, tenderness and humor.  The show has been curated with “pairings” of her paintings and sculpture that relate visually — but her work as a painter particularly stands out.  Beginning with “Overload,” a painting depicting a figure on its side atop a pile

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Saybrook Point Outdoor Restaurant Wins 3 to 2 Vote by Town’s Planning Commission

OLD SAYBROOK — In a three to two vote, the Planning Commission has approved an application for a special exception for Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant to be created with customized food trailers at the former Dock and Dine property on College Ave.  “[The property] needs to generate cash flow if there is any chance of moving to a whole building at some point down the road,” said chef Colt Taylor, who is pursuing the project with property owner, Jon Kodama. Taylor said he was grateful to the zoning members who “stepped up and didn’t just follow

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Steven Mullins Takes 5 Questions on Zoning and Housing

CT Examiner asked five questions on the topic of zoning and affordable housing to Steven R. Mullins, a long-time member of the Planning and Zoning Commission of West Haven. Mullins has been a prominent opponent of S.B. 1024 and several other zoning bills that are currently being considered in the legislature.  What should the state’s role be in providing affordability for Connecticut residents? The way I see it, as it stands right now. I can live anywhere that I can afford to live, and being a minority I’m able to do that. Anyone can live anywhere that they can actually

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Old Lyme Proposes Smaller Budget, Small Hike to Mill Rate

OLD LYME — At Monday’s public hearing for the 2021-22 budget, the first selectman’s proposed budget included a decrease in funding requests that was offset by a decrease in revenues and other factors, resulting in a proposed mill rate increase from 23.20 to 23.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the coming fiscal year.  David Kelsey, chair of the Board of Finance, presented the preliminary budget, which will go to a public vote on May 17.  In his presentation, Kelsey gave the following examples of how the increased mill rate could affect homeowners’ property taxes: House Appraised Value Assessed

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Centerbrook Architects’ Jeff Riley Walks Through a Plan for East Haddam’s Redevelopment

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Jeff Riley, a principal of Centerbrook Architects, talked with CT Examiner about Swing Bridge Landing, a proposed mixed-use development adjacent to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. The $51 million, 94,000-square-foot project would include a village green surrounded by retail shops, restaurants, apartments, a health club, offices, on-site parking, and possibly a boutique hotel. Below are a selection of Riley’s comments on several images of the proposed project.  “The village green is meant to be just exactly that — a green that is available to the people in town. All sorts of things can happen there from seasonal celebrations

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Painter Richard McDonough in New London

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NEW LONDON — Grids, patterns and the color pink are a few of the themes that artist Richard McDonough explores in his solo show, “Two Turloughs,” at the Catherine Fosnot Gallery.  McDonough, who is 25 and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a painter who likes to construct objects, whether as sculpture or as surfaces to paint on — and to him, they are on a continuum.   Near the window of the first gallery is his tall, skinny, house-like sculpture, “Choir House and Choir Singers,” with a prominent wooden grid visible on the back surface. Around a corner, “Boys Toys,” a

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Old Lyme Officials Debate New Ideas for Saving Trees Along Ferry Road

OLD LYME — With maps and a tape measure in hand, Tree Commission members walked a section of the south side of Ferry Road Tuesday afternoon to inspect the right-of-way where a new sidewalk could be installed and to count the number of trees that would need to be removed.  One tree that was in poor condition because it had been trimmed unevenly to avoid the power lines would be taken down, said Joanne Camillo, chair of the commission.  “It’s really half a tree,” she said. In addition, two weeping cherry trees would likely be removed to construct a sidewalk

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Without Detailed Designs,’Smoke on the Water,’ Hits Turbulence in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant slated for the former Dock and Dine property on College Ave., hit an obstacle Monday night when the Architectural Review Board agreed that the project application was incomplete and asked for a landscape plan that complied with regulations, elevations of the food trailers, and a site plan showing the locations of tables, tents and other equipment.  The board’s questions began during a zoom presentation about the restaurant — which will use towable trailers for food prep, storage, and bar service — by Ed Cassella, an attorney of Old Saybrook

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Sculptor Robert Rohm in Providence

PROVIDENCE — Rebar was a delicate drawing tool in the hands of sculptor Robert Rohm, whose show “Down to Earth: Robert Rohm Sculpture, 1963-2013” is running through April 25 at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence.  At the beginning of the show are Rohm’s large pieces based on the figure — oversized hands, a shoulder, a series of arms, a torso, a leg — all forms in mid-gesture, bending, moving, cradling, reaching.  Rohm gave each piece “skin” by covering the flexed and shaped rebar with steel mesh and then layering encaustic, a pigmented hot wax, over areas of the mesh.

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Gas Station Expansion Meets Opposition in East Hampton Hearing

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EAST HAMPTON — The owner of the Citgo gas station and Food Bag convenience store at 1 Colchester Ave. has applied for change of zoning for two adjacent residential properties, creating a larger footprint for the business to expand. If approved, 157 Main Street and 5 Colchester Ave would be re-zoned from residential to commercial property. The owner, Atlantis Marketing Group of Mount Vernon, N.Y., has requested that after the change in zoning, the three parcels be merged into one.  A petition supporting “remodel and improvements” of the store — circulated by the Atlantis Marketing Group, known as AMG — 

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Scaled-back Zoning Legislation Advances in Connecticut General Assembly

HARTFORD — The state legislature’s Planning and Development Committee approved a scaled-down version of zoning legislation proposed by Desegregate CT in an 8-hour zoom session Wednesday. Missing from S.B. 1024, was section 6, which included new rules regarding transit oriented development, language that allowed “as of right” mixed-use and multifamily developments within one-half mile of a town’s primary transit station. Section six also would have allowed multifamily housing or at least two types of “middle housing” within one-quarter mile of at least one main street corridor in towns with a population of at least 7,500.  Also absent from the approved

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Legislature to Hold Wednesday Hearing on Raft of Housing and Zoning Legislation

HARTFORD — A raft of zoning and housing bills introduced in the state legislature since January turn on key points concerning the balance of home rule and state control, as well as issues of housing affordability, racial integration and equity. A number of these bills have received hearings variously in Transportation, Planning and Development, Housing and Budget and Finance committees, and while legislators interviewed by CT Examiner expect that some provisions will eventually pass into law, very few of these bills will receive a vote and fewer still in their current form. “These are works in progress and there’s a

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Middle Haddam Couple Tailors One-of-a-Kind Safaris in Africa

MIDDLE HADDAM — “It’s almost like you’re on a different planet. The fact that the animals are in charge, you’re a guest there and you realize that pretty quickly. This is their habitat. This is their world, and you’re visiting,” said Pierre Faber, co-owner of Classic Africa, a safari company that custom designs trips to southern and eastern Africa.  “That’s a very different feeling from what you’re accustomed to if you’ve grown up in the developed world so it’s a very powerful experience,” he said. “People fall in love with it. A lot of our clients are very well traveled

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Developer Meets Unanimous Opposition at Contentious Middle Haddam Historic District Meeting

EAST HAMPTON — Despite warnings from the attorney for the developer, the Middle Haddam Historic District Commission will oppose a proposed zone change for a property located in the historic district at the April Planning and Zoning meeting. Developer William Wayne Rand, under the name Long Hill Estates, LLC, has proposed a zone change from R-2 to commercial for a new 1.5-acre lot that is currently part of 53 Long Hill Road, a 17.6-acre parcel that he purchased on Nov. 20, 2020. The proposed new lot is next to Sports on 66 at 265 West High St and is expected

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With Vernal Pool in Question, Hearing for Halls Rd Gas Station to Continue

OLD LYME — Lack of current data on a vernal pool located near the proposed Big Y Express gas station and convenience store delayed the decision of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission during a public hearing on the project Tuesday night.   A six-bay gas station and 2,100-square-foot convenience store are proposed for connecting properties at 99 Halls Road and 25 Neck Road that total 2.18 acres when combined. Essex Savings Bank, located on an adjacent property at 101 Halls Road, owns both parcels. The commission will decide whether or not the project will have significant impact on the vernal

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Saybrook Point Restaurant Clears First Hurdle, Meets Favorable Response

OLD SAYBROOK — Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant slated for the former waterfront site of Dock & Dine, received the first of three necessary regulatory approvals at Monday night’s meeting of the town’s Zoning Commission. The Zoning Commission unanimously approved a zoning text amendment that will allow an outdoor restaurant for a maximum of 180 calendar days in the SP-2 zone, known as Saybrook Point.  The amendment created a regulation that allows the applicant, Jon Kadama, owner of the Dock & Dine parcel at 145 College St., and chef Colt Taylor, to apply for a special exception —

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