Citing Changing Times, Available Land, Essex Selectmen Vote to Combine Planning and Zoning Commissions

ESSEX — The Board of Selectmen took a step towards combining the town’s planning and zoning commissions on Wednesday. First Selectman Norm Needleman said that with little available and sub-dividable land left in Essex, there isn’t enough planning work left to justify a two separate commissions. According to Needleman, about half of towns in Connecticut have combined their planning and zoning commissions The Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 to approve sending the proposal to a town meeting, to be held in-person and by Zoom on Oct. 7. According to Needleman, the younger generations generally don’t have the same desire to

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East Lyme Board of Selectmen Approve $985,000 in Bonding for Public Safety Building

EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve an additional $985,000 in bonding to fund renovations of the public safety building in their regular meeting Wednesday night. The additional funding would bring the total amount of money borrowed for the project to $5.98 million, with the remainder of the $7.2 million cost paid for by FEMA disaster relief funds for Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy received in August. The Board of Finance will decide whether to approve the additional bonding in a special meeting on Thursday night. If approved, the spending would then go to a

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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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Westbrook Debates Mural Design by Tony Falcone

Westbrook is trying to liven up its downtown business district with an outdoor mural, a project that has drawn both support and criticism from residents.  The project is a three-and-a-half-year-old effort between the Town Center Revitalization Committee and the Economic Development Committee. They recently created an online survey, available on the town website, that allows residents to vote on their favorite of two potential paintings. The winner will be featured on the wall of the Turtle Cafe on Westbrook Place in Westbrook’s downtown.  Both murals include a rendering of David Bushnell’s submarine, the Turtle, known for being the first submarine

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Old Lyme Zoning Commission Postpones Vote on Synthetic Turf Field

OLD LYME — The Old Lyme Zoning Commission voted to postpone a vote on the proposed Lyme-Old Lyme turf field at Monday night’s meeting. “I wonder why this didn’t go to our engineer, I don’t feel confident to evaluate drainage,” said Jane Cable, a member of the Old Lyme Zoning Commission. “This is just all drainage.” Every commission member present agreed that they needed more information and voted to postpone the vote to the October meeting. The $2 to $3 million project, which has been in discussion for years, passed the Inland Wetlands Commission in Old Lyme this past May.

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Despite the Changes, Lyme-Old Lyme Students Say They Are Glad to be Back

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It was quiet. Not your typical hustle and bustle of chattering students showing off new outfits, sharing summertime stories and class schedules. Instead, everyone – teachers and students alike – seemed nervous.   “It’s a really hard thing to put a name to, because it was the first time I ever felt that. Even though there were kids and people in the building and it should’ve been filled with that spirit and that energy of the first day of school, everybody was very hesitant and tentative and not sure what to expect,” said Marc Vendetti, a sixth grade English teacher at

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East Lyme Police Report Rise in Reported Opioid-Related Overdoses

East Lyme has seen an unusually high number of overdoses in the last two months, East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein reported at a meeting of the town’s Police Commission on Thursday night.  Out of a total of 15 reported overdoses in East Lyme in 2020, seven occurred between July 1 and September 10, compared to three during the same period in 2019. Additionally, two of the three deaths attributed to overdoses this year occurred between July and September.  Finkelstein told CT Examiner that the majority of these overdoses were caused by heroin or fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to

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Deep River Seeks $119,000 STEAP Grant for Information and Communications Technology

DEEP RIVER — Instead of new sidewalks, this year Deep River is hoping to receive a $119,000 Small Town Economic Assistance (STEAP) grant from the state to assist the town in making meetings more accessible to the public. “With this proposed request we will have a couple of cameras and microphones so that people on zoom will be able to hear and see those at the meeting and those in the town hall will be able to hear and see those on zoom,” said Angus McDonald, first selectman of Deep River. Six months ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic policies moved

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East Lyme Board of Finance Approves $1.2 Million Compromise for Public Safety Complex

EAST LYME — Citing other priorities the money could be used for, the East Lyme Board of Finance did not approve using the full $1.5 million in FEMA reimbursement from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy to help renovate the former Honeywell Office building into a police and public safety complex. Instead, the board approved appropriating $1.2 million of FEMA funds for the public safety building by a 5-1 vote Wednesday night. The vote came as a compromise as board members pared down the referral from the Board of Selectmen to use about $1.5 million in disaster recovery funds to fill part

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Board Of Selectmen Debate Sewers, a Resolution on Racism, and Sidewalks (UPDATED)

The Old Lyme Board of Selectmen held a public hearing last night to vote on whether to grant an easement for sewers to be installed by Old Lyme and three chartered beach communities. The system would establish a shared trunk sewer, pump station and force main between Old Lyme and the communities of Old Lyme Shores Beach, Old Colony Beach and Miami Beach. The pipes would run along Hartung Place, cross Hartford Avenue and Swan Avenue to reach the shared pump station at the corner of Pond Road and Portland Road. The shared force main would run up Portland Avenue

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COVID Forces Temporary Closure of Valley Regional High School

ESSEX/DEEP RIVER/CHESTER — Two positive cases of COVID-19 among students at Region 4’s Valley Regional High School forced the school to shutter and resume fully-remote learning for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  “We closed VRHS for two days this week, yesterday and today, to allow for contact tracing and the deep cleaning of the building,” explained Brian White, superintendent of Region 4 Schools, in a statement to CT Examiner. “This decision was made in concert with local health authorities and the State of Connecticut DPH.” In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID, the district is following a

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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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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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Groton Town Council Debates Townwide Sewers and Water

GROTON — The Groton Town Council Committee of the Whole discussed the regulatory barriers and costs of extending sewer service throughout the town during its Tuesday night meeting. Councilor Joe Zeppieri, who raised the possibility of extending municipal sewer to the entire town of Groton, said that in the course of campaigning, residents in the northern neighborhoods of Groton complained to him that they paid a sewer tax, but didn’t have any sewer. Zeppieri also said that during a recent move he noticed that houses with municipal sewer and water connections were worth more than houses on septic and wells.

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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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Essex Zoning Officials Consider Professional Offices, Main Street Zoning and Wetlands Referrals

ESSEX — One proposed rule change the Essex Zoning Commission is considering would give more leeway to properties split between two Essex Village zones. The commission is considering five rule changes, and started public hearings on three of them at its Monday meeting on August 17, including a regulation to adjust the two main zones in Essex Village. The other two changes were referred to the Planning Commission for comment before opening a public hearing. Properties along Main Street in Essex Village are primarily zoned either as Essex Village or Village Residence. The Essex Village zone covers property immediately abutting

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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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‘Living Shoreline’ off Fenwick Approved, Includes Granite, Dune and Tidal Marsh

More than a year after the waters of the Long Island Sound breached a sand dune offshore of Fenwick, the Lynde Point Land Trust living shoreline project was approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the local zoning commission. The project will span 450 feet of coastline and include granite sills, new fill, tidal marsh creation, a restored dune with native plantings and a cobble beach in front of the property. The project will also relocate Crab Creek within the marsh in an attempt to prevent future damage to the dunes. “The

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Formica and Cheeseman Announce Long-Delayed $1.73 Million FEMA Reimbursement for East Lyme

EAST LYME — Nearly eight years after Hurricane Sandy and nine years after Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on the Connecticut shoreline, East Lyme finally received a combined $1.73 million reimbursement check from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Those two hurricanes encompassed a lot of my time in the town of East Lyme and my tenure as first selectman,” said State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme. “I pushed FEMA very hard along with now-Representative Holly Cheeseman to qualify and now it’s finally paid off.” Nearly every other shoreline town – including Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, all the way down to

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East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency Delays Decision on Buffer Expansion to 500 Feet

EAST LYME — The East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency held off a decision on a proposed expansion to its review area after accepting several scientific articles and other exhibits into the record at a hearing on Monday night. The agency continued a public hearing on its proposal to extend its upland review area from 100 feet around inland wetlands and watercourses, to 500 feet. Two members of the public spoke in opposition to the change, but most of the new information Monday was brought by members of the agency. During a lengthy first hearing in July, where some critics questioned

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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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99% of Old Lyme Loses Electricity — Tops in Connecticut — as Emergency Warning System Goes Silent

Within hours of Tropical Storm Isaias hitting the shoreline of Connecticut on Tuesday more than 99 percent of residents and businesses in Old Lyme had lost power. Two days later, 78 percent are still in the dark. Statewide, Old Lyme was the municipality with the highest percentage of outages and East Lyme had the highest number of customers without power. By 4 p.m. “we lost all our ability to communicate on Tuesday,” said Dave Roberge, the emergency director of Old Lyme, on Thursday morning. “We lost phone, internet, electronic communication and were unable to send out a reverse 911 until

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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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After a Family Tragedy, Cove Landing Marine Keeps Doing What They Have Been Doing

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LYME — The plan was always for Jennifer Ruhling or her brother to take over their father’s boat yard, but that time came sooner than expected. Ruhling said that it was her father’s dream to own a boat yard and he bought Cove Landing Marine on Hamburg Cove in Lyme in 1978. Either Ruhling or her brother at some point was supposed to come back to Lyme, work the yard with their father, and eventually take over. John Leonard, their father, died unexpectedly in a car crash on July 20, 2019, as he was driving to get more wire ties,

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Pawcatuck – Westerly: Together on the Border

It’s a border without a border. That’s how many in Westerly, RI, and adjacent Pawcatuck, CT, describe the dividing line between their two states. “On both sides of the river, we use the phrase “two states, two towns, one state of mind,” explained Danielle Chesebrough, first selectman of the Town of Stonington, which includes the small 3.4-square-mile village of Pawcatuck, named for the river running through it. Two different states, two communities and a shared downtown — Dan Morely, Policy Development Coordinator at the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, described the arrangement as maybe one-of-a-kind. “I believe Pawcatuck/Westerly is

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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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