OLD LYME PLANNING COMMISSION
THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2019
PRESENT WERE: Harold Thompson, John Curtis, Alternate Barbara Gaudio seated for Steven Ross, and Alternate Don Willis seated for Robert McCarthy.
The commission began their meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.
ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION IN 2019 – ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
Harold Thompson stated the proposal from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) was discussed at the December 18, 2018 Board of Finance meeting. Thompson stated the purpose of the presentation to the Board of Finance was to get funding approved to support the CERC proposal. He noted the Board of Finance expressed concern about rushing into the process of funding another study without a definitive plan. Thompson stated a motion was made by the Board of Finance to recommend approval of the $44,000 for the CERC proposal to a Town Meeting scheduled in January. The motion failed.
Thompson stated several of the members a plan is needed and this plan should be fully supported by the Land Use Commissions prior to moving forward.
Jon Curtis stated the plan may become part of the budge conversations for the fiscal year.
Thompson stated in the interim he has had several conversations with Heather Gagnon, Chairman of the Economic Development Committee (EDC). Thompson stated she has been on the committee for seven years and served as chair for the last year prior to resigning a week ago. Thompson stated the EDC had a mission to reach out to local businesses and generate surveys to find out what the local businesses wanted or needed in terms of support from the EDC and what attracted these business owners to Old Lyme and what would keep them here.
The commission discussed the pros and cons of a town planner and the prior experience the town had with that situation.
Gaudio asked where statistics could be obtained about the amount of people moving into town versus moving out.
Thompson stated there is perhaps a lot of this information already available through the RiverCog and Lower Council of Governments and other agencies.
John Curtis stated that as far as River Cog is concerned they did have a 2016 Growth Smart Plan which was the Economic Study for the region. He said it focused more on the broad picture. He said he would look to see if there was any statistical data available and if so would forward the information.
Thompson stated perhaps we could get a list of the studies done by the local supporting agencies and how they would pertain to Old Lyme. Thompson thought that some of the information proposed by the CERC proposal may be available due to other studies and may help define our objectives.
Thompson stated he asked Ms. Gagnon if she had ever attended a Planning or Zoning meeting. She indicated she had not. Thompson stated prior to Gagnon’s resignation he invited her to attend one of our meetings in an effort to work together.
Thompson expressed his belief that the Plan of Conservation and Development is utilized when it is beneficial for someone’s objective but not looked at as a strong independent document.
Thompson expressed concern that the Land Use Commissions must all support a plan to allow for uses and expansions in the town. Given past experiences between some of the land use commission’s this is a lofty goal.
Barbara Gaudio asked if anyone has a sense of what Old Lyme would like to come into town. Thompson indicated he did not think we had that information. He also said there used to be a lot of businesses on Lyme Street which have since relocated to Halls Road. He further stated some towns have gone to structural zoning which allows any use in the building as long as the exterior of the building doesn’t change.
The commission discussed some of the various issues in town with current businesses such as The Chocolate Shell being limited to what they could do at their location. The commission discussed that the village used to be far more vibrant and has changed. Thompson also discussed the issue of whether the locals would support stores in Old Lyme and if not how would they attract people from the surrounding towns.
The commission felt that it is basically at a standstill until a plan is developed that supports investing in the study.
Thompson asked the two selectmen present what would be the next step in the process. Chris Kerr stated that Heather Gagnon, Chairman of the Board of Finance came before the Board of Selectmen in November and presented the plan which ultimately did not move forward at the December Board of Finance Meeting. He stated since Ms. Gagnon’s resignation last week things are in limbo.
Selectmen Nosal stated a year ago July as the Halls Road Improvement Committee was getting further along they engaged CERC who explained their functions and what they done for other towns. Selectwomen Nosal stated she felt that engaging the help of experts and consultants would help them define what is needed and wanted. For example, if there was a desire to develop marketing plans that would attract people to come to Old Lyme.
Selectwomen Nosal stated she felt we should start looking at the plan again. She said it was raised at the Selectmen’s Meeting to see what aspects of the plan the Board of Selectmen think would be useful in smaller chunks instead of implementing the whole plan Thompson asked if it would make sense to go back and find out what studies have already been done and review those. Selectwomen Nosal stated she felt CERC would have that information. Thompson stated he was not comfortable with the proposal and expressed they were reviewing regional information and not specific town information.
Thompson asked Selectwomen Nosal for clarification as to her statement of where the people moving into the area would be coming from. Selectwomen Nosal stated she was talking about engineers employed by Electric Boat. Barbara Gaudio asked how high end are the positions. She expressed concern as to Old Lyme being an affordable option. Selectwomen Nosal stated we need this data to determine what people are looking for and whether we can make changes in zoning if needed to make it more affordable for these people Barbara Gaudio stated the affordability issues is what she is hearing from the employees of Electric Boat and they are not coming to Old Lyme because of the cost. Thompson stated they hire at an entry level at a good salary and once they are settled and based
here they become very tight fisted in terms of any pay raises. Barbara Gaudio stated that EB currently has a hiring freeze.
Selectmen Kerr stated people come to Old Lyme because of our great school system and he felt the need was to focus on business and offset the tax base. Selectmen Kerr stated the businesses on Lyme Street have all relocated to Halls Road; which is now our commercial district. He expressed concern about applications being denied that wanted to come to town.
Barbara Gaudio asked what the Zoning Commission has approved in the last 5 years that has been beneficial to the town in terms of Business Development.
Harold Thompson expressed concerns about some of the business located on the Shore Road such as the prior Gulf Station and Cherrystones.
Discussion ensued and the commission agreed they would wait for some further direction.
John Curtis stated he would be happy to send over the Growth Smart Study which was done with a consultant but did not review each town’s economic situation. John Curtis stated the residents of Old Lyme are supporting businesses but are often traveling over to Old Saybrook or East Lyme. He stated if the same options were available nearby the town could keep the tax and business revenue within town. He stated until a full economic study is done we just down know. He said the study would give a basis into which direction the town should proceed.
Harold Thompson stated there are no I-95 that indicate what services are available in our town. Even along Halls Road, there are no signs to indicate the businesses located on either side of the road.
The commission discussed that the zoning regulations prohibit signage on I-95. Kerr stated he felt there are businesses that would like to come into town but the process is difficult and often people are frustrated. Selectwomen Nosal stated the public is also invited to all public hearings and often attend and express their opinions so it is not just Land Use. Barbara Gaudio stated that often people don’t realize there are public hearings so how do we reach the people that might be in favor of the proposal. Barbara Gaudio discussed the issue in Old Saybrook when the bowling alley was no longer in existence she personally tried to get Whole Foods and Trader Joes but she noted for shoreline communities the radius is only half the rest is water. Therefore it is difficult to bring
business into the area.
The commission also discussed the long term plans for I-95 as well as the improvements to the individual exit ramps in the vicinity. -
READING AND APPROVAL OF THE DECEMBER MEETING MINUTES
Barbara Gaudio made a motion to waive the reading and approve the minutes as submitted. Don Willis seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.