Shoreline Gateway Committee Proposal to Board of Selectmen
A Proposal by the Town of Old Lyme Economic Development Commission
The Shoreline Gateway: Revitalizing Shore Road and the Sound View Village District
January 20, 2022
Old Lyme residents have long treasured our shoreline location. With sandy beaches, salt marsh, estuarial inlets, and clear views of Long Island Sound and New York, our shoreline has been not only a treasured ecological beauty, but a key attraction for Old Lyme's summer economy.
Additionally, many regional residents of inland locations invest in properties or plan a vacation to enjoy a relaxed getaway at the shore. Some previous summer residents have found spending their retirement full-time in Old Lyme's beach neighborhoods to be ideal. The vast majority of homeowners in the beach community invest in the upkeep of their homes and add to the collective curb appeal of the area.
At odds with the care and pride of the residential property owners in the area, the commercial areas - including a once vibrant Route 156 corridor stretching from the Mile Creek (where the former Gulf Station still sits) east to the Police Station and Hartford Avenue - have been wracked with significant issues including economic decline, parking problems, public nuisances, and even blight over an extended period of time. Out of town investors sit on empty commercial properties along Route 156 (in some cases for over ten years) which projects an image of declining economic vitality. Our Shoreline Gateway corridor should represent and support shoreline living at its best in Old Lyme.
Often revitalization efforts are a complicated house of cards in which positive change can only happen if other issues are first addressed. Awaiting completion of the sewer projects while also addressing current parking issues in order to reinvigorate Hartford Avenue is a prime example.
The 2001 Sound View Economic Study commissioned by the EDC addressed many of the same issues and concerns we still face twenty years later. Positive progress includes the Sound View Village District (SVVD Zone) which ensures new Hartford Avenue investment will follow the traditional seaside village aesthetic already in place. The Community Connectivity Grant Committee along with the Sound View Commission continue their work to make Hartford Avenue more appealing.
All of Old Lyme benefits from a healthy, vibrant shoreline gateway to the beach communities. Our grocers, retailers, restaurants, the arts community, and other businesses welcome the additional customers during the summer months. The Shore Road commercial corridor also supports year-round residents who reside in the area.
We recommend refocusing on this important area and ensure there is a clear, achievable vision for the Gateway region. Specific, obtainable goals including a future sustainable balance between residential and commercial will be critical.
The EDC proposes the Board of Selectmen (BOS) creates a Shoreline Gateway Committee. The goals of the Committee will be to produce and articulate a Vision Statement with a clear "long view understanding" of how to achieve the vision. The Committee would recommend to the Board of Selectmen appropriate actions including a potential Master Plan for the area. The aim of the project is to conserve this important and historical area while positioning it for future generations to enjoy.
The Committee should first evaluate the current economic situation in the Gateway region and identify the economic variables that impact the region. The Committee should also revisit past studies and work done to date as well as work within the goals and ongoing efforts underway by the Community Connectivity Grant Committee, WPCA, the Sound View Commission, as well as any current activity in the area's commercial sector.
We realize there are many stakeholders in crafting a sustainable future for the Gateway region. We also recognize the Gateway area is a town asset and solutions must be addressed on a town-wide basis. The goal of the project is to reach consensus through an inclusive process, with sustainable solutions that meet the future needs of the town's residents, the environment, and businesses.
The EDC recommends the Committee be led by a Selectperson and include representation from the Sound View Commission, the beach associations, the Planning Commission, the EDC, the Affordable Housing Commission, the Zoning Commission, and Harbor Management. We strongly suggest a Zoning Officer be assigned to the Committee. Other potential members include a representative of the Old Lyme Police and a community design professional. The Board of Selectmen should determine how to include business owners in the Gateway area without creating potential conflicts of interest.
Proposed Action: The Economic Development Commission respectfully requests the Board of Selectmen to establish a new Shoreline Gateway Committee, and appoint members to the Committee who will report to the Board of Selectmen. The Shoreline Gateway Committee charge will be to create a vision and potential set of recommendations to preserve this important and historical area while positioning it for future generations to enjoy.