2:00 PM UPDATE: We have just heard that this meeting has been cancelled due the snow. It will be rescheduled but a date has not yet been determined.
Lyme Planning and Zoning (P & Z) Commission will host a Public Hearing on the revised zoning regulations during their meeting this evening (Monday) at 7:30 p.m. at Lyme Town Hall.
The regulations have been revised as a result of an application by Sunset Hill Vineyard for a special exception permit to offer tastings and sell wine at its Elys Ferry Rd. farm. When the P & Z Commission first discussed the application back in November last year, more than 175 residents attended the hearing with many of those present speaking out either for or against the proposal.
Those objecting to the proposal contended that it will be allowing a retail business in a part of town that is now solely residential and farming in character while, supporters argued that Lyme has successfully retained its rural identity in part precisely because it has encouraged farming enterprises.
The Commission never rendered a decision on the vineyard’s application because the owners withdrew the application — the P & Z Commission agreed to review its regulations to accommodate applications involving vineyards in the future.
With the release of the new regulations for discussion, the two schools of thought have already let their initial responses be known. Chip Dahlke, owner of Ashlawn Farm on Bill Hill Rd. has written a Facebook post stating, “The Town of Lyme has rewritten its regulations to allow vineyards to operate within the town.” He says, “I urge everyone to attend this meeting and support the change of regulations,” adding, “We’re almost there, but the vineyard needs your voice.”
Dahlke continues, “If you can’t attend and even if you can, also please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to express your support. This is important to keep the town open for agriculture and maintain its character, not simply to be another elitist community along the shoreline.”
He notes, “We need all the open space we can get,” and adds enthusiastically, “Cheers. Here’s to being able to enjoy a glass of local wine!”
Meanwhile, Laura and Kieran G. Mooney, who are neighbors of Sunset Hill Vineyard, sent LymeLine a statement on behalf of the Lyme Rural Protection Group, which reads as follows,
“The Lyme Rural Protection Group supports farming, agriculture and the maintenance of open spaces in Lyme, all of which are clearly endorsed in the Lyme Plans of Conservation and Development. (POCD 1964-2014)
The POCD states that “Lyme has continued to remain quietly “off the beaten path” and, according to respondents to both recent surveys (2001,2014), they intend to “keep it that way.” (POCD Section 1) While the POCD encourages farming, agriculture and the maintenance of open spaces within the town, it also discourages tourism and the development of commercialism, including retail, outside the existing commercially zoned areas in Hamburg and Hadlyme such as those proposed by the change in regulations.
As supporters of the POCD we do not encourage the re-zoning of residential areas to permit commercial and retail enterprises nor do we support tourism. The State of Connecticut clearly views vineyards as tourism and vital to the growing tourist industry supported by the State. Hence the establishment of The Winery Trail. Consequently the group opposes several of the proposed changes and additions to the Town of Lyme Zoning Regulations as they have been currently drafted because we believe that they will fundamentally change the character of the town.
We would encourage the town to maintain those regulations that currently support farming, agriculture and open spaces, and to restrict all commercial and retail activities associated with farm wineries to currently zoned commercial areas in harmony with the opinions expressed by the respondents to the POCD.”