October 20, 2014

Deadline for Mail-in Voter Registration is Tomorrow

The Old Lyme Registrars of Voters, Sylvia Peterson and Donald Tapper, have made the following announcement regarding the upcoming Nov. 4 election:

  • Oct. 21 is the deadline for mail-in voter registration.  Oct. 28 is the deadline for in-person voter registration. Voters are encouraged to check their status with the Registrars’ office if they have moved, changed their name or not voted in several years.
  • The Registrars’ office will be open:
  • Tuesday, Oct. 28  from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.  This is the last session for admission of electors for those who become 18 years of age, U.S. citizens, or residents of the town before Oct. 28, 2014.
  • Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for members of the armed forces or persons whose qualification as to age, citizenship or residence was attained after Oct. 28.

The Registrar’s office is located on Mezzanine Level of Town Hall.  For more information, call 860-434-1605 Ext. 226.  Regular office hours are Monday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Voter Registration applications are available at the Town Clerk’s office during regular Town Hall hours.



Large Turnout Sees Hains Park Boathouse Proposal Pass by 27 Votes


Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder addresses the audience in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium.

Around 180 people showed up at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School Monday night to vote on the question of whether an amount not to exceed $405,000 should be taken from the town’s surplus account to fund the overage on the construction of a new boathouse at Hains Park and also re-surfacing the basketball court.  First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder gave a presentation supporting the proposal, which she explained it was originally planned to fund from a Small Towns Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant of $475,000, which was approved in 2013.

She commented that a long-range Master Plan for the park had been developed, but not yet approved, stressing, “This is not a final plan,” noting that the proposed plan for the boathouse was, “Driven by function,” according to architect Nina Cuccio Peck.

Justifying why such a significant cost overrun had occurred compared to the STEAP grant amount, Reemsnyder said the original plan [submitted to the state] had included the addition of one bay to the existing building, rather than its demolition and reconstruction, which as now proposed. She explained, “The current building configuration did not support the program.”

Artist's rendering of the proposed boathouse.

Artist’s rendering of the proposed boathouse.

Reemsnyder said the plans would benefit the community because members of the public would be allowed to store their kayaks in the new boathouse. The current boathouse is owned by Regional District 18 but is being transferred to ownership of the town. Also, although improvements to the docks, which were in the original scope of work, are now excluded from the current proposal, renovation of the park’s basketball court has now been included.

After the presentation, Attorney Marilyn Clark, who moderated the meeting, opened the floor to questions from the audience. These ranged from whether the second floor, which is intended to be available for public use, was handicapped accessible (No) to who would hold the keys for the property (District 18, the Rowing Association and town officials) and whether the bathrooms inside the boathouse would be available to the public (No.)

Dr. Gregory Hack, Co-President of the Old Lyme Rowing Association, responds to a question at Monday's meeting.

Dr. Gregory Hack, Co-President of the Old Lyme Rowing Association, responds to a question at Monday’s meeting.

One resident asked, “How are you going to control growth out there [on the lake]?” to which Co-President of the Old Lyme Rowing Association (OLRA) Greg Hack responded that the club “actually has 37 or 38 boats” (not the 53 representing the boathouse capacity) and they already, “restrict hours of use, adding to rippled laughter, “We don’t want to have a total armada out there.” The questioner commented, “It’s an awful lot of money for the enjoyment of a select few,” to which Hack rejoined, “It’s a legacy gift … which will touch many more than the 100 involved this year” over subsequent generations.

Steven Cinami wanted to know why the boathouse was being designed for 53 boats when only 38 were owned and a total increase in the size of the association had been predicted to be 10 percent? He also questioned why the bathrooms were being renovated in a place with restricted access and were not being made accessible to all? Peck responded that building code required the construction of toilets in the boathouse.

Another resident was concerned about the opportunity cost of this expenditure by the town, asking, “If the town spends thi s much money on housing boats, are they going to have enough money for the lake?” Reemsnyder responded that the town already had formed a Rogers Lake Weed Committee that was “actively working” on that problem.

Former First Selectman Tim Griswold cautioned against use of the town’s surplus noting it’s, ‘Not a cookie jar,” and asked whether usage fees would be charged for rowers who are not from Old Lyme. Janet Sturges said she had been asked to clarify the board of finance’s position on the proposal. She stated that the board of finance had not approved the project, but simply recommended it be sent to a Special Town Meeting.

Voting by paper ballot was a lengthy process.

Voting by paper ballot was a lengthy process.

After a protracted period of voting by paper ballot, Clark announced the result (100 Yes, 73 No) to whoops of joy and much hugging by supporters of the project. A beaming Paul Fuchs, OLRA Co-President, told LymeLIne, “We’re just really excited we’ve got the support from the town on this. It’s gratifying to have the support of the town — we appreciate it.”


Proposal to Install Sewers in Old Lyme Faces New Challenges From Residents, Planning Commission


The issue of sewers in the Town of Old Lyme is becoming an increasingly complex – and thorny – one.  At a Public Information Meeting hosted last Tuesday by the Town’s Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), the project engineers, Woodard and Curran, and First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, a packed house of over 70 residents fired question after question – including some heated exchanges — until the meeting finally ended close to 10:15 p.m.  Then, on Wednesday, in a related development, the Old Lyme Planning Commission took a vote at a Special Meeting not to endorse the proposed sewer project.

The engineers had opened the information meeting with a Powerpoint presentation based on these slidesIn summary, a Special Town Meeting is planned on Monday, Oct. 27, at which approval will be sought from residents to authorize the Town to bond the costs (between $42 and $47 million) for the proposed sewer project, which provides for installation of sewers in the project area (which include all the Town’s beach associations, except Point o’ Woods) and their extension to East Lyme and Waterford with treatment at the New London Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Although there were questions raised on a wide variety of issues during the evening, the main points of controversy appeared to revolve around three matters – who would be paying for the project, why the vote was being held at a time when most seasonal residents were out of town or state, and why White Sand and Hawks Nest Beaches had been included in the project when there was no record of pollution from their locations.

The first speaker in the question and answer session asked, “Why are you spending our money when we’re not here?” continuing, “Why wasn’t a referendum chosen so you could have absentee votes?”  Reemsnyder responded that they had tried, “Very hard,” to have the upcoming town meeting in the summer, but it had simply not proved possible to finish the research.


Several speakers were concerned that the town would end up funding a significant portion of the project, although the intention is that sewered property owners will repay the Town in full for the bond, which the Town will be obliged to take out to initiate the project.  Jeff Flower asked, “How can the Town not be paying?  Who picks up the slack?”  Another resident from West End Drive had a different take on the expense questioning why the costs were not being shared with the Town, noting, “The beach people had to pay for the high school.”

Sandy Garvin of Hawk’s Nest Beach asked pointedly, “What evidence is there that we’re polluting?” adding, “I’d like to see proof of your accusations that we’re polluting.”  Barry Harrison of White Sand Beach asked in the same vein, “Why did the Town offer up Hawk’s Nest Beach and White Sand Beach when there was no scientific evidence of pollution?”  Garvin noted that the inclusion of these two beaches,”… is adding much cost to the project,” suggesting to applause, “Let Miami and Old Colony [Beaches] do their own thing”  Those two beach associations along with Old Lyme Shores are already exploring sewer options separately, and Point o’ Woods has already installed them.

Meanwhile, the Old Lyme Planning Commission held a Special Meeting last Wednesday during which they made a motion to send a letter to the board of selectmen and the WPCA stating that the Commission cannot endorse the proposed sewer project for the following reasons:

  1. Lack of charter, regulations and documentation.
  2. Not consistent with the Town Plan of Conservation and Development.
  3. Lack of documented pollution on town controlled areas.
  4. Lack of information for outstanding questions.

The vote supporting the motion was unanimous with five votes in favor and none against.

There will be one more Public Information Session on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall prior to the vote at the Special Town Meeting on Oct. 27.


Meeting Tonight on Boathouse/Haines Park Improvements

This evening, Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m., also in the Town Hall Meeting Room, the Boathouse/Hains Park Improvements Committee and Board of Selectmen will host the first of two two Public Information Sessions to review the request for additional funding of $405,000 from the Town of Old Lyme for the project.

There will be a short Powerpoint Presentation on the history of the project, the current state of the Boathouse and Hains Park, and the proposed work to be done.  Following the presentation, there will be open discussion and an opportunity to have questions answered.

The second Public Information Session is scheduled for Sat., Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. in Town Hall Meeting Room.

A Special Town Meeting to vote on the allocation of $405,000 for the project is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m.



A Closer Look at the Sound View Bike Path, Revitalization Project

Proposed route of new bike path.

Proposed route of new bike path.

In a recent interview with LymeLine, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder stated, “The Old Lyme town government has been attempting to pursue renovations of the Sound View beach since May of 2013.”   The desired outcome of the renovations will be a bike path that leads from exit 70 on the Baldwin Bridge following I-95, down Rte. 156 to Hartford Avenue.

This will lead bikers to what will be the new parking lot.  The community lot on Hartford Avenue, across from Sound View beach, will be redeveloped into a picnic area.  The lot will maintain 44 parking spaces, and the rest will be transformed into grassy regions for a more park-like feel.  The town was awarded a grant to revitalize the area, with instructions for the money to be put into specific stages.

The federal grant covers up to 80 percent of the project, and the town is responsible for the remaining 20 percent.  The amount of $148,500 has already been approved by the grant, but the construction costs will be determined after the design phase is complete.

The first stage is for engineers to “complete the ‘picture’ of the final product,” noted Reemsnyder.  They will draw up designs for the park area.  These documents will then go to contractors, who will decide on the cost of the project.  The bike path will need to be mapped and signed off as well.  Once all of the designs for the park and path are finalized and approved, the second stage of the project can begin.

The second stage is construction, which is projected to start in the fall of 2015.  Town meetings will be held at various points throughout the project, such as the one on Wednesday,July 16, which “went well” according to Reemsnyder.  Before construction can begin, the allocation for construction cost funds will need to be approved at one of these town meetings.

The revitalization is hoped to enhance tourism, improve business, and connect the beach to the rest of the town in a more accessible and friendly manner.

On the town website, under current projects, there is a link to more information regarding the proposal.


Story from ‘The Day': Old Lyme Votes to Accept Donated Land for Recreation

A land parcel off Halls Road with access to the Lieutenant River will soon belong to the town for public recreational use.

Residents voted at a special town meeting Tuesday to accept the donated land, about a half-acre in size, from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Read the full story in an article by Kimberly Drelich published July 30 on TheDay.com


Join a Business Breakfast Today to Discuss Sound View Changes, All Welcome

The Town of Old Lyme and the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce are hosting a business breakfast this Wednesday, July 16, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Shoreline Community Center on Hartford Avenue.  Topics under discussion will include:

  • Sound View: Changes Ahead
  • Sound View Bike Path/Revitalization
  • Coastal Wastewater Management Project

All are welcome to this free event and a continental breakfast will be provided.

Free parking will be available in the Community Center parking lot across the street from the Center, and along Hartford Avenue)

A reply is appreciated to selectmansoffice@oldlyme-ct.gov or  860 434 1605, ext. 210


Old Lyme Residents Asked to Complete Recycling Survey to Help Determine Future Policy

recycle_logoThe Connecticut State Legislature recently approved increasing the State’s recycling goal from the current rate of 40 percent to 60 percent by the year 2024.  In response, the Town of Old Lyme is evaluating its recycling and trash services, and considering options to motivate residents to reduce trash through increased recycling.

The Town of Old Lyme has created a survey to gather information about your household trash and recycling habits. It will take less than five minutes to complete and will provide town officials with valuable information on which to base future policy.

Here is the link to survey:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1FzfaTeb4pQFUdMRkoaDvCwzjW0cDJ6kI5u_wSgju53M/formResponse

We urge all our readers, who are residents of Old Lyme, to complete it as soon as possible.


New KI Tablets Available for Old Lyme Residents

potassium_iodidePotassium Iodide tablets (known as KI) with an expiration date of January 2020 are now available at the Old Lyme Town Hall for Old Lyme residents. KI is a form of iodine that protects the thyroid gland when there is a chance of exposure to a harmful amount of radioactive iodine.

Connecticut State Health department officials will direct the ingestion of KI if it is warranted.

Boxes containing 20 KI tablets, along with information sheets on the use of the tablets, are available in the Selectman’s Office, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


No Beer at the Beach: Police Take Notice

Over the past weekend June 7-8, Old Lyme Town Police issued four State of Connecticut infractions to minors for being in possession of alcohol.

In addition, 13 adults were issued Town of Old Lyme tickets for being in possession of alcoholic beverages on the beaches in Sound View.


Old Lyme Trash/Recycling Schedules for Remainder of Week

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, trash and recycling pickup schedules in Old Lyme for the week commencing May 26 are as follows:

Trash pick-up moves up a day until Thursday and Friday, which remain on schedule.

Recycling pickup moves up a day until Friday, which remains on schedule.

All trash/recycling containers should be placed curbside by 6 a.m. on your scheduled day.


Old Lyme Residents Vote on Town Budget Tonight

The Town of Old Lyme holds its Annual Budget Meeting tomorrow, Monday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium.  A vote will be taken on the town budget, which includes Old Lyme’s share of the Region 18 school’s budget, which was approved in a referendum in early May. Click to read the full agenda at this link.


Old Lyme Town Hall Closed Today, But No Change to Trash, Recycling Schedules

The Old Lyme Town Hall and Transfer Station are both closed today, Good Friday, April 18.

The Transfer Station will be open on Saturday, April 19.

There is no change to the trash or recycling pick-up schedules on Friday, April 18.


Old Lyme Historic District Commission Meets This Morning

Notice is hereby given that the Old Lyme Historic District Commission (HDC) will hold Public Hearings today, Monday, April 7, beginning at 9 a.m. in the second floor conference room at the Old Lyme Memorial Town Hall, 52 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT. The HDC will hear and act on the following Certificate of Appropriateness applications:

  • 75 Lyme Street, Awwa: fence
  • 26 Lyme Street, Pedersen: fence

The public is invited to attend and express its views.


Raising the Flag in Old Lyme for ‘National Donate Life Month’

Donate life 2
Around a dozen people gathered outside Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall on Tuesday morning, April 1, to acknowledge and celebrate the start of ‘National Donate Life Month’ (NDLM), which was instituted by Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003.  Celebrated in April each year, NDLM features an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

Donate life 1

Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder welcomed everyone and then led a moment of silence prior to the flag being raised.  Tom Kasprzak from East Lyme  (left in photo above), who is a Community Relations Specialist for CL&P, lost his daughter Mary (aged 15) nine years ago.  He and his wife, Joanne, donated Mary’s organs to other people, thus saving the lives of five people who received her organs.

Donate life 4

Lymes’ Senior Center Coordinator Stephanie Lyon (pictured left in photo above) noted her mother received a new heart five years ago.  The procedure changed her mother’s life and she now regularly swims for up to one and a half hours each day.

Donate life 3

The “Donate Life” flag will fly at the town hall throughout the month of April.  Kasprzak said, “By raising the flag we honor the thousands of donors who have saved the lives of countless others through their simple acts of kindness and compassion.”


Cease and Desist Upheld Against ‘Chocolate Shell’

After the hours of testimony in two Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals meetings and an Old Lyme Zoning Commission meeting, it took less than 30 minutes for the members of the ZBA to determine that there has been a change of use at The Chocolate Shell and to uphold Zoning Enforcement Officer Ann Brown’s Cease and Desist order on the café being operated in the store by owner Barbara Crowley.

Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Judith McQuade stressed that members must simply answer the question, “Has the use changed?  That’s what we want to know.”

Karen Coniff responded, “I do think there has been a use change.  I appreciate what she [Crowley] is doing there.  I just don’t think it’s the same use.”

Noting that although the café is, “a really nice thing for the town,” Kip Kotzan said, “I can’t say I really like it, so I’m going to pass on it [enforcing the regulations.]  He cited the re-doing of the space, the change of hours, the introduction of wi-fi and the extension of the fence as indicators of a change of use at the store.

Mary Stone similarly stressed that the board should confine their decision to “a very narrow area,” and then also expressed the view, “There has definitely been an expansion of use.”

McQuade said it was important to distinguish between an ‘expansion’ of use and a ‘change’ of use, as the former might be permissible.

Commenting, “It was a whole different proposition,” after the café opened, Arthur E. Sibley noted, “It wasn’t there before,” adding, “The decision was made in this town to preserve Lyme Street as much as they possibly could … I don’t think there’s any doubt this is a change of use … this operation is not really compliant and I don’t think we should allow it.”

Kotzan summed up that the café is “pretty clearly a change of use,” but stressed again that the board was, “not making a judgement that it was a bad thing.”  He suggested that if the process were followed, a permit application for the café might be approved by the Zoning Commission in due course.

When McQuade called the vote after a motion by Sibley was made to uphold the Cease and Desist, the vote was unanimous.




Old Lyme ZBA to Make ‘Chocolate Shell’ Decision Tonight

The appeal by Chocolate Shell owner Barbara Crowley against the Cease and Desist order on her business serving coffee is the only item on the agenda in an Open Voting Session at tonight’s Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Special Meeting starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Meeting Room of the Town Hall.

The members of the ZBA will vote at the end of the Open Voting Session thus determining the future of the Cafe in the The Chocolate Shell.


Special Town Meeting in Old Lyme Tonight

A Special Town Meeting was held in Old Lyme this evening to consider the following agenda items:

  • To rescind the existing Chapter 187 of the Old Lyme code Design and Construction Standards adopted on 11/15/02 and to adopt new Design and Construction Standards for Public Improvements as recommended by the Board of Selectmen and the Planning Commission and to adopt pursuant there to an amended Chapter 144 of the Old Lyme Code Construction and Acceptance of Roads.  Copies are available in the Old Lyme Town Clerk’s office for inspection.
  • To authorize the expenditure of an amount not to exceed $148,500 for Phase I of the Rte. 156 Bike Path/Sound View Improvement Project, as recommended by the Board of Selectmen. A Connecticut Department of Transportation grant will cover a portion of this expenditure.
  • To authorize the expenditure of the sum of $13,000 for a kiosk at the Town Parking Lot in Sound View, as recommended by the Board of Selectmen.
  • To authorize the appropriation of an amount not to exceed $478,000 for the Hains Park Boathouse renovation and expansion project, as recommended by the Board of Selectmen, which project will be funded by a STEAP (Small Towns Economic Assistance Program) grant in said amount.
  • To hear an updated presentation by the Board of Selectmen and the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority on the Wastewater Management Study.

Restaurant or Not? ‘Chocolate Shell’ Decision Deferred to Tuesday

The Chocolate Shell owner, Barbara Crowley, sits with her back to the audience at the table (left) in the town hall's packed meeting room Tuesday evening during the Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.

The Chocolate Shell owner, Barbara Crowley, sits with her back to the audience at the table (left) in the town hall’s packed meeting room Tuesday evening during the Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.

After three and a half hours of conflicting testimony and with two more items on the agenda still to discuss, the clock in Old Lyme’s Memorial Town Hall already stood at close to 11 p.m. Monday night.  The Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) was supposed to have a Open Voting Session following all three agenda items, but having spent so long on the first agenda item, they took the decision to defer their voting session to next Tuesday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m.

The agenda item that had consumed so much time, was the appeal by Barbara Crowley, owner of The Chocolate Shell on Lyme Street, against the Cease and Desist Order on her café.  Two lawyers battled verbally at the ZBA’s table, one  representing Crowley and the second hired by Ann Brown, the Old Lyme Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO).  A third lawyer entered the fray during public comment on behalf of the neighbors of The Chocolate Shell.

The legal arguments revolved over the minutiae of whether Crowley, as a result of installing a coffee machine, adding pastries, quiches and some other edible items to her product line and extending her morning opening hours, was operating a full-service restaurant, a take-out restaurant — or any restaurant at all.

Her attorney, Michael Cronin of Old Saybrook, after detailing the specifics of the property, including its “very small” size at 424 square feet and its long history, then quizzed Crowley on various aspects of her business.  He finally announced, “Looking at all the facts, this is not a restaurant.”

Cronin also remarked on two other businesses on Lyme Street that are selling coffee (the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe and Nightingale’s Acoustic Café), which in his words, “Go merrily on their way,” and have not faced zoning challenges.  He commented, “I don’t know why they are allowed and we are not,” adding, “We feel we may be the victim of some selective ordinance.”

Brown quickly countered that “The uses of all these buildings is (sic) different” and therefore the approvals are different.

Brown’s attorney, Eric Knapp, submitted, “This isn’t about intensity of use, but change of use … The reason we are here is that there were substantive changes of use.”  Brown clarified, “Heating, serving and preparing coffee” represents a change of use, confirming, “I do think it’s a take-out restaurant.”

Knapp added, “She [Crowley] is altering the underlying concept of the store,” at which point board member Arthur E. Sibley declared to ripples of laughter, “You’re not making any sense to me at all.”

Sibley pressed the point, asking, “What is the definition of a restaurant?” inquiring further, “Is the definition that this place is a restaurant?”

Knapp replied firmly, “There has been a change — she [The Chocolate Shell] was not a restaurant, but now she is.”

Subsequent exchanges explored whether the issue was the difference between hot and cold drinks to which Brown responded crisply, “It’s the preparation of the drinks that’s the problem.”

The legal sparring continued with Crowley at one point saying she had been told by Brown that if she (Crowley) could prove coffee had been served at any time previously in the store, then no zoning action would be required.  Crowley duly found a resident, Alison Mitchell, who “assured” Crowley that “coffee was available” many years previously when the shop was the Griswold Grocery Store.  Attorney Knapp submitted, however, that the use would be considered ‘abandoned’ in legal terms, “… if the use was discontinued without the intention to continue it.”

Finally ZBA Chairman Judith McQuade moved the proceedings forward by asking ZBA Secretary Mary Stone to summarize the approximately 30 pages of letters from the public regarding the matter.  Stone mentioned that one was “concerned about the tranquility of the neighborhood,” while another talked of the challenges facing a small business.  Stone concluded there were eight letters in support of the appeal against the Cease and Desist order and five against.

McQuade then opened Public Comment reminding speakers that the issue is not about, “Whether we like this facility [The Chocolate Shell]” and requesting speakers to, “Keep to the business of zoning,” or face the possibility, ‘We could be here all night.”

The first speaker was Charlotte Scott of Ferry Rd., who noted her ancestors had lived in Old Lyme since the 1700s.  She then stated, “This is one of the most embarrassing scenes I’ve ever witnessed.  We need new zoning laws.  There doesn’t seem to be a meeting of the minds — even on the committee.”  She added, “It’s absolutely outrageous to be spending this much time on such a petty issue.”

Craig Silver of Lyme St. spoke next, saying, “If it was anything that took away from Lyme Street, I’d complain.  My whole house overlooks it.  I’ve got a very big investment in Lyme Street.  I just can’t believe this is going on.”

Observing, “If people are concerned about tranquility,” Penny Oakley, also of Lyme Street, said they should consider,  “The traffic from the Congregational Church, the traffic from the Cooley Gallery.”  She said, “I don’t complain … there are a lot of bigger issues in Old Lyme that need dealing with,” citing drugs at the high school as being far more worrisome.

Another resident urged the ZBA to remember, “We’re not talking about the golden arches (a reference to McDonald’s) — we’re all confused.”  He noted, “The traffic from the church is horrendous …” and then added to much laughter, “… and I bet they serve coffee too!”

Stanford Brainerd of Lyme Street was the first to speak in support of the Cease and Desist.  He remarked that “the community operates under the rule of law,” and further noted that the law can often be inconvenient in ways such as the speed limit on Lyme Street.  Noting, “We are fortunate to have a professional Zoning Enforcement Officer in Old Lyme,” he added firmly, “This is not a popularity contest.  Obey the law.  Uphold the Cease and Desist.”

Stating first that he was an attorney representing the Schellens and Mallory households, Campbell Hudson then addressed the audience.  His lengthy argument rested on the definition of a full-service restaurant, which he said had been “inadequately discussed,” and moreover is “not a permitted use in a residential zone.”  Hudson listed numerous ways in which he felt the café was meeting the criterion and challenged Crowley’s estimate that only one percent of her customers sat at the store’s tables.  He argued there is, “Significant, long-term, regular use of tables.”

He cited other factors including, “consumption on the premises … 14 tables inside and out … a new entrance … a significant increase in parking … wi-fi connections,” to support his argument.  Contending, “There is an intention to make the place like a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts,” he stated, “Once something is permitted for one person, you’re powerless to stop it for anyone else,” asking the board to consider what the situation would be, “If she sells to someone else.”

Hudson also challenged Crowley’s contention that she only uses paper cups and plates, stating, “Ceramics have been used.”  To emphasize his point regarding the possible sale of the store, he later submitted to the board a Memorandum of Law accompanied by a series of photos, which included one ‘Photoshopped’ to show The Chocolate Shell replaced by a Dunkin Donuts.

Concluding, “Even if this were a permitted restaurant,” Hudson maintained a change of use has still occurred [requiring a permit] due to the extent to which the current use is different from the previous one and also the substantial changes in the nature and character of use of the facility.

Listing at least eight ways in which she believes The Chocolate Shell has changed its use, Jane Schellens of Academy Lane included the store’s expanded hours, people eating outside, two wi-fi connections, and a new entrance on Lyme Street, concluding, “This is about the law, the property and a significant change of use.”

Schellens’s husband, Tom, spoke briefly suggesting The Chocolate Shell should stay “where it is” and “the new entity [the cafe] move to a new location.”

Diane Mallory of Lyme Street also submitted there had been “a significant change of use” and “an intensification of business” at The Chocolate Shell, which she described as , “a charming and much-loved business.”  But she stressed, “It has changed its business,” adding, “If it hadn’t changed, we wouldn’t be here.”

Nancy Hutchinson of Squire Ave. in Old Lyme said, “Zoning and Zoning Enforcement are most important to maintain a town.”  She noted, “Old Lyme has a strategic Zoning Plan,” and “You shouldn’t just slip by that … because of popularity.”

Finally a resident pointed out there could be other reasons apart from The Chocolate Shell café that have caused the increase in traffic, such as the neighboring spa business.  She stated emphatically that this Zoning matter was “ill-focused and misdirected.”

Cronin quickly reviewed Hudson’s Memorandum of Law and associated photos, and briefly challenged much of the photographic evidence, concluding, “We strongly disagree with the facts as presented in the Memorandum.”  Crowley also refuted many of the points made previously including, “The fence was there when I bought the property … the door was installed for fire safety.”

A show of hands in support of the appeal had been sought earlier in the meeting by the ZBA Chairman and discussion took place on whether a number should be recorded in the Minutes.  It was finally concluded that the secretary would enter a count of approximately 40.

After individual board member’s declarations of their association with The Chocolate Shell, the board determined they would postpone voting on the matter due to the late hour.




Old Lyme ZBA Takes on Two Controversial Issues Tonight

The agenda for this evening’s Old Lyme’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) includes two controversial issues, which are likely to draw substantial numbers to the town hall’s auditorium for the 7:30 p.m. meeting.

'The Chocolate Shell' on Lyme Street.

‘The Chocolate Shell’ on Lyme Street.

The first item relates to the Cease and Desist order placed by Zoning Enforcement Officer Ann Brown on The Chocolate Shell’s café and sign.  Brown charged that, through the installation of its coffee machine and expanded range of pastries, the store has established, “a take-out restaurant and restaurant without permits,” and also installed, “a sign without permits.”    Store owner Barbara Crowley plans to present her argument to the ZBA board that Brown’s actions are unjustified.

The second matter involves the maintenance of, “… a junkyard and storing rubbish, machinery, trash, refuse, debris and/or junk motor vehicles,” at 2 Moss Point Trail by former ZBA member Patrick Looney and his wife, Diane.

The ZBA will make decisions on both matters in an Open Voting Session during the meeting.

Click here to view the agenda for the meeting.

Editor’s Note: See related articles The Chocolate Shell Café Re-opens published Feb. 23 on LymeLine.com and Coffee and chocolate spur debate on future of Lyme Street in Old Lyme by Kimberly Drelich and published March 10 in The Day.