Ledyard - The Planning Commission voted to seasonally close Lambtown Road Extension as a cost-saving and environmental protection measure following a public hearing Thursday evening.
About 20 people attended the hearing regarding how to address longstanding issues with the road extension. Owned and designated as scenic by the town, Lambtown Road Extension is a narrow gravel road off of Lambtown Road that borders Groton.
As the road is designated as scenic, under a town ordinance, maintenance is limited, and upkeep for safe pedestrian and vehicle passage must be reconciled with preserving the natural character of the area.
Wintertime maintenance is especially tricky, said Planning Commission Chairman Mike Cherry, as snow plows cause unintentional widening of the road - something forbidden by the ordinance - and otherwise disturb the environment by spreading the gravel and damaging the surface.
Mayor John Rodolico called year-round maintenance cost-ineffective and proposed installing gates to the north and south ends of the extension, keeping the north gate locked and the south gate closed but unlocked for local traffic and emergency services vehicles during the winter months.
"I believe that we've done our homework on this," Rodolico said. "I believe that what we've come up with is a good first step in helping us to maintain the road and certainly not do any more damage to it in the wintertime through plowing."
Rodolico said prior to the closure, the town will go through and do limited cutting of brush on the sides of the road to make passage easier for pedestrians at narrower points. And before the springtime reopening, brush will be cleared again to make walking and driving through safe.
Regular maintenance of the road while it is open will continue, Rodolico said.
Most residents in attendance were in favor of the seasonal closure; many, including several abutting property owners, had signed a 79-signature petition supporting the partial closure for environmental reasons.
Other letters presented at the hearing, including one from the Groton Open Space Association, expressed support of Rodolico's plan as a way to protect wildlife in the surrounding fields, forests and wetlands and also to encourage and keep safe any skiers and hikers coming through in the winter months.
Steve Masalin, town engineer and director of public works, estimated annual maintenance of the road at about $5,000; with the seasonal closure, that amount will be halved. The town will not break even for two years, he said, as the cost of the gates is estimated at $4,500.
Rodolico said the date of the official closure is not yet set in stone, but the town will plan to have the gates installed before the first snow.