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The quality of life the citizens of East Lyme have come to enjoy over the past 30 years could soon disappear, particularly for those living around Flanders Four Corners. I make that statement based on the potential impacts of the proposed "big-box complex" planned for Exit 70 as part of the Gateway project.
Costco's 425,000-square-foot retail space along with other retailers in separate structures will drive out the small "mom and pop" businesses around Flanders Four Corners, such as the IGA Food Market, and siphon dollars from the two tire retailers. Even the two liquor outlets in the area will find it difficult to compete with Costco's super liquor outlet. This is what I was told by the owners when I visited these small business people.
I am a firm believer in fair trade and competition, but when a major company wants the state to build a ramp off Interstate 95 to their front door, I say, "No way." Also, this complex will contain a gasoline station, an automotive repair and a tire outlet all built right above the aquifer that produces our drinking water. In the event this complex goes forward, let's hope the zoning and planning boards have built in safeguards to avoid damage to our drinking supply.
I'm sure the developer will be asking the Board of Selectmen for a tax break very shortly, pointing to its plans to hire a large number of people and the problems faced in developing the East Lyme store. This is the story Costco is feeding the New Britain Tax Board in an attempt to get a reduction on their taxes over a seven-year period. They have done nothing but procrastinate building a store in New Britain.
The taxpayers in East Lyme will undoubtedly see their school budget increase dramatically when the children of the families that will occupy the 280 apartments - which the same developer is constructing just to west of the proposed retail space - ascend upon our school system.
There is also the potential for more apartments, all in addition to the 60 units being built off West Main Street in Niantic by another developer.
The number of new students entering the East Lyme school system due to all these apartments is anybody's guess. Consider, however, that the cost per student for one year's education in East Lyme is approximately $10,000 - then do the math.
Edward V. Morris is chairman of the East Lyme Democratic Town Committee and has lived in East Lyme for 65 years.