East Lyme plans to build park at former Mobil station by summer

Plans for the park at 224 Main St. in Niantic. (Carlos Virgen/The Day, Google Earth and Town of East Lyme)
Plans for the park at 224 Main St. in Niantic. (Carlos Virgen/The Day, Google Earth and Town of East Lyme)

East Lyme — A new park could sit at the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, near Niantic Bay, by the start of the summer, if all the approvals are met.

The park design calls for a green space with a brick semi-circle platform surrounded by a stone wall at the site of the former Mobil gas station property at 224 Main St. that the town purchased in 2016.

The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Penn. Ave. and Main Street Vision Sub-Committee have approved the design of the park. The subcommittee, comprising representatives from the town government, Parks and Recreation, Niantic Main Street, East Lyme Public Trust and the Rotary Club, met, along with a landscape architect, over the past six months to work on the plans, First Selectman Mark Nickerson said.

The plans also will go before the Zoning Commission, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals, he said.

A town meeting is scheduled for later this month for residents to vote on re-allocating funds toward the development of the park.

Nickerson said town officials are not asking for additional money from taxpayers to pay for the park, which is currently estimated to cost roughly $240,000. The town has several funding sources it plans to tap into, including money remaining after the purchase of the site and money left over from a state Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant the town previously was awarded, he said.

At a 2010 referendum, town voters had supported spending $675,000 for the purchase of the property and $65,000 for engineering studies and cleanup of the site. In 2016, the town bought the property at a reduced cost of $550,000 and it has some remaining funds from the amount approved at referendum, Nickerson has said.

The Small Town Economic Assistance grant funding is the money remaining after a streetscape project for downtown Niantic, he said.

In addition to those two funding sources, Niantic Main Street, a nonprofit organization, plans to sell commemorative bricks to help pay for the park development, Nickerson said.

The town also may have leftover money from a state grant for Cini Park that could go toward the park, if necessary, he said. 

At its meeting next Wednesday, the Board of Finance is slated to consider approving re-allocating $70,227.67 from the streetscape grant toward the development of the park. The board also will vote on whether or not to appropriate $139,522 leftover from the funds approved at the 2010 referendum toward the park.

If approved by the finance board, the items will go to a town meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at Town Hall. Voters also will consider whether or not to approve appropriating $500,000 from a state STEAP grant for the installation of water and sewer pipes and infrastructure for a portable restroom facility at Cini Park, a portion of the cost of the development of the Main Street park and a dinghy dock at Cini Park, if funding allows, according to the meeting agenda.

Weston & Sampson, an engineering firm, is monitoring and administering the cleanup of the site, Nickerson said. As part of an agreement in which the town accepted a state brownfield grant, the land will be evaluated with monitoring wells over the next couple of years, he said.

Parks and Recreation Director David Putnam said he thinks the park will be a beautiful addition to Main Street and the centerpiece people see when coming into downtown Niantic.

"It will be a great fit for Niantic's Main Street," he said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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