Affordable-housing development proposed for Old Lyme

Old Lyme — A new affordable-housing development is being proposed on 6.6 acres of land by the Interstate 95 North Exit 70 off-ramp and Neck Road (Route 156).

HOPE Partnership and Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development are seeking approval from the town for a development with 37 housing units, within 11 townhouse-style buildings, and a community building. 

Eight of the units would be market rate, while the remainder would be set aside as affordable at different levels, said Lauren Ashe, HOPE Partnership's executive director. The proposed development, located on two adjacent land parcels, would be called River Oak Commons.

HOPE Partnership, a nonprofit focused on affordable workforce housing along the shoreline, had been looking for several years for a spot to develop housing in Old Lyme.

"When we merged with Old Lyme Affordable Housing (in 2015), we really took it upon ourselves to try to find a piece of property in Old Lyme," Ashe said. She said HOPE Partnership has a contract with the Graybill family to purchase the Neck Road property.  

"There's not a lot of affordable housing options along the shoreline," Ashe added.

According to the state Department of Housing, in 2017 only 1.57 percent of Old Lyme's housing stock was considered affordable.

Ashe said the development would provide an opportunity for people to stay in the area with lower rents. She pointed out that many people are downsizing, or are recent college graduates with starting-out salaries, are single parents or people working multiple jobs, who don't have enough money to put a down payment on a house but do have enough to live in quality housing. At a time when the town's school-aged population is dwindling, the development could serve the needs of families and provide stable housing for families that move from house to house or live in academic rentals and then find other housing for the summer season, she added.

Ashe said the apartments will be a mix of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units. The rents will range from $500 to $1,500 per month, all based on income limits and what the fair market rents will be for the market-rate units.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets income limits that are used to determine whether an applicant is eligible for a particular unit to ensure that the affordable-housing units go to families that needs it, said Kristin Anderson, development manager for Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development. The Old Lyme development's affordable-housing units will serve a range of income limits, with households earning anywhere from 25 percent to 60 percent of Old Lyme's area median income of $84,800.

Recent college graduates, nursing assistants, child care workers, home health aides, car mechanics, security guards, teacher assistants, retail clerks and office assistants are examples of those who might live in the development, according to HOPE Partnership.

The proposed development at 18 Neck Road would be located near Halls Road, the town's main commercial area with stores, a post office and coffee shops, and would be accessible from I-95, she said.

"We're looking to meet the needs of people in our community who are working," she said.

First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who sits on the advisory council of HOPE Partnership, which also developed 16 units of affordable housing in Old Saybrook called Ferry Crossing, said earlier this week that she supports its mission and was looking forward to seeing the plans.

"It's important to Old Lyme," she said. "We do have a volunteer fire department and volunteer EMS, so we want housing that is attainable for our volunteers."

The plans were unveiled at HOPE Partnership's "Friendraiser," which was held Wednesday evening at the Old Lyme Country Club and sponsored by Guilford Savings Bank. More than 130 people attended the event, Ashe said.

A consultant engineer for the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission is slated to prepare findings from the commission's site walk of the property on Tuesday and share with the commission at its next meeting.

The Zoning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed development for 7:30 p.m. May 14 at Town Hall. Specifically, the development comprises two adjacent properties, with 23 units called River Oak Commons I on a 4.33-acre parcel, with an application from Neck Road HOPE Housing LLC, and 14 units called River Oak Commons II on a 2.3-acre parcel, with an application from Old Lyme HOPE Housing LLC.

Point One Architects in Old Lyme is the architectural firm, while Indigo Land Design is the civil engineer. 

If all goes according to plan, HOPE Partnership would break ground in 2019, Ashe said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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