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Needed housing in Old Lyme

Last month we expressed excitement that Old Lyme, one among many affluent shoreline locales with a dearth of affordable housing, had an opportunity to take a small step toward providing some.

The nonprofit HOPE Partnership and The Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development are pursuing a 37-unit community, 29 units of it priced at levels considered affordable, on a 6.6-acre tract just south of Interstate 95 Exit 70 on Route 156 in Old Lyme.

It appears even this small step may be too big for many in town. Zoning Commission meetings have attracted big crowds and that usually does not happen because folks are enthusiastic in favor of a development.

In communities such as Old Lyme, which have little affordable housing, state law requires Zoning Commissions to accommodate it unless a case is made that a project will be detrimental to health or safety.

Some critics have focused on the usual arguments about hurting property values and the project not fitting in. In fact, the traditional New England-styled townhouses planned at River Oak Commons are intended to blend with their environment and the location should not adversely affect property values.

More to the point is the contention that its location near a small shopping center could present a safety issue if residents venture out and cross a road that was not designed with pedestrian traffic in mind. But the thing is, the developers have taken all reasonable steps to design a safe pedestrian setting on their property, which is the focus of the commission hearing.

And the developer is ready to cooperate with the state and the town to make the area more walkable, which would be a good step in any event. This pedestrian claim should not be a project stopper and, while busy with traffic, the area is not excessively so.

Questions about sprinklers and fire codes appear a red herring. Contractors must build the project to code.

River Oak Commons can help fill a need for a diversity of working-class residents who otherwise could not afford to live in the town. It appears to us that if the Zoning Commission properly applies the state law, this project will win approval.


The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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