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    Monday, May 20, 2024

    New London lighthouse owners appeal cease-and-desist order

    New London — The owner of Harbor Light is seeking a reversal of a cease-and-desist order from the city’s zoning enforcement officer that alleges the improvements and use of the Pequot Avenue lighthouse have gone beyond what is allowed without permits.

    The New London Maritime Society is on the agenda for a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. today in the City Council chambers.

    The group runs the Custom House Maritime Museum and owns three lighthouses, including Ledge Light and Race Rock Light.

    Renovations that began at Harbor Light last year led to a pending federal lawsuit by one of the two adjacent property homeowners, Donald and Bonita Waesche, who live at 800 Pequot Ave.

    The June 15 cease-and-desist order echoes some of the claims raised in the Waesche’s lawsuit — that activity has increased and work, including construction of a walkway and retaining wall, was completed without permits.

    In a June 15 letter to Maritime Society Director Susan Tamulevich, Zoning and Wetlands Enforcement Officer Michelle Scovish said it appears the current use of the lighthouse is no longer passive and more in line with “a museum type use which is advertised to the general public, formal tours provided to the public and a fee collected for said tour.”

    Museums are permitted in the zone with a special permit.

    Scovish said that improvements to the property were not approved by the zoning office and buffers not provided for abutting property owners.

    The society was ordered to cease all tours until it had acquired the required approvals.

    Tamulevich argues that lighthouses have always been open to visitors and said her nonprofit does not charge for tours of the lighthouse.

    Public access is limited to tours accompanied by a docent and by appointment only, she said.

    Harbor Light, as opposed to Ledge Light, is not a museum and does not have any exhibitions inside, she said.

    “The Society is simply continuing the obligations placed upon the lighthouse keepers of old, and reinforced in the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act — the federal statute under which it acquired the lighthouse — to make it open to the public at reasonable times under reasonable conditions,” according to a press release sent by the society.

    Because of the ongoing litigation, including a lawsuit against another abutting property owner, Tamulevich said the lighthouse has been all but closed for the season and sidelined planned school group visits to the lighthouse.

    The 89-foot-tall lighthouse is the oldest and tallest on Long Island Sound and featured on a U.S. postage stamp. A 2013 fundraising campaign raised $550,000 for restoration work at the lighthouse, according to the New London Maritime Society.

    g.smith@theday.com

    Twitter: @SmittyDay

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