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East Lyme officials still seeking residents' input on conservation, development plan

East Lyme — Town officials tasked with rewriting the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development over the next year say they still need more resident feedback on issues such as growth and development, as well as conservation and sustainability.

The plan, which is required of every town in Connecticut and must be updated every 10 years, acts as a guiding document and roadmap for town leaders and officials on conservation and development efforts. Town officials, as well as boards and commissions, are expected to use and work from the plan as they make decisions regarding those issues, said Planning Commission member Michelle Williams, who also chairs the town’s POCD subcommittee tasked with rewriting the 256-page document by the end of 2020.

“This is creating a roadmap for the town so we all know the shared vision of where we are going,” Williams said. “But one of the things that we really want to do while we are updating (the plan) is to pull in as many people as possible, whether members of the public or representatives, to get them as a stakeholder in the document.”

So far, however, the subcommittee has received only a few hundred responses to an online questionnaire it formed earlier this year to help learn what direction residents think the town should be moving in. The hope, Williams said, is to get many more responses by the end of December, when the questionnaire will close.

The POCD “is the plan for our town,” Williams said by phone Thursday. “And residents should be pulled in to have their opinion heard.”

As part of the efforts of the subcommittee, composed of about a half-dozen members and formed earlier this year, Williams said the group recently held a workshop advising the town’s boards and commissions on how to submit their input on the POCD. The subcommittee also plans to hold several public forums allowing for more resident input. The first is scheduled Jan. 29.

In years past, the town has budgeted tens of thousands of dollars to hire outside help to distribute and conduct professional surveys to residents. But because the town did not budget for such services this year, the POCD subcommittee has been tasked with creating and distributing the informal questionnaire it is working with now, Town Planner Gary Goeschel said last week.

“We are hoping to get a general sentiment and some good ideas,” Williams said. “Mainly, we are hoping it will give us some clues as to what issues are very important to people and that we should dive into more.”

Williams said one of the biggest issues she’s heard residents talk about recently is town growth.

“There’s a lot of opinions out there, and I don’t think we have a handle on, or a clear mandate on, the pace of development,” Williams said. “We have been a growing town for the last 10 years plus. Is that something we want to continue doing? Or should we slow it down?”

“I think that is the key question that will lead into all kinds of other questions. If we don’t want to develop, how can we maintain our open space? Are we protecting our water quality? Are we utilizing our coastline effectively? Are we protecting our coastline from strengthening storms?” Williams said. “We need resident opinion about all of this.”

“This is really a questionnaire to guide our research and show us what we need to dig into more. We wanted to give people an opportunity to think about what’s in the POCD and tell us what they think in an open-ended and anecdotal way,” Williams said. “A good idea can come from anywhere. What is your great idea for the town of East Lyme?”

East Lyme residents can fill out the questionnaire online at bit.ly/ELPOCD.

m.biekert@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version was updated to reflect the correct date of the first public forum scheduled to discuss the POCD.

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