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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Destruction of ‘historic’ hedges in Old Lyme leads to effort to stop speeders

    Old Lyme ― A public outcry echoing from the leafy, winding enclave of Sill Lane has helped spur a townwide effort to slow down drivers.

    The Board of Selectmen is currently seeking a dozen applicants for the Road and Public Safety Committee, which selectmen said will consist of two residents from each of the town’s six neighborhoods spanning Laysville in the area of Rogers Lake to South Lyme near the shore.

    Committee members will discuss safety concerns involving the town’s public roads and making recommendations to selectmen. Selectmen will accept applications from residents who want to be on the committee until all spots are filled.

    The issue of speeding, which is an enduring and widespread concern, not just in Old Lyme, was brought back to the forefront locally in March after a 35 Sill Lane homeowner said a 16-year-old driver wiped out eight shrubs and destroyed the front porch of the 1755 Wade-Tinker House.

    Rosemarie Padovano said the slow-growing and dense boxwood shrubs were planted in 1922 by the Olmsted Brothers firm, which was inherited from the man known as the father of landscape architecture.

    “If those shrubs were not there, that car would’ve been in my house for sure,” she said.

    Padavano, an interior designer with a shop in town, bought the house in 2017 with her husband.

    “We both work in interior design and are incredibly sensitive to history and material, so we spent an incredible amount of time and thoughtfulness and effort throughout the house to make it just right,” she said. “It’s really devastating to see something that we tended to so carefully be just carelessly plowed down in seconds.”

    A police summary of the crash said the driver of the 2014 Toyota Camry was going south on Sill Road in the area of Mill Lane when the car crossed over the center line, struck the curb, traveled through the bushes and landed in front of the house.

    There was no structural damage to the home, according to Padavano.

    Resident State Trooper Matt Weber said the lone occupant of the car, who was learning to drive, was ticketed for speeding and failure to maintain the proper lane. The boy’s permit was seized because he was not allowed to drive without a parent, guardian or qualified trainer in the car.

    Pleas from Sill Road neighbors to the Board of Selectmen shortly after the crash led to police stopping 50 vehicles in a roughly one-week period. Weber reported the statistics to selectmen in a special March 25 meeting to address the concerns.

    He said only a fifth of those receiving tickets were under the age of 21, and 95% of the violators were from the immediate area.

    “So it’s not just the youth,” he said. “It’s the adults that are not obeying speed limit signs as well.”

    Weber expressed caution about deploying the department’s scant resources ― the town has relied on four officers for several years and is building back up to six ― to address one specific neighborhood.

    “When we give so much dedication like we have to Sill Lane, you have to understand other areas of the town drop,” he said.

    Townwide problem

    First Selectman Martha Shoemaker said the situation on Sill Lane spurred more complaints about speeding in other parts of town. That’s why it was important for the Road and Public Safety Committee to include residents from all sections of town.

    The members will meet monthly with representatives of the police, emergency management and public works departments to share concerns from their neighborhoods, “evaluate threats and challenges” and come up with solutions.

    Shoemaker said one battery-powered digital radar speed sign, which has been deployed in areas including Sill Lane and McCurdy Road, will be augmented by three more solar-powered models that are currently on order. Another sign purchased by Lyme officials can be shared when the need arises.

    She said the pole-mounted digital displays are adhered to speed limit signs that can be installed in various locations. They do not record any data, according to the first selectwoman.

    “I have to tell you it really is eye opening because you’re traveling and you don’t realize how fast you’re going,” she said. “If you are paying attention, it can help drivers slow down.”

    Padavano on Tuesday said she hasn’t noticed a police presence since the initial blitz.

    “My strategy, which I believe would be the best deterrent, would be to have police officers posted at different spots at different hours of the day, and not every day,” she said.

    She doubted drivers would slow down unless they knew when they turned onto Sill Lane that there could possibly be a police officer there.

    e.regan@theday.com

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