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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Old Lyme residents question Sound View project

    Old Lyme — During an information session Monday about a new bikeway and sidewalk project, residents of Sound View repeatedly questioned the planned elimination of 22 parking spaces at the beach area, saying they felt it would hurt business.

    The $751,000 project, which will be largely funded by a state Department of Transportation grant, was meant to improve the public beach area’s walking and biking areas and get the main street of Hartford Avenue compliant with current codes, said First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder. 

    But Peg Serapilia of nearby Swan Avenue was among the residents who opposed the changes, saying there is no proof that improvements will encourage more bikers and pedestrians to visit the area.

    “It’s more important for our businesses to thrive,” she said as a town police officer sat nearby. “To lose 22 spaces I think is absolutely ridiculous.”

    Deb Corto, who runs Lenny’s on the Beach bar and restaurant on Hartford Avenue, cited the possibility of businesses in the area losing as much as $72,000 a season from the loss of the spaces. And others mentioned that a subsequent phase of the project that wasn’t addressed during the meeting would mean the loss of dozens of other parking spots.

    “Why can’t the bikes use the side streets?” Corto asked.

    But Reemsnyder defended the Sound View Improvements Project, saying the town would eventually be required to fix the current narrow sidewalks with inadequate handicapped accessibility at its own expense sometime in the future. By taking state funds now as part of a bikeway project, the town is kicking in only $150,200, a significant savings.

    Reemsnyder added that she believes a nicer environment on Hartford Avenue will attract bikers and nearby residents who otherwise might not have made it to Sound View.

    Hartford Avenue is “not a friendly pedestrian environment,” said Rob Pinckney, an engineer with BSC Group in Glastonbury that designed the project.

    Kurt A. Prochorena, vice president at BSC, said the project was being done in anticipation of possible improvements to allow for safer biking along Route 156 that leads to the area from the Baldwin Bridge. But Reemsnyder said there is no guarantee that those improvements would occur concurrently with the Hartford Avenue streetscape improvements, and that any changes to enhance biking on Route 156 would likely occur after the Sound View project was completed.

    The Sound View project includes a doubling of the sidewalk widths from 3 feet to 6 feet, benches, bike racks, decorative street signs, banners to promote upcoming events, trees and ADA-compliant ramps and curbs.

    The creation of a Sound View Green — which would further reduce parking in the area — and the completion of public restroom facilities were cut from a previous version of the improvement plan because of cost considerations. But members of the committee that planned Sound View improvements said they hope to implement these ideas in the years ahead.

    Reemsnyder said the Sound View plans are currently in the final design stage. She added that a town meeting July 16 is currently planned to approve paying for Old Lyme’s portion of the project costs.

     l.howard@theday.com

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