Land use study on Stones Ranch, surrounding towns outlined to public
East Lyme — More public notifications about military training that generates noise and collaboration between local chambers of commerce and the Connecticut Army National Guard are among the strategies that could promote compatibility between Stones Ranch Military Reservation and surrounding communities.
A draft Joint Land Use Study outlined those recommendations, among others, on how local towns near the 2,000-acre Stones Ranch Military Reservation can avoid encroachment issues, even as the local communities continue to grow.
The study also looked at Camp Niantic.
On Tuesday, consultants presented the process for creating the draft study — which was released on June 18 — and some of its findings to about 15 residents at the East Lyme Community Center.
Tuesday was the last public meeting pertaining to the study, which East Lyme has been working on with Old Lyme and Lyme, the Connecticut Army National Guard, state agencies and others.
Consultants first introduced the project at a public meeting in Sept. 2015.
The draft study provides a set of recommendations, but is not a regulatory document and does not require that the recommendations be implemented, according to Tuesday's presentation by Celeste Werner of Matrix Design Group Inc.
The draft report documents, which are available online at www.stonesranchjlus.com, include recommendations on security improvements, protection of the environment and coordination of development, transportation and capital facility projects.
One recommendation is the preparation of an evaluation of the economic benefits derived from Stones Ranch and Camp Niantic, "so leadership and citizens have an accurate and up to date understanding of how these two facilities relate to the local and regional economy in particular," according to the draft report documents.
The report further recommends that the Connecticut Army National Guard collaborate with local and regional chambers of commerce to protect the missions of Stones Ranch and Camp Niantic and their economic benefits.
Communication with the public, as well as local and state officials, is another category the study considered.
For example, the report recommends increased notification about planned training events at Stones Ranch that could create noise beyond the military reservation.
Another suggestion is for towns to consider adding a Military Compatibility Overlay District to their zoning and subdivision ordinances. The district would consist of three military compatibility areas for safety, noise and vertical obstruction.
For example, Werner said buildings planned within a vertical obstruction zone would be studied to ensure that they would not be taller than Federal Aviation Administration standards for the area.
Another recommendation is that local towns revise their Plans of Conservation and Development to address compatibility with the military installations and reflect the study's recommendations.
There will be a joint technical and policy committee meeting Wednesday to review comments on the draft report.
The public comment period ended Tuesday, but Werner said people still can send in comments within the next week or so.
At Tuesday's meeting, a couple of residents living near the military facilities shared some problems or communication issues they have experienced.
Werner said in some communities, the National Guard holds an annual meeting with all the neighbors to improve communication.
Lind Bayreuther of Niantic said he had raised an issue at the first public meeting that occasionally military officials would come onto his property, but more frequently other individuals venture onto his property, not realizing the beach is private.
He said not long after those discussions, he saw that buoys were installed that said "stay below high tide line" and a Camp Niantic sign that asks people to please respect its property and please respect the neighboring private property.
Werner said another step is to put together a final draft that the JLUS committee will consider accepting.
East Lyme had been awarded a grant from the Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment for the study, and East Lyme and Old Lyme provided in-kind planning services.
She said there is grant funding available through the Office of Economic Adjustment to implement many of the strategies, if participants of the study decide to apply for grants.
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