A neighbor wrote to me:
I plan to come tomorrow to the meeting in the Library. In preparation, can you tell me what objections – what possible downsides – have been mentioned so far?
Saturday’s meeting had about 22 people. Rusty Keith did a terrific job of introducing the petitioned “Planned Development” amendment and facilitating the discussion without being overly partisan toward the amendment.
Half the participants were curious about the amendment – they didn’t know much about it and wanted to learn more. Some were categorically opposed to any development in town, and there were a couple people who were skeptical, and concerned about its impacts.
You can imagine the objections – unbridled development, unchecked traffic, a parade of horribles. Junk yards and tractor trailer distribution facilities were mentioned as possibilities.
But those objections fail to use common sense. Lyme’s not going to be a hub for any big business. There isn’t enough traffic or infrastructure (water, septic, electric power) to support it. Tractor-trailers don’t willingly drive this stretch of Route 10, since it’s so far from the interstates. And nobody buys land for a junkyard (especially at $100K per lot).
And there was no acknowledgement of the good that could come from the amendment. The town could support plenty of local businesses that provide goods, services, and jobs in the town.
Rusty has focused on the fairness/enforcement aspect of the amendment: that the existence of a grandfathered business can negatively affect the property values of the neighbors. And when he was on the Select Board, he faced an impossible situation of trying to determine whether the business across the road has “increased in intensity more than 50%” from when the ordinance passed thirty years ago.
As a follow-on question: suppose the Select Board could prove in court that it had exceeded that limit. What’s the remedy? Shut the business down? How does that help Lyme?
And what signal would that send to anyone else who might be considering opening a business that provides goods, services, or jobs? “If you grow too much, we’re going to shut you down…”
It would be better simply to acknowledge that Route 10 has changed in the last 30 years. In the parlance of planning experts, it’s called “dynamic rezoning”. Allow the zoning rules to reflect the on-the-ground reality and the expressed needs of town residents.
The other argument for the amendment (that wasn’t discussed as much) is that it enables something besides “single family homes on separate lots” which is the sole form of development the Master Plan envisions for the Rural District.
I don’t need to tell you that you can’t get smaller, modest price homes if you have to start by purchasing a 5-10 acre lot for each one. And we can’t afford to continue to chop up our limited open land with more separate parcels that house one family.
I’ll be glad to see you tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb 25 at 7pm in the Lyme Library). Please let others know about this important discussion. Thanks again.
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