Lyme: Condition of Roads at Issue
Tom Toner speaks in support of electing a road agent yearly during Lyme’s Town Meeting yesterday. An article that would have made the position appointed to a term of three years by the Selectboard was defeated in favor of keeping the position elected for a term of three years. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Ballot clerks Margot Maddock, left, and Jane Owen, listen to the proceedings during Lyme Town Meeting yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
James Graham, an alternate to the Lyme Conservation Commission, speaks in support of the commission during the debate at the Lyme School. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lyme — Residents at Town Meeting yesterday approved a town operating budget of just under $2 million but turned back a proposal that would have let the Selectboard appoint the road agent.
Voters also turned down a bid to amend town zoning ordinances to permit conservation neighborhoods and cluster housing, rather than bringing them to the floor for discussion. By a vote of 280-175, residents rejected Article 2, which would have allowed the so-called “conservation neighborhoods,” which were sought by the Pinnacle Project LLC, which owns the 100-year-old Loch Lyme Lodge and its surrounding land.
Another measure, which would allow businesses in town to remain lit for one hour after closing was approved, 308-134. Article 4, which would permit the retail sales of products resulting from accessory use, passed 352-178.
The three-hour meeting yesterday morning opened with the budget, which passed without discussion. Also passing without debate was Article 6, which asked voters to approve appropriating about $87,600 for maintaining class IV and V highways. In short order, voters also approved raising nearly $356,000 for the capital reserve funds and trust funds, and withdrawing nearly $205,000 from the capital reserve funds and expendable trust funds to pay for machinery, vehicles and equipment.
The condition of the roads were another matter, as voters argued the merits of establishing a Class V Road Rehabilitation Capital Reserve Fund to repair, improve and maintain town-owned roads, and whether to appropriate $25,000 for the fund. The rationale for bringing this to a town vote, said Selectman Jay Smith, was that the Selectboard wants to “try to mitigate some of the problems we’re having with our roads during mud season.”
“What’s the difference between this and the existing highway repair fund?” asked voter Marlene Greene.
Simon Carr, who was not seeking re-election after six years on the Selectboard, said the emergency road fund is there for disasters while the Class V Road capital reserve fund sets aside money for the future. Margaret Johnston asked whether $25,000 was sufficient; Smith said this is what the town could afford. The article passed.
In articles 10 and 11, residents asked why Baker Hill Road was being considered for repair over other roads in equally poor shape, and why it was necessary to spend money on an engineering study associated with the rehabilitation of a 2,640-foot section of River Road. Ultimately, both articles were approved. Motions to pay more than $14,500 for cemetery maintenance, and to appropriate about $5,600 for purchasing children’s books, audiotapes and other items for the library were carried briskly.
The town also voted $8,400 to sponsor a July 4 celebration, although Jim Mayers reported that, due to safety and parking considerations, this would be the last year that Lyme would hold the annual commemoration in town. There are no plans to look for an alternate venue, he said.
The town authorized Police Chief Shaun O’Keefe to spend about $7,000 in a substance abuse education fund to educate the public. O’Keefe noted this money has never been spent.
After some discussion about the increase in the cost for the treatment and removal of milfoil at Post Pond (an expense not included in the town budget), voters approved the motion. The estimate rose from roughly $8,300 last year to $25,000 this year, said Blake Allison, speaking for the motion to appropriate $25,000.
Allison said the estimate includes $13,500 for subcontracting the manual harvesting of milfoil to non-state contractors because there isn’t enough state money to pay for the treatment. The town is also anticipating that there will be additional areas of growth of milfoil in ponds and lakes.
After the roads, the subject that elicited the most discussion was Article 17, which addressed the role of the town’s Conservation Commission. The Selectboard had recommended unanimously that the town should revoke the payment of the Land Use Change Tax to the Conservation Commission and instead place the money in a fund overseen by the Selectboard.
Carr argued that the Conservation Commission didn’t appear to have a plan for the future. Residents supporting the continued oversight of the commission argued that the commission had done good work. Further, said resident Mike Smith, if a property becomes available for conservation, “you can’t wait until next Town Meeting, you have to move on the land.”
“We all want to see Lyme preserved but I want to see more control going to town over projects, rather than a small group of people,” said Tom Toner. Ultimately, the motion failed by a vote of 113-46, and the Conservation Commission retains the power to decide conservation issues.
Finally, voters approved rewording Article 19 to read that the town will “elect by nonpartisan ballot a highway agent for a term of 3 years,” keeping the current system rather than authorizing the Selectboard to appoint a road agent. And the term of the fire chief was changed from an undetermined amount of time to five years.
This article has been amended to correct earlier errors.
During debate at Lyme's Town Meeting over the role of the Conservation Commission, resident Tom Toner said, "We all want to see Lyme preserved but I want to see more control going to town over projects, rather than a small group of people." His last name was reported incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.
Loch Lyme Lodge and its surrounding land are owned by Pinnacle Project LLC, of which Liz Ryan Cole is one of 13 legal members. An earlier version of this story and one that was published on Feb. 25 inaccurately described the ownership of the property.