East Lyme to make study of Stones Ranch Military Reservation
October 20. 2014
East Lyme - The Board of Selectmen will move forward with a land-use study of the Stones Ranch Military Reservation and its surrounding area.
The initiative is intended to ensure compatibility between the training grounds and local communities, as they both face potential growth, town officials said.
Stones Ranch encompasses nearly 2,000 acres of land managed by the Connecticut Army National Guard in East Lyme, Old Lyme and Lyme and borders the Nehantic State Forest, as well as homes
Old Lyme will also collaborate with East Lyme on the land-use study, slated for completion in February 2016.
The "Joint Land Use Study," through a Department of Defense grant, will make planning recommendations and give communities information to coordinate future developments with the military's plans, according to a memorandum from Planning Director Gary Goeschel. It will also address potential issues such as dust, smoke and excess noise, arising from "incompatible land uses," to protect public health and safety.
The study comes at a time when the town is undergoing increased development and when the National Guard is anticipating about $3.5 million in infrastructure upgrades to Stones Ranch, which could increase military training at the site, according to a federal grant application by the town. The additional training capacity could lead to the "potential for civilian encroachment issues" at Stones Ranch, the memo states. The study will also analyze Camp Niantic, where a new Regional Training Institute and Readiness Center was recently built.
The study will help the town incorporate the military installations into its Plan of Conservation and Development, establish a dialogue with the military about its plans for the facilities, and also consider the economic effects the bases and their personnel have on the community and region, said Goeschel.
It will also make the Army eligible for a program to create buffer zones around the military reservation, according to the memo.
The town will put together policy and technical committees. The Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment awarded East Lyme a $12,720 grant for the study, but will also require some "in-kind" services, such as work from town staff from East Lyme and Old Lyme, said Goeschel.
If the study consultant decides there are significant impacts from the military reservation on Lyme's land use, the consultant will also ask Lyme to participate, he said.
While Lyme will not be involved in the initial development of the study, it hopes to be kept apprised of discussions, said Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno.
At Wednesday's Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Paul Formica pointed out that the military, based out of the camps, provides services for the town during storms, including assessing damage and delivering food. He said the military is trying to plan ahead for the implications of future upgrades, and the study will give the town an opportunity to formulate a plan for the property around the training grounds.
Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said Thursday it was a good decision for her town to be involved in the study of Stones Ranch.
There may be future actions to be discussed by our Zoning or Selectmen Boards regarding lands surrounding Stones Ranch," she said in an email. "It is always good for towns to collaborate on mutually beneficial initiatives and this is one of those collaborations."