— Cate Hewitt,
OLD LYME — Three years after proposing an apartment complex requiring a tie-in to sewers, Mark Diebolt is back with an affordable housing project relying instead on septic.  
The state’s affordable housing statute allows developers to largely bypass local zoning approvals in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock qualifies as affordable. According to the 2022 Housing Appeals List, 1.57 percent of Old Lyme’s housing stock meets state rules of affordability.
Diebolt is planning six buildings of 30 to 32 units each. Of the total 189 units, 57 would be affordable for people earning 50, 60 or 80 percent of the area median income, which was $113,889 in 2021, according to census data
The buildings would be built on Diebolt’s 20.6-acre parcel at 49 Hatchetts Hill Road and a 16.25-acre adjoining parcel at 54-6 Four Mile River Road that he recently purchased and where he plans some of the septic.
Diebolt, engineer Seamus Moran and investors from Port One Company presented the outlines of the proposal to the Planning Commission during an informal discussion on Thursday, in part to secure the commission’s approval to subdivide the two existing lots into six lots to fulfill state septic requirements.
The Hatchetts Hill property was zoned for multifamily use under a special exception in 2005 when a developer purchased the land from Diebolt with plans to build 16 luxury condos. That project was never built and Diebolt eventually regained ownership.  
Peter Bartash, CEO of Port One Company and a licensed architect, told the commission that the location for the project – in a mixed industrial and residential setting with easy access to the highway – would have very little impact on the town. 
“It really stood out to us that we could look at doing something that has a little bit larger scale here from an overall project perspective without compromising the character integrity of the town,” he said. 
Moran told the commission that subdivision was the first step in moving the project forward. 
He said that testing of the soil in the 54-6 Four Mile River Road parcel showed it was “very nice sand and gravel that would be great for septic systems,” and he estimated that each building would need 7,500 gallons of sewage capacity a day, the limit allowed for approval by Ledge Light and the Department of Health. 
Moran said that except for the septic area, the lower property would be dedicated open space with walking trails.
Commission member Jim Lampos questioned whether the well on the site could provide sufficient water for the residents.  
Moran acknowledged that a well on site produces 50 gallons per minute, but said the buildings would have water storage tanks to meet demand at peak flow. 
He also emphasized that the design was in its early conceptual phase. “We’re at about two and a half percent of the design.”
Bartash said the construction is planned for two phases over a two or three year period, first with 60 units closer to the Hatchetts Hill Road entrance, followed by 129 units in the second phase built toward the back of the parcel. 
The site is close to a pump station for the East Lyme sewer system, but Diebolt was unable to gain permission in 2020 to use 50,000 gallons of 300,000 gallons designated for the town and the beach communities in an agreement with New London. The beach community sewer project, estimated at $14.1 million to $21.1 million, is still on hold while the town awaits word on a $17 million forgivable loan from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that Diebolt was unable to gain permission from the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) to use 50,000 gallons of 300,000 gallons designated for the town and the beach communities, but the WPCA did not have the authority to grant that permission due to its agreements. Also, “Four Mile Creek Road” has been corrected to “Four Mile River Road.” This story has been updated.
Cate Hewitt is a reporter and Associate Editor for CT Examiner. Hewitt covers planning and zoning issues.
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