It was described as “a sleepy community with a lot of opportunity.” But what could Ledyard become?
That was the focus of a workshop Wednesday to explore Ledyard's possible development goals, led by Thomas Marano, works for the Economic Development and Community Relations departments of Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas. .
The meeting brought together the Economic Development Commission, Mayor Fred B Allyn, Jr., and mayoral candidates John Rodolico and Anthony Saccone, as well as several residents. The group discussed three basic questions: What is Ledyard? What do we want it to be, and what can it become?
Marano has held similar discussions in “towns from Union to Hartford,” he said. The goal is promote economic development that will give the town what it wants.
“For the towns to be development-ready they need leadership, they need regulation,” Marano said. “Every town needs leadership with a vision. Regulations you are writing need to build out that vision.” Processes that help businesses understand and meet regulations are also important.
But what is Ledyard’s vision? Marano focused that discussion on the three questions. With each, he asked the participants to brainstorm for a moment and jot down their thoughts.
The first question, “What is Ledyard?” raised many ideas. One of the most frequent comments was that Ledyard is a bedroom community. As Gales Ferry resident Karyn Collins put it, “Once a quaint bedroom community, we are now a dilapidated community.”
Another key idea was that Ledyard is a rural, agricultural town. Both of these ideas, the group agreed, are true.
Tale of Two Towns
“I think Ledyard is a very interesting community in that it has two very different personalities,” said Stephen Eichelberg of the Economic Development Commission. These two faces of Ledyard are Gales Ferry, the bedroom community, and rural eastern Ledyard.
Other features were mentioned. Ledyard was described as “infrastructure-poor,” “not a destination,” and expensive. It was called relatively affluent and well-educated, and active.
Its ability to improve was also noted. “A sleepy community with a lot of opportunity,” resident Fred Lewis said. “We’re looking at potential driving through this town.”
The next question asked where that potential might lead. If anything was possible, what should Ledyard be?
For many of the participants, the ideal looked a lot like the present reality. “I would like to see more of the same with realized and maximized potential,” Eichelberg said.
The group came up with a wish list. Several hoped for more stores, including some that might draw shoppers to Ledyard, such as a Trader Joe’s. Mike Cherry wished the cost of living was lower. Some called for access to the land around the reservoir or to develop cultural or entertainment attractions.
Another idea concerned the look of the town. “If you talk to people, after you get by the tax issue… the biggest complaint is the appearance of the town,” Rodolico said.
Many also felt that the town should be more business-friendly.
Finally, Marano asked, “What can you be?”
The town faces some challenges to meeting all its goals. Ledyard’s small population, for example, might make opening a business here risky. “You’ve got to show the developer that the people either drive through or live in the community to support their business,” said Kevin Dombrowski.
Despite the challenges, the group seemed optimistic. “I think we can get to what we want… if we have the right leadership… but we might have to delay or expectations for a while.”