Lyme — Town residents soon will vote on whether to adopt a new codified 302-page document consolidating town ordinances and regulations.
The document, according to First Selectman Steve Mattson, will allow anyone to access and read town laws online and in an easy-to-comprehend, organized format.
Up until now, the town had kept its ordinances separated from its regulations and piled chronologically in loose-leaf binders in Town Hall, making the process of trying to look up ordinances daunting and often confusing, Mattson and Town Clerk Linda Winzer said Monday. Anyone wanting to view the ordinances, which were “difficult to read” and written in “old language,” would have to come to Town Hall and flip through the more than 100-page binder, Mattson said.
But now both ordinances and regulations have been codified and consolidated into a single document, to be known as the “Code of the Town of Lyme, Connecticut,” and organized into chapters based on subject matter.
“Certainly, this was to make (the town’s laws) more transparent and accessible to the public,” Mattson said. “Whereas before, you had to know where to go look. The ordinances didn’t exist any place but in a loose-leaf folder” and went back as far as the early 1900s.
Most towns in Connecticut, including Old Lyme and East Lyme, have codified their laws, which are easily accessible to the public on their municipal websites.
Mattson said the process to codify Lyme’s laws took about three years, starting in late 2016. He said that throughout the process, laws and ordinances were not actually changed but were concisely organized to eliminate redundancies and confusions.
“The intent was not to make any substantive changes but to bring everything in a simple format,” Mattson said.
The town laws also were cross-referenced with state laws, Mattson said, to ensure they aligned. For example, he said the town ordinance regarding the Cemetery Commission, which is allowed to have only seven members under state law, was rewritten to eliminate a previous stipulation for nine members.
An 11-page ordinance, which the town must pass at its Town Meeting on Dec. 11 to accept the new code, outlines every change made to the ordinances and regulations, and can be reviewed at bit.ly/LymeCode.
“It was illuminating to me. I did learn things I didn’t know,” Mattson said, explaining that he had to review the 300-page document more than a half-dozen times. “Mostly around fees. We had fees set by an ordinance in 1940 and hadn’t yet been changed. Yet, they weren’t the fees we were charging. That was probably the most illuminating.”
The process was a collaborative effort, Mattson said, and included himself, the town clerk and other town officials. The town hired General Code of Rochester, N.Y., a firm that specializes in codifying town laws, to assist with the “cumbersome” and complicated process. The final document then was approved by town’s legal counsel, Mattson said.
Mattson said the town received a state grant administered by the state librarian — between $4,000 and $5,500 over the last three years, totaling slightly less than $15,000 — to pay for the services.
As part of the Town Meeting, to be held at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Town Hall, residents also will vote on an ordinance that would establish alternate members for the Planning and Zoning Commission.