The Pear Tree Beach Building Committee will be looking at appraisal numbers of the existing facilities at the beach and determining whether there is room for movement in those numbers, according to committee member Frank Huck.

“This would increase the amount that can be spent on renovation [to the facilities] if the number were to move up,” Huck said at the most recent meeting.

Huck had been in discussions with town staff, including Town Assessor Tony Homicki, who confirmed that the Pear Tree Committee has been working with the correct assessed value for the existing buildings at the beach, Chairman Mike Sgroe told The Darien Times.

At the meeting, Sgroe said the committee is working off a set of estimates at the moment, which are not final numbers.

“Those numbers are likely to change as we get competitive bids,” he added.

Payment schedule

There is a budget of $144,000 with the team of Neal Hauck & Weston & Sampson. This figure is broken out over a series of phases, according to Sgroe.

The phases are: programming and schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding out the project, and construction-observation.

“To date, we’re at a spend of $77,000,” Sgroe said.

Coastal review, Marine request

The architects are now at work preparing an analysis of the coastal conditions of the beach. This analysis involves a document that has to get the state Department of Energy & Evironmental Protection’s approval.

The architects are considering bringing in a third party on the coastal engineering side.

They “feel like it would make a lot of sense — bringing in additional coastal engineering folks from outside of Weston & Sampson,” Sgroe said. “From our perspective, we’ve told them to go ahead with that.”

In addition, a decision was made by the Darien Police Commission, working along with the Police Department, to review the coastal requirements within the beach “more broadly, from a strategic perspective before coming back and asking for something further with those buildings,” he said.

Lorene Bora, chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission, said the Police Commission is speaking with other towns’ fire and police marine units to understand what their peers have in terms of water safety.

“They really want to be forward looking for the next ten years, in terms of what their needs are going to be,” she added.

This pertains to the Marine Division’s request for office space at Pear Tree. Sgroe gave a recap of this request: The Marine Division has space in the existing building at Pear Tree Point Beach. It uses that space for storage. The Marine Division also has a small space in the Darien Boat Club that the division uses as an office.

Historically, the Marine Division used the space that’s in the concession building as an office. That was discontinued post-Hurricane Sandy. With Sandy, the contents of the space being used by the Marine Division flooded, and the division stopped using it as an office, and used it just for storage.

“When we started this project, the building committee went to the Marine Division and asked them ‘Do you need as much space as you currently have?” Sgroe said. “The Marine Division came back to us at the end of November of last year with a document that summarized their request, and included in that was the request for office space in the new building if we were to build one.”

If a new elevated building is built at the beach, according to by FEMAs requirements, the lower level of a building could only be used for storage. It cannot be used as habitable space, by FEMA’s definition.

“The space we give the Marine Division would have to be elevated,” Sgroe said. “When the Marine Division came back to us in November and asked for office space, it immediately translated to space at an elevated level in a new building.”

“Beach chic”

During public comment, Darien resident Amanda Faulkner, a local builder who spoke at leangth at a prior Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting, questioned spending excess money on building “a whole new structure.”

She presented committee members detailed sketches of a renovated bathroom.

“When you are building something at a sea level, you don’t know what you’re getting into until you start digging,” she said.

She said that with making renovations to the existing structure, “we can have beach chic.”

“This structure has proven to be survivable but we can dress it up and make it beautiful,” Faulkner said. “We don’t have to have an architectural monument to sell for millions of dollars for taxpayers’ money.”

Another resident recommended asking the project architects about maintenance options for the beach.

“What can we do to make the bathrooms suitable for the community on a maintenance basis? The toilet and sinks have to be replaced. The roof needs replacing. That still could be maintenance. Have them study that,” he said.

Watch the full Pear Tree Beach Building Committee meeting on Darien TV79.

sfox@darientimes.com