Pear Tree committee reviews renovation options
Architects for the proposed Pear Tree Point Beach project have developed three possible options for renovating — as opposed to rebuilding — the existing structure.
Each option was presented and discussed at length at the Dec. 18 Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting, which was attended by about 30 people.
Those options, presented by Neil Hauck Architects, are:
The building that currently houses the lifeguard, First Aid, Marine Police Unit spaces, and concession
Bathroom: Cost is about $79,000.
This would involve remodeling work to create wheelchair-accessible toilet stalls. In addition, for both the men’s and the women’s room, one of the existing shower stalls would be turned into a second toilet in the ladies room and a urinal in the men’s room.
Additional renovations include new sinks, mirrors, grab bars, and changing cabanas. There would be new paint on all the interior walls and ceilings.
The existing electrical panel, which is in the lower right-hand corner of the building, would need to be raised. If there is flooding from a Hurricane Sandy-type of storm, that electrical panel would be underwater, according to the architects.
Building that currently houses the lifeguard, First Aid, Marine Police Unit spaces, and concession: Cost is about $83,000.
This involves taking out the existing windows and replacing them, and removing the existing interior and exterior hollow metal doors and frames, and replacing them with new ones.
The interior would be painted and some sinks would be replaced. Electrical switches and outlets would be raised.
The cost includes no kitchen equipment. The concession would only serve food that had been prepared somewhere else.
Exterior: Cost is about $72,000.
This includes replacing the existing outdoor shower heads and valves, trimming the existing posts on the covered porch, and retrimming the eaves.
The total cost for all the options is about $250,000.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) regulations allow one to spend no more than 50 percent of the appraised value of an existing structure to renovate it and keep it in its existing location.
Once that amount is exceeded, FEMA requires the entire building to be brought up to code.
Fifty percent of the appraised value of the structure is about $96,000.
“You couldn’t do the entire thing at once, given our $96,000 limitation placed on us by the FEMA regulations,” Hauck said.
If the $96,000 is spent, no more money can be spent on the structure for another three years if it’s considered to be an improvement that falls into the FEMA category, according to Mike Sgroe, co-chairman of the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee.
However, the options can be mixed and matched as long as committee members comply with the limitation.
“Listen to the taxpayers”
Committee member Cheryl Russell said the committee has to listen to the taxpayers of the town “who are going to be paying for this project.”
With all the emails and letters the committee has received, and the comments residents have made at public meetings, committee members “need to start to think about what the residents of this town want and need. It’s a bathroom. We’re not building the Taj Mahal here,” she added.
During public comment, Amanda Faulkner, a lifelong Darien resident, real estate agent and builder who referred to herself as a “renovation expert,” created a detailed proposal for a renovation of the existing building.
“I really think that renovation is the way to go,” she said. “When you renovate, you can do it in a sound way and you can make it look gorgeous.”
She also commented on rebuilding at Pear Tree Point Beach.
“I think the new proposal is a gross waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” she said. “We have many bigger fish to fry here.”
She said that people don’t go to the beach to go to the bathroom.
“Going to the bathroom is a function of being at the beach but you’re not going to the beach to say ‘What a great bathhouse,’” she said.
After speaking with people in town, the four main reasons people told Faulkner they’re opposed to the new structure relate to the environment, cost, aesthetics, and purpose.
“We don’t want this fancy thing to go to the beach,” she said. “Pear Tree has always been the chill beach. It has been the beach that people go to when they want a mellow, quiet time. I think a big fancy thing would ruin a lot of the purpose that people go to Pear Tree Beach.”
In regard to cost, Faulkner said it’s hard to predict the long-term cost of the new structure.
“Being a builder, you can’t nail the cost of a foundation in a coastal area,” she said. “You cannot estimate what you don’t know. That number will get way out of control.”
On the topic of aesthetics, according to Faulkner, “We don’t want a big looming structure in this area,” she said.
In regard to cost, Faulkner said that, as a real estate agent, “when taxes are going up and our property values are going down, it just doesn’t seem fiscally prudent to spend money,” she said. “What will be your tax impact down the road to sustain a year-round building? There’s too many unknowns.”
When she was finished with her presentation, everyone in the audience clapped.
“I think the taxpayers have a right to have the town be fiscally prudent,” she added.
She put together an estimated budget for the proposed renovations. She priced out everything involved, and got estimates. She gave everything to committee members.
The Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee is taking the three options back to the town’s Park & Recreation Commission, and will wait for its response.