Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee members will be looking closely at costs for the renovation of existing buildings at the beach.

At the Dec. 4 Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting, co-chairman Mike Sgroe said in response to feedback from the Darien community, project architect Neil Hauck is preparing an estimate “around what we can accomplish with the $96,000.”

The $96,000 figure refers to what FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) “allows us in terms of a budget to spend on renovation of the existing non-compliant structures,” Sgroe said.

This estimate is expected to be presented to the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee at its next meeting on Dec. 18.

At that meeting, according to Sgroe, committee members will be identifying the cost of specific elements of the existing structures that can be improved, such as windows, doors, door sills, porcelain fixtures, and door handles.

Sgroe further said there’s also a requirement that for a project of that magnitude, “we have to spend a certain percentage of the budget on improving the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessibility of the structure.”

Hauck has spoken to the building department in preparing this. He has also been to the site with the contractor, according to Sgroe.

Sgroe spoke about FEMA’s 50 percent rule, which applies in this case.

“You’re allowed to spend 50 percent of the appraised value of an existing non-compliant structure in any three-year window,” he 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 Sgroe.

Coastal area management report

The architects for the project — Dan Biggs and Weston & Sampson — are in the process of compiling a coastal area management report.

This report lays out a definition of a survey of the existing conditions at the site and an analysis of the impact of any proposed changes being made.

According to Sgroe, this report will address the work of such areas of the beach and include the boat ramp and parking lot, and give an analysis of the coastal conditions.

Committee members will see a draft of this report and get a chance to ask questions and request more information.

Traffic study request

In response to a question asked by Darien resident Perry Boyle during public comment regarding conducting a traffic study at the beach, Sgroe said he did conduct one on July 13.

“We engaged the services of WestCOG (Western Connecticut Council of Governments),” he said. “They did a traffic analysis.”

Sgroe said he also took an informal walk around the area on July 4.

At “high tide, midday, and about 3 p.m., there were about 40 available parking spots,” he said. “Around 5 p.m., there were about 100 available parking spots.”

He further said WestCOG conducted a traffic sampling on the weekend of Labor Day.

“They had a camera, they captured every vehicle going in and out of the parking lot,” he said.

However, he added that the WestCOG camera had been stolen.

“The goal would be to conduct a more formal traffic analysis of the occupancy of the parking lot once we get back into the active season,” Sgroe added.

Police marine division request

During public comment, several town residents objected to the marine division request that was spoken of at the Nov. 20 Darien Parks & Recreation Commission meeting.

At that meeting, the Darien Police Department asked the Parks & Recreation Commission to have some police related space on the waterfront of Pear Tree Point Beach, where the town’s marine division is located. The department is considering using some space in the new structure that’s being proposed.

Homeland Security said all local law enforcement agencies that patrol waterways must have access to their marine vehicles throughout the course of the year — every hour of every day, according to Darien Police Capt. Jeremiah Marron.

According to Sgroe, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) said the lower level of the Pear Tree Point Beach facility is for storage only.

Police are therefore considering space in the elevated level of the new structure.

At the Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting, Darien resident Vincent Shanley said the marine division has been using space at the Darien Boat Club for the past seven years, and “they would like to maintain a space in the concession building at the beach.”

He further said that “the police chief insinuated that the space contains both mold and mildew and isn’t habitable.”

“Why, if there has been mold and mildew in that room since [Hurricane] Sandy, hasn’t it been cleaned or remediated?” he asked.

He further said, “I believe that the current office allocated to the police in the concession building is of the size they require and can be used as soon as they put a desk in it. This is a reason why renovating the current buildings is preferable to building new buildings that have to meet FEMA requirements.”

Darien resident Perry Boyle said the police request is “quite suspicious as to the timing.”

“Is this part of the charge to the committee? Are you building a police facility or are you building something for the community?” Boyle asked.

The next Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting is on Dec. 18.

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