The more time that passes since the renovations to Pear Tree Point Beach in Darien were first proposed, the more angry and outspoken many residents have become on this issue.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 15, there were about 170 comments and seven shares to a Facebook poll created by The Darien Times on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in regard to what people think of the proposed renovations.

About 35 residents wish to leave the beach as is, and two are in full support of all the proposed changes, the majority — about 65 — are in favor of some renovations. Flooding and cost were the two top areas of concern that were addressed.

During public comment at Wednesday evening’s packed, two-hour-long Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting, more than a dozen residents made their voices known.

One of them was Housing Authority Chairman Joe Warren, who said, “I’m a firm believer if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

As a volunteer firefighter with the Noroton Fire Department, one concern Warren had pertained to the proposed two-story building and elevator.

He said there has been problems with exterior elevators at the Darien Train Station. He also is concerned about an elevator “in a salt atmosphere,” he said.

However, Warren said his biggest issue is building a facility that will “compete” with existing facilities within the town.

According to Warren, the proposed rental/event space “will compete with the room that the Noroton Fire Department uses for events. I do not believe that is a good use of public tax dollars,” he said.

Another resident read comments from Darien town historian Marian Castell, who is also against most of the proposed renovations.

Castell wrote that the new structure could “destroy the whole simple meditative outline” of the beach and the area.

Janienne Hackett, who recently circulated a website and petition that garnered more 690 signatures against the proposed renovations, adamantly said the Parks and Recreation Commission and department director [Pam Gery] is “pushing this community space down our throats.”

One of the angriest speakers of the evening, however, appeared to be resident Perry Boyle, who compared the Pear Tree Point Building Committee’s process to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Instead of facing committee members when he spoke, he faced the audience, saying “I’m the guy who says this is the Putin process. Notice how the comments are at the beginning, not at the end, so we don’t know what we’re talking about.”

Boyle further told those at the meeting they should be “outraged by what’s going on here,” to which he received a loud round of applause.

Darien resident Anne Sullivan said she feels that there’s an “agenda” for commission members “that can put a feather in their cap and say ‘Look what I built for political process.’”

Town resident Lauren Keena, who said she worked at the Darien Boat Club for nine summers, talked about the “packed parking lot” at the beach, and said she was concerned how the proposal to take away 45 parking spaces would help the situation.

“If you are trying to increase access to people for the beach, decreasing the number of parking spaces does the exact opposite,” Keena said.

She added that due to flooding, “there are days when I couldn’t leave work for a few hours because I physically couldn’t drive my car through the water.”

Several RTM members spoke at the meeting as well, including Rolf Obin, who said he would like to see a “separate vote” on the proposed two-story building from all the other proposed plans for the beach.

Obin also referred to the boat ramp, saying it has been an ongoing problem for many years and blaming it on the Parks & Recreation Department.

“It was discovered that the angle in which that ramp was installed was incorrect and has been that way to this day, so the parks department is just following through to correct a mistake that was made by the parks department many years ago,” Obin said.

The only resident at the meeting who spoke in favor of the proposed renovations was Theodora Osgood, who said she likes the idea of a room to go to if it rains for events such as a family reunion, luncheons, bridge and mahjong clubs, and her book club.

Costs

For the first time since the project was introduced, specific cost estimates were unveiled by the project architects. These costs are preliminary estimates only.

 Site work elements: $898,500

This includes concrete pavers and walks, boat ramp and landscaping.

 Structures: $1,306,500

This includes renovation of the existing restroom, elevator and shaft, sprinkler system, and concession kitchen.

With a 15 percent contingency factored in, the total proposed cost estimate for the Pear Tree Beach Building project is $2,535,750.

Details of the cost estimate can be found on Channel 79 at about 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Next steps

The next steps involve presenting the project to Architectural Review Board, submitting an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and presenting the application at a Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing.

In regard to many of the comments that were made about flooding on a sunny day in the summer months, Gery is going to ask Director of Public Works Ed Gentile and the Darien Police Department about past reports of this issue.

Watch the full meeting on Darien TV79.

sfox@darientimes.com