Real costs for Pear Tree Point Beach project haven’t been examined

To the Editor:

With its proposal for Pear Tree Point Beach, Darien has strayed far from the stated goals and priorities of the Master Plan to include a year-round rental facility, a category that didn’t even make it into the 32 Highest Priorities for additional/expanded services. Even more troubling is the committee’s disregard for the location it plans to build on. The town admits that PTPB is in a FEMA designated flood zone, but only to reveal its cleverness in skirting the law: rather than renovate the existing building and be held to FEMA imposed monetary construction limits, it proposes to build a brand new building where the budgetary sky is the limit(!) But, surely, there is a point to FEMA’s designations. What about the real costs, both up front and long term, of building and maintaining in a flood zone?

Such questions inspired me to order a study of PTPB from a private company that helps people determine flood risks for insurance. (The PTPB Committee has not thus far ordered any studies to determine flooding feasibility, not for today and not for 10, 15, 30 years from today. Instead one member chose to look backwards, opining somewhat giddily at the last meeting that the beach is not much changed in shape since 1934.) According to my study, PTPB has a high and growing risk for tidal inundations on any given day of the year and is vulnerable to storm surge heights and inundation levels of 19.3’ and nearly 18’ respectively during a Category 3 hurricane. The increasing frequency of flooding in the parking lot is not the result of a clogged drain, the town’s unproven culprit for water spilling across the asphalt, but of rising seas. I ask: would you spend your own dollars on a multi-million-dollar facility that will surely flood regularly at the lower level and that risks flooding at the upper level during future big storms?

Darien should not proceed with its unpopular, shortsighted, and fiscally irresponsible plan to spend tax-payer funds on an expensive two-story luxury building in the middle of a flood zone.

Lisa M. Ryan-Boyle

Darien

Pear Tree Point Beach renovation reminiscent of the Shuffle

To the Editor:

As our elected leaders consider the substantial voter opposition to the proposal to build an expensive, environmentally unsound structure at Pear Tree Point Beach, it’s important to reflect on an earlier controversial and costly proposal, the “Darien Shuffle” project of 2011. This went ahead despite a majority of voters in a town referendum rejecting the plan. In the end, it resulted in huge overruns above the projected cost presented to voters.

A total of 4,009 votes were cast in the shuffle referendum in December, 2011. Of those, 2,445 voters cast ballots against the shuffle project, a substantial majority (61%) of votes cast. However, under the rules of the referendum, 3,112 votes against the shuffle were needed in order to overturn it.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who was a major supporter of the shuffle, said she was pleased by the result of the referendum. “I had tremendous faith in the voters of Darien,” she said at the time. “Common sense and compassion won the day.”

This stuck me as an odd observation when the clear majority of votes cast were against the project, but it is a reminder as we consider Pear Tree Point that voter engagement is a must even when a project has so much opposition — a point that the Darien Times made in its editorial urging citizen participation. However when the opposition is so strong, as shown in the Darien Times poll, it’s reasonable to expect that this should be enough to persuade town leaders to kill the project.

The shuffle was a fiasco. The contractor and the performance bond company both went bankrupt. The town paid the contractor for his subs, but he didn’t pay them. After the bankruptcy, the town had to pay the subs again. The ‘winning” contractor was far below the other bidders. This should have been a red flag but it helped shuffle backers sell the project.

The huge cost overruns on the shuffle should be a lesson of what happens when an unpopular project is rammed through by claiming unrealistic costs.

Charles Salmans

Darien

Objections to Pear Tree Point Beach renovations are due to common sense

To the Editor:

We wanted to start by making one thing clear: we love the energy Pear Tree Point Beach brings to the neighborhood. The constant stream of activity underlines the reason we love the beach. Whether it’s taking in the natural beauty, boating, or just enjoying the sand with family—residents enjoy common interests in a special setting, exactly what you want in a tight knit community. Our kids have even earned money and learned some solid life lessons by setting up lemonade stands for the many passersby. In short, we welcome the visitors and the pulse they bring.

Our issues with the proposed renovations have nothing to do with—as some town officials have intimated—our reluctance to “share” the beach with others. Instead, our issues are based on common sense:

· Spending $3 million on a covered community space the town doesn’t want or need makes no sense.

· Spending $3 million to massively upgrade a structure that sits in a known flood zone makes no sense.

· Spending $3 million given the fiscal condition of the state and town makes no sense.

· Spending $3 million and losing 45 spots in an already-crowded parking lot makes no sense.

· Spending $3 million but doing so by using a “50% loophole” in FEMA standards makes no sense.

· Spending $3 million despite the clear, constant, and widespread opposition makes no sense.

On the other hand, it makes perfect sense to renovate the existing structure and upgrade the beach to improve its sustainability. It seems the Darien Parks and Recreation Department is acting more like the Darien Parks and “Re-creation” Department. Pear Tree Point Beach needs a facelift, not a three million-dollar lobotomy.

Adam and Laurie Duarte

Darien

Pear Tree Point Beach cannot afford to lose 35 parking spots

To the Editor:

The latest plans posted on the Parks and Rec Website indicate a scheme to remove 35 parking spaces in conjunction with “improvements” to Pear Tree Point Beach. On a nice summer holiday weekend with many beach goers and boaters heading to Pear Tree Point, the parking is already tight if not completely sold out. How can we afford to lose 35 of those precious parking spots?There has to be a way to keep these 35 spots and even to INCREASE the amount of parking down at Pear Tree Point.

Tom Lochtefeld

Darien

Don’t turn Pear Tree Point Beach into Jersey Shore

To the Editor:

As a long time resident of Darien and frequent visitor to Pear Tree Point Beach, I’d like to express my opposition to the proposed construction project.

In a few words, not every resident of Darien wants to turn our beaches into entertainment venues like the Jersey shore. Weed Beach has already been “updated” to accommodate people who like excessive construction in naturally beautiful spaces, why can’t we leave Pear Tree point alone for the rest of us?

Pear Tree Point Beach offers a serene natural space which meets the needs of many residents who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of living in a high stress suburb of New York City. To add a two-story building to that space, no matter how attractive the structure may be, would be a blight on the neighborhood.

Some people suggest that an elevator to the gazebo would be nice, I think the gazebo is a blotch on an otherwise attractive landscape and should be torn down. My suggestion would be to maintain the building that is already there, possibly even remove the restaurant section of it leaving only the bathrooms and showers to keep the beach clean and tearing down the gazebo, leaving the natural rock. This would certainly be the most cost effective solution.

I support repairing and updating the existing structure. I am wholeheartedly opposed to wasting 2 million dollars on a two-story structure. The beach regularly floods, so its a fools errand to build there. Decking or other walkways that accommodate handicapped individuals could easily be added from the parking lot to the picnic area without mangling the natural character of the beach. Tearing down the gazebo would eliminate the need for accessibility and would restore the view in that area. Residents who desire a more commercial atmosphere can go to Weed Beach.

Thanks for your time.

Deborah Furletti

Darien

Pear Tree project a bad choice aesthetically and financially

To the Editor:

The following letter was sent to RTM members. It is reprinted here at the author’ s request.

I do not live near Pear Tree Beach, but I go there frequently to enjoy the view. I find it incomprehensible that the Town is thinking of putting a multistory building atop the rocks that gently grace the shoreline. The area floods with every full moon!

The current view is beautiful and reminiscent of Maine, with the iconic gazebos on both shores. From the drawings, the proposed new structure will make Pear Tree look like Rockaway Beach, or worse yet, a Nazi era bunker on the North Sea.

Equally important is the incomprehensible notion that the Town’s leaders feel no guilt in paying for the structure, regardless of cost, with new debt. Are the members of the RTM and the Town’s public employees unaware that Connecticut is #49 out of the 50 states in unfunded liabilities? Additional debt for such an unnecessary project reflects tremendous lack of any sense of fiduciary responsibility. property values in connecticut have been falling for 12 years. Why? High property taxes! And the RTM and those responsible at Town Hall want to incur more debt for this unwanted facility?

This project has the smell of being nefariously promoted so that someone on the committee can award the contract for all the catering to a relative. Really bad public spending usually has equally bad reasoning behind it. There is no chance that event revenues can come anywhere close to servicing the debt. Residents will have to pay for this folly.

Darien historically was known as a community with smart financial oversight. Property values reflected that prudence. The past twelve years of freefalling residential real estate values indicate that those in charge of the public spending in the State, including Darien officials, are “off the rails.” Our leadership has lost all sense of Yankee values.

Schuyler Winter

Darien

Consider compromise on Pear Tree Point Beach plans

To the Editor:

I do not live near or around Pear Tree Point Beach, but I do use it on a daily basis. I started the protest against the berms and sand dunes to get the towns attention, now that we have it, the town has the nerve to insist it’s just the neighbors who do notwant it, factually untrue! We have collected over 700 signatures of people from around town who are opposed to the project. We have shown up to the meetings, we have voiced our opinions, we have talk to others, we have research, but you choose to ignore us all, instead you sight looking to the future, the new people who will be renting apartments, who will need open space, who don’t pay taxes!

I have personally been to every meeting since November and have witness the numbers of people who have gotten involved and are concerned about PTPB! Start listening to the people who live here, love it here and use the beach! It’s pretty obvious that you all have an agenda, and the voice of the people don’t count! There is a word, compromise — maybe you should consider doing some of the projects but not all of them! We all want updated bathrooms, the boat ramp, the picnic area, the parking lot, even the concession, but a $2.5 million flexible space, that we never asked for or wanted is to much!

Kelli Kole

Darien

Town doesn’t need to spend unneeded money on unwanted renovations

To the Editor:

I’m a long time Darien resident, and have been going to the beaches here for 30 years. My children grew up going to both, and while the renovations at Weed are lovely, and the facilities are wonderful, Pear Tree is perfect as it is. It’s an untouched gem, exactly what a beach should be — sand, water, views.

The Town of Darien should be fiscally responsible and not spend taxpayer dollars on yet another project we don’t need and residents haven’t clamored for. There is a renovated beach in town for those residents who want upgraded bathrooms, concessions, tennis, paddle or playgrounds. Pear Tree is small, floods and doesn’t need a year round rental space. The dollars you are planning on spending to do this come out of our pockets. We should be putting money into things that are necessary, not frivolous. Necessities, not niceties.

Please don’t ruin this gem of an untouched beach by renovating it and turning it into yet another over the top project.

We don’t need it and can’t afford it.

Marianne Lauer

Darien

Some things are better left in their natural state

To the Editor:

My name is Andrea McCracken. I have lived with my husband, Craig, at 60 Long Neck Point Road since 2007. We had and raised our family here now for over 10 years. Like many, we moved here from New York City, my hometown. We were actually looking to move to New Canaan and we looked at many, many homes back then; however, one drive over the Ring’s End Bridge, around Pear Tree Point Beach and up Long Neck Point Road changed our minds and... well... here we are!

We remember how much we loved the area when we came here — especially the beach. We would often take our children there when they were little and we enjoyed sitting and having lunch at the gazebo. We often played in the water and marveled at the small fish, crabs and birds all around us. Our memories of the beach are quiet and beautiful. The gazebo is a hallmark for our family and it tells us we are home. We hope that future generations will be able to use the beach in much the same way.

We have kept up to date with all of the happenings around the development of the beach. It is hard to understand how so much planning happened without — at least — our neighborhood being a part of the discussion. We have heard on many occasions that the Town of Darien feels that the complaints are limited to a very small number of neighbors. Let us be very clear — that is not a true statement. We have yet to meet one person from town, whether they live around the beach or far off in other areas of North Darien, who believes that this development is a good idea for MANY reasons. Please do not disregard what the Darien taxpayers are telling you.

A restaurant style development and party space will bring many cars and people to a residential area. Please note that the traffic during the summer is already quite heavy and many drivers speed around our small roads and it is a hazard for children and adults alike. This type of facility at our beach will also create a significant amount of waste. Darien Animal Control is a frequent visitor to the beach even now trying to get raccoons and other vermin out of the garbages and surrounding spaces. The noise such a facility will create is also something that should be considered. Homes are directly on the beach here — unlike Weed Beach where there is space between the common areas and the home owners. The noise in the summer time is significant and certainly an increase would be overbearing to those in the direct vicinity. Also, such a large structure would just be an eye-sore. The gazebo should be left alone and a two story structure should not be built as it will only disrupt the views and tranquility of our beach.

The flooding at the beach is real and it occurs daily — even when there are no storms or significant weather patterns. (We hope you have seen the daily pictures that are posted on savepeartreepointbeach.com.) Just as an example, the small guard house has rotting from all of the water that comes up through the parking lot and onto Pear Tree Point Road regularly. When the tides are high, there is enough water that would prohibit visitors from parking or even wading through the parking lot in bare feet.

Two and a half million is a lot of money. Let’s not forget it is taxpayer money and the taxpayers of this town are clearly telling you that developing this beach is not what we want. We firmly believe there are many other projects that residents would welcome — and would make sense for all of the community. As parents and residents, my husband and I often talk about why people have such a need to develop every nook and cranny around them. Some things are truly better left in their natural state.

Andrea & Craig McCracken

Darien

Senior citizen doesn’t want to ruin Pear Tree’s New England charm

To the Editor:

As a senior citizen, Pear Tree Beach was one of the reasons we selected Darien. We greatly enjoy its peaceful New England charm. But the town’s plan to redevelop Pear Tree Beach would demolish the current buildings, construct a two-story structure containing a second floor rental/community space, remove the changing rooms, plant vegetation between the parking space and the beach, and reduce the number of parking spaces.

Instead, I support renovating the existing buildings and barbecue area, retaining the current number of parking spaces, and replacing the missing trees along the waterfront, and not planting vegetation along the beach.

Sincerely submitted,

Andrew C. Millar

Darien

Fed just warned against developing in a flood zone

To the Editor:

As the town continues to shrug off overwhelming public opposition against its building program at Pear Tree Point Beach perhaps the Board of Finance will take note of the Federal Reserve. Last week the Federal Reserve Bank warned against developing in flood prone areas. Lets hope they demonstrate more common sense than the Parks & Recreation Commission.

Jim Errington

Darien

Opposition to Pear Tree Point Beach plans is silenced

To the Editor:

I am strongly opposed to the proposed plans for Pear Tree Point Beach. I am not a neighbor of this beach and the proposed restructure/rebuild plan is not looked upon favorably by residents town wide. I also did not know anyone on these committees prior to the last two meetings that I attended. I moved to Darien (1965) as a teenager and still reside here now as a senior citizen. Pear Tree has always been my beach of choice.

Most disturbing is the fact that the voices of Darien’s residents in opposition to the plan are silenced. It seems that anyone not in favor of the proposed plan is a nuisance to the Parks and Recreation Department and town government. It is a shame that so few make long lasting decisions for so many.

The editorial in the Darien Times was correct in the use of the word “compromise.” Updates and repairs are needed but the proposed plan is unacceptable. Pear Tree needs to remain the simple, serene beach that it is.

Preserve Pear Tree Point.

Bette Hartmayer

Darien