Town Hall’s Room 201 was jammed like the fireworks today, as the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee met for the 1st time since Mike Calise’s public letter lamenting the proposed elimination of perimeter parking.
Chairman Andy Moss opened the meeting by acknowledging the SRO crowd. He said that the committee — whose charge is to “refresh our much-loved town asset” — would define its success by achieving compromise.
“We have no illusions we will please everyone,” the former Parks and Recreation Commission chair added.
Moss noted that the committee was examining issues relating to safety, traffic flow, improving South Beach, pedestrian and bike access and more.
An unidentified consultant to the committee described the new beach plan. It includes a new entrance area opposite Bradley Street; a roundabout; an “activity area,” and 700 paved (“or gravel,” she quickly added) parking spaces.
A self-described 52-year resident of the town shouted, “Have there been many pedestrian accidents?”
Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy described the desire to keep cars and pedestrians separate. He emphasized that the plan was “conceptual,” and that the town and various boards would make the final decision.
Several speakers noted the importance of easy access to the beach for elderly users, and families with small children. A comment about New Yorkers taking “all the early spots” drew applause.
Committee member Skip Lane compared the new plan to a state park like Hammonasset or Sherwood Island, with centralized parking. In response, several speakers said that what is right for a state park does not work well for a town beach.
That caused an audience member to yell, “We’re fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. Please tell me the problem. I’ve been here since 1970, and I came because of Compo. It’s spectacular!”
Moss pointed out various areas that need improvement: the brick wall near Joey’s destroyed by Hurricane Sandy; traffic that backs up to Owenoke; port-a-potties on South Beach.
“Rather than fixing things piecemeal, we’re looking at the big picture,” he said.
When RTM member Jack Klinge said that he was very pleased with the proposed new entrance and bathhouse, but had been asked by “hundreds” of seniors to protect convenient access to the bathhouse, Moss reiterated: “That’s coming through loud and clear.”
The back-and-forth continued. Bob Driscoll said, “I’ve been coming to the beach for 80 years, and it’s worked out pretty damn well.”
A self-described “traffic and logistics guy” claimed the committee was taking a traffic and safety problem, and turning it into “a major reconstruction.”
Moss repeated, “I hear the concerns about parking along the beach. That’s very important to hear.”
Recent Staples graduate Hannah Dickison had the last word. “I’ve seen a lot of changes here in 10 years,” she said. “Please don’t chip away at the beach too.”
After most of the crowd left, the committee turned its attention to policy issues. Among other things, they discussed the removal of the skate park, and the importance of parking revenue from out-of-towners.
(The committee’s next meeting is Wednesday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall Room 201. To follow the progress of the committee, and make comments, click here.)