Compo Beach Improvement Chair: “We Hear You Loud And Clear”

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.

Early arrivals examined a proposed Compo Beach site plan, before today's meeting.

Early arrivals examined a proposed Compo Beach site plan, before today’s meeting.

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!”

Westporters never tire of the views from Compo.

Westporters never tire of life at Compo.

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.”

Every day at the beach is not, well, a day at the beach.  But even storm clouds can be beautiful.

Every day at the beach is not, well, a day at the beach. But even storm clouds can be beautiful.

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.)




22 responses to “Compo Beach Improvement Chair: “We Hear You Loud And Clear”

  1. Traffic and safety concerns deserve a police officer at the beach, at least from 12:00 to 6:00. If local residents can’t find parking, then the town should stop selling 300 beach stickers at $50 a car every Saturday and Sunday, where three layers of parking have been created along the perimeter of the beach. Then we might have more parking available. And guess what? Despite the animosity toward New Yorkers, they are not the only ones buying beach passes, nor are they the culprits going the wrong way down a one-way lane to get an open parking space. Perhaps The Entitled, who careen through Playhouse Square lot to go to the post office, also go to the beach. Compo is not monitored for such safety concerns. We should not have to spend 7 million dollars to change the beach and make it inaccessible to residents who want to continue to enjoy it.

    • Ellen van Dorsten

      I continue to be perplexed by all the town plans, including the beach, with little or no reference to the total cumulative costs. Do we have a surplus of funds in Westport? Are these capital improvements coming out of current surpluses ?? or are we spending future tax dollars that will be collected from increased mill rates ??!!! Greenwich has a mill rate of 10.67 Darien 13.17 New Canaan a mill rate of 14.58 .. Westport a mill rate of 18.07 and (it appears to soon be rising) Weston is 23.09 see the CT state website for town 2012 mill rates.. Please tell the citizens how much each beach “add-on” is going to cost. A Chanel bag is beautiful until I look at the price tag and determine, “I don’t need it”. Regarding the beach; less is more. Start with minimal improvements and low cost expenditures. Please don’t spend citizen tax dollars or raise Westport mill rates. (by the way – if there is a surplus of funds in Westport, let’s take a town wide referendum vote for a rebate of tax dollars first).

      • Bart Shuldman

        Ellen. Thank you. We start these committees without any understanding of how much they can spend. Or if we can afford to spend anything.

        So this committee is formed and they go forward with what appears to be little guidance on cost to the residents and we are off to the races. No concern for what we can afford. No concern for what resident want or want to hold onto.

        And then eventually like all these ideas and committees, cost is presented.

        So here we are again.

  2. Kathy B. LoCurto

    I am in favor of the working plan in progress.
    The centralized parking is appropriate.
    The changes are minimal.
    The committee has respected the “less is more” concept.
    I was impressed with the lack of decorum among the spectators.

  3. I couldn’t make the meeting but i’ll be at the next one. Thanks Dan.

  4. It’s quite obvious after last nights Compo Beach Committee meeting, that the public of our town would like the direction of this committee to focus more on improving what we have at Compo, not what a few people may want. Compo is not a destination, it’s a beach. It does not belong to the few, it belongs to all of us. If one want’s the destination beach experience there are many all around us where one can park their car and walk…such as Sherwood Island.
    As a life long resident who frequents Compo Beach, I have seen no problems with safety. The residents of this community do look out for each other and do abide by traffic laws and do look out for children on our beaches…so please, the safety issue should be mote. There is more danger with Parks and Recreation allowing TOWN SPONSORED road races going thru the golf course at Longshore, as well as the many pedestrians, and cyclists who walk and ride thru there with blinders on.
    Do we really need to blow our beach up for about 30 days a year? These days are our prime Memorial Day thru Labor Day weekends. These days represent approximately 8% of the days of the year the beach is used. This is not including “rain outs” which will happen. This 8% warrants a $7 million dollar “let’s re invent the wheel” renovation?
    So we have a little traffic issue on a few weekends. Big deal. Traffic is a part of life, it’s not going away. (Just wait till the new YMCA is completed)
    It was mentioned a lot our traffic ills are caused by day passes purchased by out of towners at the beach gate. Here is a few simple suggestions to alleviate this “out of town day pass weekend issue”.
    1. No day passes purchased at beach entry.
    2. All day passes must be purchased via website in advance.
    3. or at Parks and Rec office (open sat 9-12 I believe.
    4. We sell only a certain number of passes per day and have an “out of
    town designated” area in center of beach lot for Friday-Sunday and
    holidays. No exceptions.

    By not selling day passes at beach we alleviate a whole lot of aggravation. No way should the residents of Westport be backed in traffic while someone is negotiating a business transaction that should be done in advance. This takes our Parks and Recreation employees out of the business game. They have enough to do, and need not be haggled dealing with non residents.
    I do commend the our Compo Beach Committee for trying to help make our beach a better place for all of us. They are working hard and should be respected for their efforts. They are all volunteers. Going forward we need to be civil and express our views like adults, in the end the message of the community will steer the direction of how our Beach Committee moves going forward.

    Jimmy Izzo

  5. David J. Loffredo

    If the issue is parking:

    – can we restrict out-of-towners who come for the day to the lot across the street?
    – can we reduce the numbers of non-resident beach stickers we sell? I appreciate that people from Weston/Wilton and other towns pay a couple hundred bucks to come to the beach for a season, but that doesn’t cover my tax bill for one week

    • Matthew Mandell

      David, the lot across the street is better left as resident only, so when we come and park there we can avoid the hub bub of the larger scene. Also forcing out of towners to park there, they would more likely beach themselves along soundview which, for the most part, is frequented by residents who live in the local area along those streets.
      People who pay should go to the larger areas and lots and leave what is local local…… again, things work pretty well now, there is no great need to change things.
      That said, we need a new bath house area and a real bathroom on south beach. And a walking path around would be nice, but that should not inhibit people from being able to gaze at the sites from their car.

    • Our favorite place to park is the lot across the street from the entrance, so please don’t give that to non-residents. I like the idea of a limited number of non-resident passes on weekends as well as perhaps pre-purchasing them. And then instructions to leave the pass on the dashboard and park in the middle of the property makes a lot of sense.

  6. Sandy Soennichsen

    Wow, David, I wish I owned your house then; it must be a 40,000 square foot megacastle on the Gold Coast.. I’d be more than happy to be given the the monies from the out-of-town beach passes sold! I see no problem with Westonites being able to buy season tickets for Compo, wish they could also buy passes for Longshore (and maybe they can already, I just don’t know). And I don’t know either if Wiltonites are allowed to buy season passes. However, I will agree on one thing, all daily out-of-town parking should be in the lot across from the entrance, nowhere else.

    • David J. Loffredo

      The median home price in Westport CT is $1M. Let’s say it’s assessed at 70% of value, with our mill rate of 18.07

      1,000,000 (home value) x 70% (assessed value) = 700,000
      700,000 x 18.07 (mill rate) / 1000 = 12,649 (annual tax bill)
      12,649 / 52 weeks in a year = $243.25

      So $200 for access to the Westport crown jewels for someone who doesn’t pay Westport property taxes is a gift.

      Nice snarkiness though….arm yourself with facts first next time.

  7. Michael Calise

    Thank you to all who attended last nights meeting. It was a spectacular public expression. I am cautiously optimistic that the committee will act in a more responsible fashion.

  8. Michael Calise

    Jimmy you are spot on with your comments, Thank You

  9. Right on Jimmy!

  10. Werner Liepolt

    Note that Greenwich handles day passes in the manner suggested by Mr. Izzo.

  11. David and Sandy, with all do respect, can we please be civil. It’s nice of Dan to provide us with a forum to discuss our beach. All opinions and suggestions are welcomed and we should treat each other with respect. I’m sure your both good people. We are all blessed to have access to Compo, lets try and be positive and respectful to each other.

  12. Bart Shuldman

    How do projects like this get a life of its own. I have never heard anyone complain about parking on the perimeter of the beach. I am someone who uses the BBQ’s and cannot see doing anything other than parking next to them. The traffic could only get worse if I had to drop off the goodies and then park somewhere else. And them pack up again.

    Seems like things like this need boundaries. Or ‘must’ haves. But now we have to worry about another committee doing another project where we have to get involved and bring them to reality.

    What a waste of energy.

    • How long have you lived in Westport? There are dozens of committees in search of solutions to problems in Westport. There is no point in having a committee with no problem to solve. This Compo Beach committee is not the first, nor will it be the last, to recommend solutions to problems that might not have existed if there were no committee.

  13. Suizanne Raboy

    The beach area may need some sprucing up, and some limitations on day trippers and/or how they get tickets and where they park would be good. But one of the best things about our town is the relaxed atmosphere at the beach. It would be a shame for the unfortunately prevalent “more and bigger is always better” mind set to determine what happens with the beach. The beach committee is trying to fix problems that don’t exist. Changes to parking and traffic patterns will not alleviate the fact that during the summer season, there is traffic at the beach. Drivers and pedestrians will have to be as careful as they are now.

    In this case, less is more.

  14. I have been going to Compo Beach most of my 61 years and bring my preteen children there 12 months a year. Some of the newly proposed plan for Compo seems excellent to me but the demise of peripheral parking does not. Perhaps Skip Lane needs to go sit on the beach to realise that only by turning his back upon natures grandeur does he have to look at parked cars. The additional physical strains upon someone such as myself, who though handicapped since a mishap while on active duty with the Army Feserve early in (the current) war, would be more than an inconvenience. I manage to find an adequate place to park even when all the handicap spaces, to which I am entitled use, are filled, often intentionally leaving those for someone else to use when I “luck out” with a close spot. If any one us were to sue under The Americans with Disabilities Act it would probably delay the project at least for many years. The legal costs to the town would be significant as would be the “black eye” of failing to be politically correct. I have been a loyal Westporter, served the community on EMS and in other capacities. I cannot say I would not take such an action against the town were it to persist in this ill conceived and expensive change in a parking plan that has functioned well for generations. The notion “don’t fix what ain’t broke” might here be well tempered with “K.I.S.S. ( keep it simple stupid).