Proposed Bill Would Alter Beach Access And Fees

It’s a bit early to be thinking about summer.

And this bill has just been proposed. It must wend its way through the State Legislature, beginning with the Planning and Development Committee. There’s still a long way to go.

Yet it has the impact to completely change Connecticut’s beaches — including Westport’s.

“An Act Concerning Access to Public Beaches” — Proposed Bill #6351 from Representative Roland Lemar of the 96th district (New Haven and East Haven) — reads:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:  That the general statutes be amended to prohibit any municipality or other local unit of government from

(1) enacting ordinances, regulations or other rules that limit access to any public beach based on town  residency of any potential visitor to such public beach, including when a municipal or local official determines that capacity concerns warrant limiting such access,

(2) establishing a fee or access structure that disparately impacts any such potential visitors based on town residency, and

(3) charging more for the issuance of any parking or access pass for any such public beach than the state charges for access to 10 its public parks.

Statement of Purpose: To prohibit municipalities and other local units of government from limiting the access of certain individuals to public beaches.

In other words: If passed, Westport would lose $1 million or so a year in revenue — yet still be responsible for staffing (lifeguards, etc.), maintaining, and cleaning the beach.

Not to mention what would happen if parking capacity limits were removed.

A proposed bill in the State Legislature would — among other things — prohibit charging out-of-towners more than residents for beach access. it would also prohibit local officials from determining limits based on capacity concerns.

60 responses to “Proposed Bill Would Alter Beach Access And Fees

  1. Westport lose a million to pay off the other poorly ran cities?

    On top of a “mansion” tax for any home $430,000, a fine on voting, and tolls?

    We should be finding ways to incentivize the residents who have been here forever and just moved here during the pandemic. Not chase them away with, once again, and I hate to say it, these career politicians with no business experience democrats that run Hartford and New Haven are sticking it to US to pay for the states debt lead by poorly mismanaged.

    This is WHY people are moving out of this state. High leases and rents, it’s not a state to sustain and plant, it’s a revolving door.

    Roll back spending and get these democrats who have mislead these cities and states, out of here.

    Connecticut was never like this when I raised a family the last thirty years. Sad and pathetic

  2. John D McCarthy

    This should be interesting

  3. Bill Strittmatter

    I read the CTMirror article on this yesterday.

    It seems like there are some who believe that, similar to restrictive zoning polices, restrictive beach policies are thinly veiled racist policies by towns such as Westport intended to keep certain groups out of towns, out of schools and off the beaches.

    Shocking, right? I mean, don’t they see all the “Hate has no home here” signs all over town?

    Maybe TEAM Wesport could change the subject of this year’s essay to “Is there a problem with Westport’s beach policy?” and we can put this baseless canard to bed once and for all. Or not.

  4. James Waldron

    Think of it as a path to ‘economic equality’. That’s what a lot of you spout here Westport should provide. Right?

  5. Rossina Petrova

    I am shocked- we should fight this tooth and nail!

  6. Michael Calise

    “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.

  7. That’s crazy. Doubly so amidst the pandemic.

  8. Beatrice Baker

    Have the Hartford people seen how crowded the beach is, especially on week ends? I wont go there then and take comfort from the fact that the Town is getting money

  9. So who do we contact to voice our displeasure?

    • I’d start with Haskell and Steinberg. If they support this maybe it’s time we finally voted them out.

  10. Michael Isaacs

    Especially in these times, the finances should not be so important. Most everyone who lives in Westport is reasonably well off. It’s not an inexpensive town to move to. The beaches are public property, and anyone who wants to go to them should be able to do so easily and affordably. Parking lots should be first come, first served, with everyone paying the same. Westporters have an edge at Compo in that they live close by. They can be dropped off if they can’t get a parking spot. As far as Westport losing income if out-of-towners don’t pay steep fees for beach access and parking… well, imo they never should have had to pay more in the first place. $1 million more in taxes spread over every Westport taxpayer is peanuts. The last thing Westport needs is to be targeted as exclusionary in these times.

    • Michael, Michael, Michael; are you serious? Beaches are a limited, fragile resource and access to them should be a reward for those who choose to live in towns that access them….under your reasoning, private property will soon be dolled out to them that wants it…at the expense of the owner. Town beaches are for town residents and others who may be wiling to help the town maintain and manage them. And when the lot if full, you’re out of luck. Get fucking real, man.

  11. Mathew Mandell

    To voice your concerns contact Senators Tony Hwang and Will Haskell along with Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Stephanie Thomas.

    This is not the only thing happening in Hartford that would impact our town. There is pending legislation that could potential remove local control from zoning decisions. It would allow as of right multi-family housing anywhere within a 1/4 of a commercial zone and 1/2 from a train station. It would remove any involvement of a conservation commission or police and fire from the planning decision process.

    More to come on this as the legislation takes shape, stayed tuned.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      Absolutely Matt. With your able support, the RTM passed a sense of the meeting resolution in October 2020 noting, among other things: “The Westport RTM, condemns racism in all its forms and hereby commits to actively working toward combating racism and valuing all people as deserving of equitable treatment.”

      Very commendable. But now it is the time for action. Now it the time for all good Westporters to live up to that resolution, acknowledge the scourge of systemic racism and rise up to voice support to your legisilators for these efforts to actively work toward dismantling the artificial barriers to equality and combatting racism.

      • Suzannah Rogers

        Amen for speaking the truth, Bill Strittmatter!

      • What the hell are you saying, Bill? Are you implying, in a racist way, that all them that’s unable to go to our beaches are black folks? Are you saying that all them that can’t garner the small change to go to our beaches are black folks? This Hartford effort to “combat racism” is bullshit, because most of the people who want to use Westport beaches, regardless of residency, ain’t black…they are as white as are you.

      • Diane Johnson

        Well stated, Mr. Strittmatter; Mr. Katz, I believe he knows exactly what he is saying…

        • But do you not think that MOST of the people who would frequent the beach free of charge would be WHITE families. As mentioned below, the beaches in Bridgeport ARE ALSO RESTRICTED IN USAGE…it’s not a discrimination issue, today, it’s a space preservation issue.

          • Bill Strittmatter

            No. I don’t think that it is mostly white people that like to go to the beach nor are the only ones that have the means to transport themselves to Westport.

            I gather the demographic of the Sherwood Island beach crowd is rather more diverse than Compo. No particular reason to believe that the same demographic wouldn’t also enjoy Compo. Indeed, that is what at least some commenters on previous posts on the subject fear.

            • Hmmmmm; my only rebbutal to that is that the Exit 18 Extension can far more easily, logically and justifiably handle the traffic generated by that diverse population than can South Compo Rd or Greens Farms/Hillspoint.
              It’s simply dumb and thoughtless to further over impact the local roads with that traffic regardless of such a move’s ability to asuage the guilt of them that “have”…..and, again, not to mention the crushing impact on beach resources.

              • Bill Strittmatter

                Not sure what to make of the “rebuttal”. Acknowledgement that the beach policy is inherently racist but the potential inconvenience of increased traffic trumps doing anything about it?

                • Saying NOT that current policy IS racist, but only that giving away the beach & clogging the roads is not worth it in order to assuage guilt about living in white, privileged Westport. Once the beaches are opened to all comers, Westport will still be white and more priviledged than so many other places.

                  • James Waldron

                    Dan, curious, how often do you utilize Compo in the summer? I think the only guilt being expressed here is yours, thinly veiled.

                    Like a comment earlier, “Wow”.

  12. John Terpening

    Looks like Compo Beach is going to become an extension of Sherwood Island State Park. Now all there is to discuss is availability of a picnic table, a Bar-B-Q and the day fee. Westport must have seen this coming when they built the bathrooms on south beach and put in handicapped access to the water. I will be curious to see the “sharing” and the “caring”.

  13. Amy Schneider

    Another interesting bill: No. 180 that would fine people $20 or two hours of community service to voters who are registered and do not vote in state elections beginning in 2024.

  14. (860) 240-0550 planning and development committee number in case anyone would like to call and say they are against Bill 6351

  15. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Connecticut. We will make everything equal to the lowest common denominator. We will destroy anything that is exceptional, special or different. If you have a nice pool, you should admit anyone who drives by access to it because that is what we are all about. If you have invested in a great school system, we will open it to all comers so that we can make it equal to every average school – exceptional is bad because it is not equal. However, everyone will be the same regardless and that is the greater good. Having said that, their will be an Elite class of government officials. They deserve this because they are the Hand of God, I mean the state.

    For anyone who was conscious in the last century, this was exactly the stuff we heard and witnessed in all of the failed societies around the world. So glad that we are emulating failure and mediocrity.

  16. This would be the greatest thing to happen to Westport in years!

  17. Regina Phalange

    enough already. this is bananas.

  18. Regina Phalange

    Could not have said it better, Rob S.

    Thank you.

  19. Harrison Bergeron, call your office!

  20. What can be done to stop this. Is Hartford going to pick up our deficit?

  21. Michael Don Sullivan

    … have a bad feeling about this proposal! I grew up two blocks from Fairfield Beach, 50 years ago! With five siblings, we all walked to the beach, along with many of our friends! My parents paid a little fee, so that we could do so,to the Fair Acres Association! No parking, no facilities. Beach parking stickers were available, and affordable at the time, and our parents always bought them for the occasional outing to those beaches when we needed to drive and park! It was understood, and sounded reasonable to a 13 year old, that people outside of our town, who didn’t pay our taxes, would be expected to pay “a little more”! Great memories, sincerely, Michael Don Sullivan

  22. Elaine Marino

    Has the non-Westport, non-Weston (registered) vehicle beach sticker fee always been $775? I thought this fee was limited to 200 cars and applied to last summer only? Pre-Covid, what was the fee?

  23. Between this and the “mansion” tax, anyone know where our reps – Senators Tony Hwang and Will Haskell and Representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Stephanie Thomas – stand on these issues and how they plan to vote? I looked at their websites and social media handles and … nothing. Very disappointing. Always a concern in a one-party state (doesn’t matter which one) that elected officials find it tough to come out against “leadership bills”. Hopefully our elected officials will share their views soon, and ultimately go to bat for Westport. These officials really don’t get why CT is losing population to other states, do they?

  24. If you look at point 3 – “cannot charge more than is being charged at CT State Parks.” Unless I read it wrong CT State parks, like Sherwood, are free to CT residents since the fee is collected as part of the DMV. So, Westport will not get any revenue yet be responsible for all upkeep.

    • Dick Lowenstein

      First of all, Westport beaches are free. It’s the parking that you pay for. Anyone can be dropped off and walk on to beach.

      As for the State parks,, it’s only CT-registered vehicles that are free: Here is the regulation for Sherwood:

      “Pricing: Weekdays: free for CT vehicles; $15/out-of-state vehicles after 4:00 pm $7. Weekends: free for Ct vehicles; $22/out-of-state vehicles after 4:00 pm $7”.

  25. Michael Elliot

    Elections have consequences. This is only the beginning. Equity is the new buzz word. Men that now identify as female can compete in women’s sports…..really. Let’s open the southern border to anyone at the height of a pandemic, whilst making travelers from out of state quarantine for (10) days. Compo beach is one of the jewels of our town and why many of us live here. We all pay sky high property taxes does that not give our elected leaders impetus to fight for this towns character? I do not ever remember barring anyone from using the public gems of this town…..but there has to be checks and balances to administrate, protect and pay for these gifts……serenity now!

    • John D. McCarthy

      “Equity is the new buzz word” Actually, hasn’t it been a stated, but as yet unattained goal of our government structure for quite some time? All Men are Created equal, comes to mind, as does the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

  26. Isn’t this what happened to Greenwich a few years ago?

  27. Is Representative Lemar a Democrat or a Republican? My bet is he is another self proclaimed “progressive Democrat” with little or no use for those of us who reside in Fairfield County. The only thing they are interested in is taking our assets (taxing the hell out of us) and pissing the money away…Compo Beach is open to the public…sometimes even us residents can’t get parking..

    This town overwhelmingly loves the D running the state..careful what you wish for when one party runs the whole show….All kinds of fun stuff coming from the Democratic Legislature in Hartford. Like Washington in Trump regime, CT has been run by a partisan party (Democrats) for the past 2 decades…Our democracy state, local, or national needs balance. We stopped sending people to serve based on issues, but rather on a letter attached to a name- D or R.

    Okay my Democratic Friends fire away!!!!! 🙂

    • Werner Liepolt

      Well, at least you acknowledge the authoritarian nature of Trump’s Republican Party—the definition of “regime” is “ a government, especially an authoritarian one.”. Having that in the rear view mirror is a tremendous relief—permanent, one hopes…

      Representative Lemar’s proposed bill is likely to provoke an animated discussion… Let’s demand Ct Republicans and Democrats make it truthful, factual, thoughtful, rational, and intelligent… Loonies not welcome.

      • Michael Calise

        There is a Looney in Danbury (Senator Looney) who has proposed a statewide property tax. I have heard of Democrat after Democrat proposing new and increased taxes. But I have not heard of any calls to restructure state government to spend less. If you want an eye opener just look at all the new and increased taxes we have suffered as of July 2020.
        Anyone who can not see all of this is just plain blind!

        • Exactly. Spend spend spend. No cost optimization. Stupid projects that waste money. Good projects that are run horribly. Friends of politicians being awarded big work. The list goes on

  28. I assume CT will fight hard to keep its position as having the fewest linear feet of saltwater beach open to the public in proportion to its total coastline of any state in the U.S. After 21 years here, I completely support maintaining that dubious distinction. I support equity in everything but sand!

  29. Martha Deegan

    I think it wise to contain all Westport-ians in one long stretch of beach, for the safety of out-of-towners. Perhaps a very tall fence is needed. And guards every 10 feet.

  30. Edward Bonaham

    This beautiful small state has been poorly misled, mismanaged and destroyed by useless democratic politicians with no empathy to their voters.

    Does anyone remember the campaign signs of regarding to keep local zoning a local matter?

    How about the regionalization of school districts?

    How about what Mr. Bosco mentioned also above about the mansion tax of a hole $430,000 being a mansion tax?

    How about more tolls?

    We’re all so quick to call out our presidents for misconduct and being mislead, what about the local officials the closest ones to YOU, your family, the ones you’re trying to provide for? Hard to provide for them when we’re constantly cleaning up after the mess of mismanaged cities in Connecticut. Believe it or not, democratic lead.

    Democrats: take a break from the national politics and screaming from the pews, and actually do something for your community and help out Jonathan Steinberg, who is probably the only sane democrat elected to the state who is against all this terrible legislation.

    Otherwise, republicans are coming for your seats.

    • Gotta love those Democrats. LOL. Just continue to ruin the once great state I called home for 45 years.

  31. Robert Harrington

    While the country has rightly been focused on all the recent problems in Washington … and that had to be the priority…… we’ve taken our eye off the ball here in CT.

    There are very scary things going on in Hartford right now…

    CT is in the unenviable list of states that has decided not to prioritize vaccinating its teachers…

    Talks of a Mansion tax…

    Changes to local Zoning…

    And now some want to meddle with Compo Beach.

    Higher taxes, more regulation, removing some powers of individual towns…

    Is this what this town or state needs?
    Focus on jobs, helping small business and giving opportunities to individuals & families.

    I am highly confident that Senator Hwang, Senator Haskell, Rep Steinberg and Rep Thomas will strongly stamp out this nonsense about Connecticut’s beaches.

    Let’s not make this about Democrat vs Republican (as temping as that is). Let’s make it about common sense vs stupidity!

  32. One person’s common sense is another person’s common white privilege. All the signs, the cumbaya moments, even the Black Lives Matter protests mean nothing if we continually protect our “right” to elitist behavior. There’s no law against segregationist attitudes, but hopefully there will more and more laws to ensure that those attitudes cannot be codified. Spoken as a white native Westporter, I find it exciting to see the racism in our system being challenged.

  33. Ms. Howland-Murray, do you know that Bridgeport beaches are restricted to residents, and that non residents must pay $45 to park…is that racist or simply protection of a fragile resource???

  34. Susanne Addessi

    Many of us would like to hear from our Connecticut legislators Will Haskell and Jonathan Steinberg?

    • Michael Calise

      You realize of course that they can comfort you with what you want to hear and even vote the way you want but it has little meaning against the Democratic majority. BTW Will Haskell has just sponsored a bill to put tolls on our highways. His district (that’s us) will be greatly effected by these proposed tolls.

  35. Simply put, people pay for parking at our beaches, not for using the beach as it is in other Shore Towns. The taxpayers of Westport have footed the bill for the building and maintenance of the lot and its improved structures. And THAT is what non-residents have to pay for. Once again, Westport becomes the face of some imagined racist, privileged, elite Town. We are absorbing affordable housing all along the Post Rd. in an attempt to satisfy some upstate legislators spite. Enough of making Westport a scapegoat! The land around our beach is Town owned and the Town has a right to charge non-residents a fee for its use.
    I would reming you that a section of the Beach in Fairfield is PRIVATE. When walking on the beach, you are not welcome to pass if it is high tide. Really?
    Pat Porio

  36. A reminder to us all who abhor the thought of this “beach access bill”: bill 6351 has not yet reached the floor for any vote…a tiny fraction of the thousands of proposed bills even make it to committee, no less to a floor vote…so even though we are alert to comment on the bill, it is not likely to go to the floor for a vote…or even to committee, perhaps. Let’s relax a little…myself included.