Legislative Alert: New Bill Would Impact Beach Fees

Connecticut’s 2023 legislative session has begun. Several proposed bills would impact Westport.

At the committee level — where they are now — residents can comment in person at hearings, or via Zoom.

However, once a bill is voted out of committee, only written testimony is permitted.

Danielle Dobin wants to make sure Westporters know about one proposed bill in particular. She chairs our Planning & Zoning Commission. But — writing as a private citizen — she says:

Tomorrow (Friday, February 17), the Planning & Development Committee will discuss HB 6650: “An Act Concerning Public Access to Coastal Resources.”

In a nutshell, this proposal would limit the fees a municipality can charge for town-owned beach parking to not more than twice the fees charged to residents. Click here for the full text of the bill.

Last summer in Westport, residents were charged $50 for a seasonal beach pass; non-residents paid $775 (or $375, for Westonites). The Parks & Recreation Commission met last night, to discuss lowering the out-of-town, non-Weston fee to $545.

If the state legislature bill is adopted, the fee for non-residents would be capped at $100 for the season — or not more than two times whatever residents pay, if Westport changes that fee.

Beach stickers are cheaper for Westporters than non-residents. (Photo/Mark Marcus)

If the bill is adopted by the legislature, there are obvious implications regarding both revenue and parking access for residents.

At the same time, our beaches will be more accessible to people who can’t afford to park there now.

As a state, how do we strike the right balance between ensuring access for residents whose tax dollars pay for significant investment to maintain and improve our coastal resources, while ensuring that people who lack the resources for a $775 annual pass or costly day pass can still go to the beach with their families?

While in Westport, the train station provides free parking that’s walkable to Compo on the weekend, many other towns in the state lack this infrastructure.

Please consider sharing your thoughts with the legislature. But do so quickly. You must register to testify by 3 p.m. today (Thursday, February 16) in order to provide verbal testimony either via zoom or in-person. Submitting written testimony as soon as possible is also recommended.

Click here for a guide to signing up to testify. Click here for the “Bulletin” referred to in the link above; then scroll down to view the Planning & Development Committee meeting on Friday, February 17 in order to register.

(Keeping up with state politics is no day at the beach. Please click here to help “06880” continue our work.)

Lots may fill more quickly with lower daily fees. (Photo/Matt Murray)


28 responses to “Legislative Alert: New Bill Would Impact Beach Fees

  1. Making Sherwood Island a bargain.

  2. Sounds fair. Westport doesn’t want to be perceived as xenophobic, does it?

  3. The cost of maintenance of the beach which comes out of the taxes we pay to the town needs to be considered in addition to the cost of the beach sticker.

  4. I don’t think you will significantly change the path of this law so creative adjustments may be the means to live with the outcome and may be a good back-up plan in any case.

    Is it possible to:

    1 make the ability to buy a seasonal pass contingent upon also having a park & recs hand pass with no complaints outstanding for utilizing the towns amenities during the last year – Or each occupant above age 5 in a car also has to have and show a hand pass or pay a daily fee
    2. Is it possible that resident passes allow entry any time and non- resident only after 3pm
    3. If you raised the beach pass fee for residents to say $375 a season could they be eligible for up to $325 in discounts/ rebates on Longshore activities and other town fees?

  5. Its basic economics of supply and demand, of course we want everybody to have access, however, increasing or doubling traffic for non-residents is going to crush summer traffic, create the need for more maintenance and public parks help and if residents can no longer access the beach because of parking capacity, that likely decreases the allure to be in westport.

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Let’s face it. This is the mother of all existential crises for Woke Westport. DEI and unbridled materialism both run a stop sign and get in a collision at North Avenue and Cross Highway. They called the police, the squad car’s on fast charge so it’ll only be 30 minutes.

    • Stephanie Frankel

      We need to speak again. You seem to be a little obsessed with the word Woke.
      I thought you were for the struggling middle class.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

        I’m for anyone who’s struggling whatever their place on the totem pole. I assumed we would continue to speak and look forward to the next time we do because I think everything is better 1/1. You raise a valid point on my use of the term Woke. I need to tighten up my vocabulary but it’s early in the morning for this old fart. Let’s remove “woke” and replace it with sanctimonious. Now, remember, you’re a pal of mine so you don’t have to worry about my cheap shots applying to you.

  7. India van Voorhees

    I have questions before I have comments:
    1) Is there a cap on how many non-resident beach passes can be sold per season?
    2) How many are currently sold, including those to Westonites?
    3) Does any of this affect the prices of daily parking for those without a sticker?
    4) How would this affect the current limit of 100 parking spots per day for those not holding passes?

  8. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    I have the answer: When they dredge the river to make “the new, improved downtown Westport” simply add a beach to the ongoing, unending library redo. You can then pick up a book, a venti mocha latte, a beach blanket and a kayak all in one stop while the kids are shoplifting on Main. Of course you’ll need a shower before you hit the concert at the new all in one, one thought fits all library but don’t worry the “Y” is only a short drive down Wilton Rd.

  9. I love how our culture views issues so inconsistently; we are capitalist when it suits our needs and then we become socialists when it doesn’t. 😉 Some residents moved to Westport because of its wonderful Town controlled beaches, they may not have built-in swimming pools and they choose to spend their Summer weekends at Compo Beach.

    I understand it may be considered unfair for non-residents to pay a premium for spending time at Compo but Westport has a magnificent public State Beach at Sherwood Island, open to the world. Why do legislators insist on trying to right this perceived injustice? Is it really unfair?

    No one is denying anyone use of our Town beaches, they are just required to pay a premium to do so. This Town fights tooth and nail to prevent affordable housing, yet on the other hand, when it comes to our beaches, it’s a different story.

    My family enjoys Compo Beach every single weekend, all Summer long, going back 32 years. We have noticed the change in users. There are far fewer local residents and way more non-residents, than 30 years ago. On weekends, Compo Beach is very crowded with out of State license plates. The current beach fees do not appear to be deterring non-residents.

    Finally, I grew up in northern NJ, in a landlocked town. We spent a lot of time on the Jersey shore at public beaches, as did many of my in-laws who spent time at Jones Beach. Such was life.

    Do we really not have bigger fish to fry? Pun intended.

  10. Gianni Lorenzato

    “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” (Margaret Thatcher)

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      “The problem with Capitalism is eventually you run out of your own money.” (Eric Buchroeder)

  11. William Strittmatter

    Perhaps TEAM Westport could have next year’s essay focus on Westport’s beach pass policies and whether they promote or inhibit equity, diversity and inclusion in Westport or on Town beaches.

    There certainly seems to be some level of dissonance between Westport’s beliefs and actions.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      It’s not dissonance. Dissonance is when you are aware of the difference and become conflicted by it. Perhaps you were thinking of the term “ignorant bliss.”

    • Stephanie Frankel

      William, since when has lowering the cost of something a bad thing? I thought your party is having a hissy fit about inflation and the high cost of things, no?! Yes?! Is that an example of dissonance?

      • William Strittmatter

        My party? What would that be? And, for what it is worth, my impression is that no one is particularly fond of inflation.

        In any event, lowering the cost of beach passes for all would be a good thing. That doesn’t seem to be what Westport has historically done. Nor does there seem to be much support in the comment section for doing so.

        This discussion seems to come up every year with same result. Shocking.

  12. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    I am simply floored that the Museum of History and Culture hasn’t provided the “correct” answer to the problem of “free the beaches”. I guess they want us to struggle on our own for awhile before they render their decision. BTW, what have they decided on the tile wall issue? How about this: Why not move the wall out to Mahackeno?

  13. Here’s a thought…Charge Westport residents $250…Charge non-residents $500…Credit Westport residents the $200 differential (from the current $50) in their property taxes.

  14. Stephanie Frankel

    Let’s start with the actual real life definiton of Woke, not the right wing weaponizarion and pejorative performative politics form of it. That word has been so badly abused by people on the right claiming that caring about others is a terrible thing to do.
    I remember you saying Westport is not how it “ used to be” . Then you said that it used to be anti- semitic. Are you looking for the town to be the old anti- semitic or somewhat bigoted place or the new way of dealing with bigotry or diversity? Is diversity a bad word ? I am confused. Please explain.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Hi Stephanie,
      You’re right. Probably a good idea to speak again. You and I do better on the phone than we do as pen pals.

  15. The salient text of the bill reads:

    “[a municipality shall not ] impose on nonresidents a fee for such entrance or use, or parking associated with such entrance or use, that is greater than twice the amount of any fee charged to residents for the same purpose.”

    For me, the best deal in Westport was always the $50 beach parking pass. If the bill is passed, the town will have to increase the price. If increased to $200 ($100 for seniors), for example, would this be a burden to most residents? I don’t believe so. There may be a reduction in the number of passes purchased per household (e.g., only one car has the pass rather than two, three, etc.) but the $200 price point is affordable, in my view.

    I think Westporters should be happy that the State is not mandating something more “equitable” such as an equal number of passes must be made available for sale to residents and non-residents alike, etc.

  16. Is there a law that prohibits towns from excluding non-residents? If not, then the solution is simply to prohibit non town residents from Compo (therefore, we’re not charging more than double). The proposed legislation refers to charging non-residents a certain amount.

    Frankly, I think Westport should get an exemption since we have Sherwood Island, which is far, far bigger than Compo. We already give access to a vast majority of our coastline to anyone from the state of CT, which is far more than any other coastal community. We should be given some sort of credit for Sherwood.

    • Are you being serious when you write “the solution is simply to prohibit non town residents from Compo”? Please tell me that you are being facetious.

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