A member of the Compo Beach Master Plan Committee called last April’s public meeting — where opposition to new proposals, particularly perimeter parking, surfaced strongly — a “flash mob.”
Last night’s meeting at Town Hall — the 1st time the Parks and Recreation Commission reviewed the plan — was far less contentious. Citizens waited patiently through the consultants’ presentation of conceptual — not final — ideas, and a few commissioners’ questions, before speaking.
But when they spoke, they voiced a number of concerns.
As First Selectman Jim Marpe noted, Compo is used in “an amazing number of ways, and in common.” He spoke of the importance of investing in, upgrading and improving areas of the beach “where it makes sense.”
Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.
Introducing 2 plans — Options A and B — Consultants AKRF and Lothrop Associates expressed the hope that “everyone will like everything,” but cautioned, “no one will like everything.”
They sure didn’t.
Both plans show:
- a new entrance across from Bradley Street, with permit pass-checking deeper into the beach than now exists
- a driving loop around the beach, with perimeter pathways for walkers, joggers and bikers
- an extended boardwalk, toward the cannons
- exercise stations
- upgraded bathrooms, lockers and Joey’s
- redesigned marina promenade
- unobstructed parking spaces
- new trees
- improved facilities (including a bathroom) on South Beach
- a central lawn for picnics and special events, like Lobsterfest
- new walkways along Soundview Drive and Compo Beach Road.
Option A pushes all parking back from the beach. Option B removes some of that, but allows some parking similar to what now exists on South Beach.
Both plans remove 200 to 300 parking spaces from the current number, which is around 1900.
Parking is one of the most contentious parts of the 2 beach proposals.
Parks & Rec chair Charlie Haberstroh allowed youngsters to speak first. Several spoke eloquently and passionately of the need to retain the skate park. It does not appear in the current plans, but Parks & Rec director Stuart McCarthy said room could be made for it.
Then came comments from older folks. An early question covered costs. New buildings would run approximately $4 million; site work would be another $4 million. (Paving alone — included in site work — is about $2 million.)
Speakers zeroed in on specific concerns: Bradley Street will become more congested. The amount of asphalt and concrete that would be added to what are now “pervious” parking lots. The number of kayak racks that would be lost (none, McCarthy said).
Among the comments:
“You’re sacrificing 200 to 400 parking spaces for lawn and shrubs.”
“Parking and views are there 365 days a year. Traffic problems, they’re only 40 days or so.”
“I don’t understand all the talk about safety. The Sound is more dangerous than the beach.”
John Brandt referred back to an earlier speech. “You don’t fracture a gem,” the longtime Westporter said. “You polish it. We need to find a way to polish this gem.”
Compo Beach is a true town gem.
As Compo Beach Master Plan committee chair Andy Moss noted, plenty of dialogue and debate lie ahead. The Compo Beach proposals — which are still only design concepts — must still make their way through the Recreation Commission. Then comes the Planning and Zoning Commission, the selectmen, back to Parks & Rec, back to P&Z, and finally to the town’s funding bodies (Board of Finance and RTM).
Meanwhile, Westporters will continue to debate what they want — and don’t — for the town’s crown jewel.
The dialogue began last night. It can continue here. Click “Comments” — but please, be civil. Debate ideas; don’t castigate people. And use your full, real name.