Tag Archives: Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club

Roundup: Real Estate, Trash, YMCA …

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July’s real estate numbers are in.

According to Brown Harris Stevens, while the total number of closed homes declined from 96 to 69 from last year’s frothy July numbers — still the 2nd-highest number of closings for  the month since 2001 — the average closing price rose 19%, from $1,627,253 to $1,929, 908. That’s the highest for July since 2008.

Houses sold, on average, for 101% of the list price. That’s the 5th straight month the figure has surpassed 100%.

As of July 31, there were also 103 pending sales. Another 178 were listed as “active inventory.”

As for condos: 31 closed in July 2021, up from 22 the previous July. The average closing price for condos in the first 7 months of 2021 was $628,002, a rise of 34$ since the comparable period a year ago.

The total volume of house house and condo closings since January 1 is $644,692,685. That’s up a whopping 45% since the first 7 months of 2020. (Hat tip: Chuck Greenlee)

This 4-acre property on Beachside Avenue — once part of the JC Penney estate — is listed for $6,495,000. One drawback: It is not actually on the water.

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Lou Weinberg is best known as the chair of Westport’s Community Gardens.

But the Westporter’s stewardship of the earth extends to the water. He writes:

“A recent walk along Burying Hill Beach yielded an astronomical amount of garbage. The bag on the right was what my wife and I picked up. The garbage on the left was left by a generous donor or donors.

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)

“As I’m sure you can guess, there were plenty of single-use plastic bottles, bottle caps, aluminum cans, balloons, fishing line, food wrappers, etc. On this walk, we even saw a used diaper and the leftovers from somebody’s lunches.

“What one can do: The Burying Hill lifeguards gave us the bag. Perhaps others who are taking a stroll along the beach and beyond could bring their own bags, or get one from the guards. Any effort to bag the garbage may result in one less piece of plastic ingested by wildlife, and a cleaner environment. Nature deserves better.”

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Several years ago, the Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club ordered a historical plaque, commemorating its Westport Historic District Commission Preservation Award of 2018 for the heritage of its building.

Delivery problems delayed the ceremony until this week. Westport Museum of History & Culture house historian Bob Weingarten — who made the presentation to former commodore Paul Rosenblatt — provides the backstory:

The SHYC clubhouse was originally a stable. It was built circa 1887 by Henry C. Eno, as part of his Queen Ann seaside summer estate.

The SHYC was established 1959 by J. Anthony Probst. He remodeled the stable into a clubhouse, with the help of landscape architect Evan Harding. During the 2018 presentation, the HDC noted that underwater marsh land was dredged to create a harbor. It was the first of its kind on the eastern seaboard to feature an underwater bubble system, allowing boats to remain moored year-round.

Former commodore Paul Rosenblatt, the Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club plaque, and the historic clubhouse.

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As I walked out of the Y yesterday, a man approached.

“Is this the YMCA?” he asked.

Duh! I thought. What else would it be?

Then I looked around. There is virtually no signage anywhere.

There’s nothing on Wilton Road, or Merritt Parkway Exit 41 — the only 2 ways to enter the parking lot — that say “Welcome to the Westport Weston Family YMCA!”

The sign above the entrance reads “Bedford Family Center.” Who — including most members — knows that’s the name of the Y building.

High above the entrance — where no one looks, and besides, it’s very hard to make out — is the “Y” logo. But that’s it. It doesn’t even say “YMCA.”

I guess there really is no such thing as a dumb question.

Can you see the “Y” above the “Bedford Family Center” sign? (Photo/Dan Woog)

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No one likes to see a police cruiser in their rear view mirror.

But everyone should support the Westport Police Benevolent Association’s 3rd annual Car Cruise. It’s tomorrow (Saturday, August 21, 4 to 8 p.m., Saugatuck train station parking lot #1).

Cars of all years, makes and models are welcome. It’s a family-friendly event, with music, food trucks and a raffle.

The fee to enter and display a car is $20, with the funds earmarked for causes like the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Special Olympics, and Veterans & Families of Fallen Officers.

The first 100 cars receive a gift bag. Trophies will be awarded too.

A previous Westport PBA car rally

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In 2017, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke a story about Westporter Harvey Weinstein in The New York Times. The smoldering #MeToo movement suddenly caught fire.

The 2 journalists will speak at the Westport Library’s inaugural fundraising event, “The Exchange: Conversations About The Issues of Our Time.” The October 5 (10 a.m.) event will be moderated by Westport corporate executive Joan Gillman,

Click here for more information, and tickets.

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

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The other day, “Westport … Naturally” featured a snowy egret enjoying a meal. Today, we show one in flight.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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To purchase tickets or a table for this special event go to

And finally … speaking of the YMCA (as we were above): Maybe we need these guys as greeters in front.

Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club’s Intriguing Sequel: They DO Own The Water

This morning’s story about the Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club’s claim that it owns not only the land under its water — but the water itself — drew a reaction from readers. A few pointed out special circumstances.

One reader — who asked not to be identified — emailed:

In fact, the yacht basin is privately owned. While the general rule is that the state has jurisdiction over tidal and navigable waters like this, as is the case with both the Cedar Point and Compo yacht basins, the Saugatuck yacht basin was deeded to the yacht club by the Governor of Connecticut, I believe when it was proposed to be dredged out or shortly after.

The reader sent a land record map of the basis. Note 2 on the bottom right shows that none of the other lots facing the yacht basin (Duck Pond) have “any riparian, littoral or other rights to said pond or the waters therein.”

The reader notes that the lots never relinquished those rights. Rather, they were created out of land that did not previously have waterfront access, and were created with the stipulation that they would not have access after the basin was dredged.

The same reader sent a second map (below), adding:

The residential properties facing the yacht basin each have deeds that refer to another map recorded with the town. The deeds refer to the parcels being owned, subject to the notes on this map, including the section calling out each lot as having no rights past their property line with the yacht club.

Evan Stein wrote in the comments section that the Saugatuck Shores homeowner who had been warned of trespassing (via kayak) by the yacht club had not Googled deeply enough.

Evan provided a link to a 2008 tax assessment appeal to the town by Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club. Evan then cites relevant details from the ruling:

The subject property consists of 5 parcels aggregating to 14.68 acres of land, 10 acres of which are the land submerged beneath the body of water known as the Duck Pond, which serves at the plaintiff’s yacht basin.

The subject property is not waterfront property in the classic sense, as it is not on the waterfront of Long Island Sound. A boater must navigate from the Duck Pond boat basin through a dredged channel, past the Cedar Point Yacht Club, past the town mooring fields and the town marina in order to reach the open waters of Long Island Sound.

Harbormaster Bob Giunta responded too. He remembers as a child watching Kowalsky Brothers creating the yacht club, by excavating land.

So it appears that yes, Saugatuck Harbor does indeed own both the land underneath its basin, and the water itself. They do seem to be within their rights to restrict access to it, even by homeowners on its shore.

Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club.

However, that does not settle the question of whether they should.

Matthew Mandell writes:

I used to do a lot of whitewater rafting. Many of these rivers ran through paper company land. While we could navigate the river freely, we could not set foot on the shore, unless it was an emergency. Often the company had a dam that generated its power. Deals were worked out to open the dam for an hour to create the bubble of water for rafting. Others were spring melt runoff.

Regardless of land/ownership the yacht club should act more like the paper companies and allow use.

And Deb Alderson raises an interesting point:

If the yacht club owns the land under the Duck Pond, then do the other homeowners around the Duck Pond own waterfront property, or do they own landlocked property with water views?

It used to be that property taxes were bumped up by about 10% for waterfront property. If those properties are paying a premium for waterfront property, they may have a case for a reduction in their taxes. It’s worth asking the question.

Despite living on the basin, this Duck Pond homeowner appears to have no legal access to it.

 

Yacht Club Claims: We Own The Water!

Last summer, a Westport homeowner walked out of her Saugatuck Shores home. She strolled through her back yard, to the edge of the water. She slipped into her kayak, and paddled a few yards.

Suddenly, she was stopped. A woman from Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club, across the way, yelled that she was trespassing.

“We own the water!” the SHYC representative said. “We reserve it for our members!”

Stunned, the Westport resident retreated.

She’s not alone. A neighbor was reprimanded, the same way.

The Saugatuck Shores homeowner’s back yard.

Commodore Sandy Heller and Vice Commodore Roger Schwanhausser followed up with a letter. They sent it “as neighbors,” with “a significant safety concern for both you and our members.”

The letter continued:

We have received member reports, and have pictures, of kayaks stored on your property being launched by individuals crossing over our property line to access the water and into our Club basin.

This has created navigational hazards and safety to concerns to our members as they transit in and out of our basin. Recently, one of our members nearly collided with a non-member kayaker who was unable or unwilling to yield navigational right of way.

Kayaks, ready — but forbidden — to launch, near Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club.

But safety was not the commodores’ only concern.

Further, as you may not know, the Saugatuck Harbor basin is private property. Our Club owns the land under the water, and per Connecticut law, also owns the water above that land up to the mean high tide line.

Any unapproved access to our basin is, therefore, trespass on our property and is not allowed by Connecticut law.

These facts are documented in our deeds and property records, which go back almost 60 years, and are recorded and memorialized at Town Hall in Westport.

We, at Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club, have always strived to maintain good relationships with all our neighbors. We are fully aware of our presence in, what is largely, a residential neighborhood.

We want to be respectful of our neighbors’ privacy, their safety, and their property rights. We would expect the same of you, and request that you refrain from any further access to our basin in the future.

But is it really “their” basin?

The homeowner asked someone in Town Hall’s Conservation office. “She laughed,” the woman says. “She said, ‘No one owns the water!”‘

Kayakers and boaters — not including the Westporter in this story — enjoying the water near Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club.

The Westporter — who notes that “people come in with kayaks and paddleboards all the time from the other side of the inlet” — did what any reasonable person would do. She Googled.

She found Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s “Living on the Shore” page. It says:

While much of the Connecticut shore is privately owned, the coastal tidelands actually belong to all the people—not just in terms of our environmental and cultural heritage, but in a specific legal sense as well.

Under the common law public trust doctrine, a body of law dating back to Roman times, coastal states (as sovereigns) hold the submerged lands and waters waterward of the mean high water line in trust for the public.

The general public may freely use these intertidal and subtidal lands and waters, whether they are beach, rocky shore, or open water, for traditional public trust uses such as fishing, ­shellfishing, boating, sunbathing, or simply walking along the beach.

In Connecticut, a line of state Supreme Court cases dating back to the ­earliest days of the republic confirms that in virtually every case private ­property ends at mean high water (the shore elevation, which is the ­average of all high tides) and that the state holds title as trustee to the lands waterward of mean high water, subject to the private rights of littoral access, that is, access to navigable waters.

Public Trust sketch

What is the boundary of the public trust area?

The public trust area includes submerged lands and waters waterward of mean high water in tidal, coastal, or navigable waters of the state of Connecticut. On the ground, the mean high water boundary of the ­public trust area can often be determined by a prominent wrack line, debris line, or water mark. In general, if an area is regularly wet by the tides, you are probably safe to assume that it is in the public trust. The public trust area is also sometimes referred to as tidelands and is defined as ”public beach“ by the Connecticut Coastal Management Act, C.G.S. 22a-93(6). While the public trust area extends up navigable rivers, it does not extend inland to areas landward of the mean high water line.

What rights does the public have within the public trust area?

According to the Connecticut courts, public rights to the shore include the
following:

  • The public has the right to fish and shellfish over submerged lands. Peck v. Lockwood, 5 Day 22 (1811);
  • The public has the right to pass and repass in navigable rivers. Adams v. Pease, 2 Conn 481 (1818);
  • The public may gather seaweed between ordinary high water and low water. Chapman v. Kimball, 9 Day 38 (1831);
  • “Public rights include fishing, boating, hunting, bathing, taking shellfish, gathering seaweed, cutting sedge, and of passing and repassing ….” Orange v. Resnick, 94 Conn 573 (1920);
  • “It is settled in Connecticut that the public has the right to boat, hunt, and fish on the navigable waters of the state.” State v. Brennan, 3 Conn Cir. 413 (1965).

Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club

She found another page: “Access to Your Boat: Your Littoral Rights.”

Although shoreline residents must share the public trust area with their fellow citizens, every coastal property owner enjoys unique legal rights by virtue of owning waterfront land. Just as an upland property owner has the right to access a public road, a coastal property owner has an exclusive right to access navigable water from his or her property.

This coastal right of access is known as a “littoral” or “riparian” right. Technically, “riparian” applies to rivers while “littoral” applies to coastal waters, but the terms are often used interchangeably.

The littoral right of access provides the property owner reasonable access to the water from his or her property.

Reasonable access can be achieved by launching a boat directly from the shore, by use of a mooring, or by constructing a dock suitable for the site conditions and properly permitted by  DEEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Littoral access does not imply a right to build whatever size dock or wharf a property owner wishes, nor does it mean that a littoral owner may routinely exclude boats or moorings from the waters in front of his or her property.

In terms of access, navigable waters are equivalent to a public road, and a dock serves the same purpose as a private driveway. A littoral landowner may not exclude the public from lawful uses of navigable water, just as an upland owner cannot exclude the public from driving or walking on the street in front of his or her house. However, a duly authorized dock or other littoral structure is private property, and no one can legally interfere with the exercise of this right of access, just as individuals cannot use or block someone’s driveway.

Seems like the Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club neighbor “shore” has a good case.

PS: Someone from SHYC told the Saugatuck Shores resident, “you can join our club.”

“I don’t have a boat!” she replied.

Unsung Heroes #150

Last Labor Day weekend, a group of Saugatuck Yacht Club members helped save a life. They, and members of another club, found a man on his boat in Long Island Sound. He was non-responsive, and had no pulse.

They began CPR. They administered AED treatment. They sped him to medics on land. It was a true team effort.

At Stony Brook Hospital, they were told the man had a 6% chance of survival on land — but near 0% on water.

He made a full recovery.

Last week the United States Coast Guard Sector Long Island sound captain and commander came to Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club. There was a physically distanced presentation to SHYC members Josh Stein and his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Nadal; Dr Robert Kloss, Rob Kloss (also an EMT), and Kevin, Brian and Kathleen Rooney.

Non-Saugatuck Harbor members honored included Doug Ewin, Gary Dayton, Heather Tearne and Alan Bertrand.

“Knowing life-saving aid is important on land or sea,” Stein says.

And “06880” is proud to know this group of Westporters, who knew exactly how to provide it.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Last week’s ceremony.

 

Remembering Ron Weir

Generations of Westporters knew Ron Weir. For decades he was a big, gruff-looking — but gentle, soft-hearted — physical education teacher at Coleytown Junior High and Middle Schools.

Ron died on Monday. Word came in a brief email from a fellow Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club member. For the past couple of years, he lived very quietly in a nursing home.

Ron coached football and other sports when the 3 Westport junior highs had interscholastic teams. He was tough and hard, and his teams were good. He loved his players, and would do anything for them.

Ron Weir (standing, top left) and the 1972 Coleytown Junior High School football team.

Ron Weir (standing, top left) and the 1972 Coleytown Junior High School football team.

But as a teacher, he was the opposite. He took equal interest in the scrawny, shy little boys — and, after gym classes became coed, the girls he had never before known or had to teach. He tried to give every kid confidence, and wanted every child to love phys ed.

Ron may be best known for his wrestling tournament. Every year at Christmas — right around this time — he organized a school-wide event. It was asking a lot of 12- and 13-year-olds to go out on the mat, with all their friends and teachers watching. But for many — win or lose — it was an experience they’ll never forget.

Every year, I refereed that tournament. And every year — right after the final match — Ron and his wife Val thanked me, by taking me out to lunch.

At Le Chambord.

That was an elegant French restaurant in Westport. Other diners might have thought us an incongruous trio: me, gym teacher Ron, and his wife Val — also a PE instructor, but as petite and demure as Ron was big and brash.

Ron Weir, in the early 1970s. (Courtesy Laura Bloom)

Ron Weir, in the early 1970s. (Courtesy Laura Bloom)

That was a side of Ron Weir that few people saw. He was a talented cook, and a wine connoisseur. He grew up in a blue collar New Jersey town, and thought he’d be a bricklayer until the University of Bridgeport opened his eyes to the possibility of teaching.

He also loved animals. Val turned their Redding home into a menagerie, and Ron happily helped out.

He loved his boat too. He was a frequent presence at his club, telling stories and cooking. One summer evening, I met him there. He took me out on the Sound, then up the Saugatuck River. We docked at the Mooring restaurant, and had a memorable meal. (He ordered really, really good wine.)

Ron spent his last years in relative obscurity. A couple of former football players and boat club members were regular visitors, but no one else. Val died a number of years ago.

There has been no obituary. According to the email sent by his boat club, he is survived by one sister. And, it says, “per Ron’s wishes there will be no formal funeral arrangements.”