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Greenwich BET debates but ultimately approves repairs to dock

April 1, 2017 GMT

GREENWICH — A critic who argued against fixing a decrepit pier because it would encourage outsiders to fish from it — and possibly strike a nearby boat with a hook — said she would continue her resistance.

Town resident Janet Lockton, a former state representative from the 149th district in town, said last week she was “amazed and very, very disappointed” that the Board of Estimate and Taxation approved $600,000 for repair of the landing at Steamboat Road in the 2017-18 town budget.

The repairs would include a guard rail and handicap accessibility, plus fixing cracked pavement.

“This is a safety issue and the town has to do something about it,” Lockton said.

The exchange arose during the BET’s budget discussion after a motion to cut the $600,000 allocated for the repair was withdrawn. BET members said they were hearing complaints from members of the Indian Harbor Yacht Club, which is immediately adjacent to the landing, about its use by people fishing in Long Island Sound.

While there are no signs permitting fishing at the site, there are no signs specifically restricting it either.

Lockton claimed that people in the water by the yacht club have been hit by lures and that the fishing presents a potential liability.

Greenwich Emergency Medical Services Executive Director Tracy Schietinger said there was no record of any calls for assistance after injuries from fishing lures.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said his office had not received complaints about fishing at the landing in recent memory.

Representatives from the yacht club could not immediately be reached for comment about whether any incidents have taken place; the town attorney’s office could not be reached for comment about potential lawsuits.

Lockton and other critics of the repairs have argued in the past against the renovation. BET member William Drake also spoke about the situation based on visits he made to the landing.

“To fish there, it’s too easy to hook a boat, or kid or a kayaker or something,” Drake said. “We ought to fix our infrastructure, but fishing there — just based on common sense, looked dangerous.”

BET member Leslie Tarkington added she was a frequent visitor to the landing and that “the safety concerns are very obvious.”

According to Tesei, the town’s management of the landing dates back to at least 1911. He cited a 1944 letter from then-Department of Public Works Commissioner Joseph Cone, who stated the town did not have the right to discontinue use of the dock and that it must be kept in repair until and unless its abandonment is approved by the RTM.

“It definitely needs remediation and repair and I would presume that when the remediation is done, the safety factors will be part of the implementation of that,” BET member Art Norton said.

Comptroller Peter Mynarski said he expected an update on the condition of the dock and plans to repair it to be given at the BET Audit Committee’s meeting on April 13.

The money for construction, if approved, would not be available until July 1.

“I very much support doing the work necessary to repair the landing and make it more accessible to the public,” Weissler said. “However the BET heard from a number of residents about safety concerns and we want to be responsive to those concerns before we move forward on constructions.”

Tesei said restricting fishing on the dock in the future was always an option.

“If the Board of Selectmen felt the need for an ordinance it has the option to consider it, propose it, adopt it and pass it along to the RTM,” Tesei said. “All ordinances must be approved by the RTM. If it becomes an ordinance it could have many different possibilities such as limiting time on the pier and where they could fish. In terms of enforcement, there are many possibilities to be considered for the protection of the general public.”

BET member Jeff Ramer said he had been visiting the landing for 40 years and had noticed both the fishing and “the club’s distaste for it” as well as the efforts to try and discourage it.

“I think this is one of those tenuous things where have various interest groups in conflict with each other,” Ramer said. “I don’t want to put the BET in the middle of all that.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com