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Darien BOS hears boat club's expansion plan

Published 10:19 am, Monday, October 22, 2012
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After its public informational meeting on Oct. 10, the Darien Boat Club brought its dock expansion plans to the Board of Selectmen the following week.

On Monday, Oct. 20, David Dever, commodore of the club, gave the selectmen an update on what the club has done in 2012, such as adding a daily shuttle service, hooking to two sewers to eliminate use of a septic system and putting in a rapid water dry hydrant.

The Darien Boat Club met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental and Energy Protection and residents on Oct. 10 to discuss the club's application for expansion.

If the application is approved, the club would add 200 feet to Dock A and 250 feet to Dock B, which would require dredging 61,000 square feet and moving 18,500 cubic feet of materials into the western part of Long Island Sound, the latter having already been approved by the State of New York.

Several residents attended the informational meeting in support of the boat club expansion, but most attendees were firmly against it. However, the negative opinions did not seem to discourage the boat club's determination.

"We're going to review everything that was said and written that day and address each one. We want to make sure we have our ducks in a row," Dever said in a phone interview, adding that these applications take time and the club is still waiting to hear from the DEEP and Army Corps.

Selectman John Lundeen asked Dever how many people who have mooring were being serviced.

Dever said the club services more than 50 people on moorings, but there are still 308 people on the wait list for a boat slip, and now a two-year waiting list for moorings in Darien Harbor.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson asked if the club had taken any aerial photography of boats in the water, to which Rear Commodore Jerry Kutz said no.

"This is not our aerial photography," Kutz said. "We're relying on GoogleMaps. Most aerial photograph is done in the winter when two of our docks are collapsed. Most of the aerial photography will be with that collapsed situation."

Stevenson also wondered if there would be any affect on boats entering the water from the launch at the beach or on Darien's commercial fishermen.

"It's a longer trek around, no doubt. However, there is actually going to be more passage for the boats that you don't have right now. So the design features would allow for better passage of people coming from the launch, but, yes, it will take longer to go around," Kutz said.

Dever said the commercial fishermen "go around [the docks] a different way," so there would be no perceived impact on them.

Regarding the dredging, Lundeen had a few questions about the club's permission to dump in western Long Island Sound.

Dever explained that New York gets involved "where you can put the mud that is dredged out and where it is in the Long Island Sound."

Dever added, "The mud is clean and it can go anywhere and we have permission from New York to dump it in western Long Island Sound, which in the long run means less of a cost to us."

Lundeen asked, "So if you had to dredge 50 feet further up river would you have to get your permit again?"

Jerry Kutz replied, "Even if we wanted to do a maintenance dredge and re-dredge something that had already been dredged up, we would have to go through the entire permitting process again."

Selectman Gerald Nielsen Jr. asked about the process.

"When do you talk to people like Planning and Zoning and get their approval?" Nielsen said.

Dever explained that if the Army Corps and the DEEP sign off on the plans, boat club members would be next in the approval process.

"We need permission from the whole membership to proceed, and then we get bids on what the cost is going to be. We take those costs, come up with a scheme and then go back to the membership again and say, `this is what it's going to cost and this is what we think is best,'" Dever said.

Kutz added that before the club could go before the Board of Selectmen, Planning and Zoning and the Representative Town Meeting, the other approvals "have to come first."

Stevenson shared concerns about the "perceived parking issues the dock expansion would create" and suggested the club get feedback from the Parks and Recreation Commission.

As far as parking, Dever said, "All 800 members have at least one parking permit, if not two."

He added that after the expansion "probably the mix will be better because a lot of [members] bring two cars down now. Or [the members] are trailering the boat, which takes up another space, so hopefully the expansion will help."

Lundeen asked whether the club performed an economic analysis of other clubs in the area as far as costs go.

Kutz said the commercial facilities are "between five and 20 times what [the Darien Boat Club] charges for a slip."

"You can go to Rowayton and you can find docking facilities, but each of those facilities have a waiting list," he said. "That has been suggested to us over and over again. People are willing to pay whatever we charge, but we choose to run the club as economically as we can."

Selectman David Bayne asked how much outreach the club has done in the community. "Have you spoken with the neighbors?" Bayne asked.

Dever said after the informational meeting the club "did come away with a list of concerns from the neighbors."

"I think we knew the concerns of most of the neighbors going in, and we are going to answer every one of those," Dever said.

Bayne encouraged the club to keep the neighbors in the loop as much as possible.

Dever agreed, saying the club wanted to be good neighbors. The expansion, he said, "may not have a future and it may have a future, but we'll keep pursuing it for a while until we're told by our members not to, or until we find a roadblock," Dever said in a phone interview.

mdavis@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; twitter.com/megdariennews