New laws help shoreline owners
Published 1:28 pm, Saturday, July 6, 2013
State legislators unanimously passed a comprehensive bill they believe will relax restrictions on shoreline homeowners attempting to protect or rebuild their property before and after a damaging storm.
The bill includes giving jurisdiction over elevated decks to local government as opposed to the Department of Energy and Environmental protection; encouraging the replenishing of beach sand; allowing homeowners to take emergency measures without first obtaining a permit the day before a storm; and providing an appeals process for certificate of permission denials.
State Sen. Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, said the bill allows residents to "better protect their properties before the arrival of any future storm" and "relaxes restrictions" on those looking to rebuild or repair afterwards.
In addition, it allows owners of property on the shoreline to seek opinion from the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering when DEEP denies a full permit. However, the academy would charge $1,500 to review the matter. If it then disagrees with DEEP's ruling, there would be a full hearing.
Craig Thomas, a carpenter who owns rental property on Fairfield Beach Road and was out there making repairs following Hurricane Sandy, believes residents should be empowered to take protective measures within reason.
For one, he believes more rock groynes (walls or jetties) are needed on Fairfield Beach Road. That could block the damaging effects of powerful storm-driven waves and using rebar to reinforce cement walls, which, in his opinion, should be two feet higher. He suggests the construction of more sand dunes with sawgrass.
"These would be 50-year fixes and 50 years ago wooden jetties were an excellent 50-year fix," he said.
The new bill also gives more discretion to DEEP for forgiving notice of non-compliance. For instance, Kelly said if a homeowner loses three bricks from a seawall and performs the repair without a permit, this would be a violation.
"For the average person, these changes don't mean a great deal unless you live directly on the water," said State Rep. Terry Backer, R-Stratford, who serves as the soundkeeper.
"What we fail to understand is that we live on a moveable shoreline and have to design our plans for future changes. New construction has to be vigilant as to how close to the water it can be."