Other proposals gleaned from the committee recommendations that the commission approved included: constructing restrooms but no pavilion at South Beach; building a new bathhouse; resurfacing the basketball courts; and putting in a pedestrian walkway that would be a boardwalk along East Beach to the cannons, continuing as a crushed stone trail skirting the beach’s perimeter.
Tonight’s meeting drew about 150 to the Town Hall auditorium, and in contrast to past public hearings, those who spoke were cordial, even thanking the Parks and Recreation Commission for listening to them.
“We heard, we listened, and we put personal views aside,” said commission member Ed Iannone following the meeting. “I thought moving the parking made sense, but it’s not my beach, it’s the public’s.”
Iannone said that he was glad the commission tackled the contentious parking concern first “since I didn’t see any support for it from the public.”
“We heard it loud and clear that it is important to keep the parking on South and East beaches,” Haberstroh said.
In past public meetings seniors and parents young children said it would be a hardship to have to walk across parking lots to the beach instead of being able to pull right up to it.
Northrop Associates and AKRF, both White Plains, N.Y.-based architectural consultants, posited that moving the parking would enhance water views. Following public outcry, the consultants offered a second option of improvements leaving South Beach parking as is.
Prior to tonight’s votes, a number of residents spoke, expressing thanks to the commission for listening to them.
Calling the recommendations a minimalist approach, longtime Westporter Michael Calise thanked the commission “for the critical eye you used.”
Another longtime resident John Brandt lauded the commission for “thoughtful deliberation.’ And teenage skateboarding enthusiast Gabi Dick could not help to tell the commission “I’m overjoyed.”
Kathleen Carey, who months earlier had spoken in favor of moving the parking suggested that the commission compromise, leaving the parking as is on South Beach but moving it away from East Beach. She was alone in her suggestion, and the commission voted otherwise.
Representative Town Meting Member (RTM) Jimmy Izzo suggested selling weekend beach permits online to nonresidents as a way of reducing traffic backups at the beach entrance.
Cathy Brezovec, a resident of nearby Bradley Street, said cars often backed up on her street waiting to get into Compo and unlike the beach entrance road, there was no place to get out of the way of cars.
Jack Breeden, a resident of Dorchester Drive, suggested putting a three-way stop at the intersection of Compo Beach Road and Bradley Street to make it easier for cars to exit Bradley Street.
Haberstroh said the commission had no say over traffic issues outside the beach.
At the meeting’s outset, Haberstroh noted that tonight’s action was just the beginning,. He said the commission’s recommendations would have to go through various town bodies, including the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the RTM.
“It’s not necessarily the end,” Haberstroh said
First Selectman Jim Marpe said he was pleased with the commission’s votes.
“I think the Parks and Recreation Commission did a great job listening to the community and coming to a reasonable compromise with their proposals,” Marpe said.
“I look forward to working with them to bring the proposals to a reality,” he added.