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Thursday, April 26 News

As sands of time vanish, Compo planners hear last wave of questions

By Jarret Liotta

The audience was disappointed Tuesday night when the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee nearly ran out the clock at its meeting with no chance to comment on the board's discussion of a master plan for the shoreline park.

With a few minutes left before the committee had to vacate the room at Town Hall to make way for another public meeting, Dee Chapman called out from the audience: "It's 10 minutes to ... Can we interrupt? We're sitting here very patiently."

A quick succession of comments and questions from the audience focused on issues like costs, landscaping and parking for daily-versus-seasonal beach pass holders.

Committee Chairman Andy Moss, however, emphasized from the start that it was a work session for the group and that they might not have time for public input.

"We've been listening and collecting input actively for at least eight months," he said. "It's now time to bring this to the home stretch ... We've heard a wide variety of suggestions (and) all opinions are valued."

The committee members spent most of the meeting agreeing on details for a recommended master plan, which it hopes to present next month to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Moss said later that he would talk to Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy about whether the committee should meet a final time in the next few weeks before presenting its finished report to the parks board.

"It's a messy process," Moss told the visitors "There's lots of opportunities to change and meander. The town will continue to debate ... This committee will only develop a master plan to show what it could look like."

But some members of the public wanted to make sure they weighed in before the committee turns the planning process over to other agencies.

"I'm concerned about the parking and the expense of all this," said one woman, who would not give her name. "This is absurd what they're proposing," she said, including the relocation of the entrance.

"I've lived here for 48 years and we have two beautiful assets -- the golf course and the beach -- and we have not taken care of them," said Jim Lawrence of Westport.

He said discussing the beautification of Compo are pointless because the town has not invested in upkeep. "If we try to aesthetically make it beautiful, it will be a disaster because we will not take care of it."

Lawrence also objected to the large number of out-of-town residents who purchase daily passes to Compo and take up parking on busy days.

"Lastly I counted 70 New York cars up front that restricted people who are elderly here in this town from having easy access to the beach," he said. "We should do something about it."

"The comment I got from Mr. McCarthy" he added, "is, `Well, they're paying their 40 bucks.' But they're not paying $20,000 in property tax."

Moss said he concurred, but that the master plan group is powerless to do anything about it. Lawrence pointed out, however, that the committee voted to endorse continuing that practice.

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"We took that position early and we did not design the plan with segregated parking lots, so I would suggest this is consistent with what we've been talking about all along and turn around would be a problem," McCarthy said.

The committee also voted on a number of other recommendations, which McCarthy stressed were not his choices, including not having the skateboard park housed at Compo and heating bathrooms there for year-round use.