There has been lots of discussion about rebuilding Penfield Pavilion, and two sides are apparent. One side, voiced by Citizen columnist Patricia A. Hines, describes the serenity, recreation, and revenue the town would realize by rebuilding the pavilion. Other voices, directed at the Penfield Building Committee's Chairman, Jim Bradley, also are asking what we gain as a town by building over what nature has given us.
But Fairfield's beaches are our greatest natural resources, and residents are rightly questioning who benefits from replacing a pleasure palace on Penfield with another one. The town should reconsider whether construction of a party facility is the best land use. The Jacky Durrell banquet facility is already on Penfield Beach, and it stood up to Superstorm Sandy. The Durrell facility is also really beautiful -- can you imagine how fabulous those wedding guests felt two weeks ago when their evening ceremony was punctuated by the rising supermoon above Long Island Sound? That sort of event is courtesy of nature, not hurricane-vulnerable parquet floors.
Why can't the rest of Penfield Beach be rededicated recreational space for beachgoers and not for attendees of special events? A rebuilt pavilion offers only limited use of prime beach land and benefits the few who can pay. A dance floor doesn't belong in the middle of Penfield -- a sand dune, beach grass and a small bathhouse do.
So, if the town is hankering to construct and run a new banquet facility, it seems to me that we taxpayers and citizens have very, very generously supplied town services and resources to a certain population which has been granted "open space" designation in return for a hugely subsidized tax bill. While we tens of thousands of Fairfielders share the small parcel of land that's Penfield Beach, hundreds of the fortunate members of both the Country Club of Fairfield and the Fairfield Beach Club Inc. have enjoyed their recreation without worries of cost, such as realistic property taxes.
Patricia Hines's column mentioned that Sandy's damage has cost the town $38,000 in lost locker revenue and more than $35,000 in facility-rental fees This is peanuts compared to the annual loss of revenue which occurred when open-space status was given to the wealthiest landowners in town.
The Country Club of Fairfield sits on 42 waterfront acres and pays an annual property tax of $61,366. The Fairfield Beach Club Inc., rests on 4.7 waterfront acres and pays an annual property tax of $62,255.80. (By the way, the Brooklawn Country Club, with 97 acres, pays about $168,000 property taxes.)
So, instead of endless squabbling over whether or not to use a relatively small town beach property for a ballroom, why doesn't the Penfield Building Committee look for other land on which to build a limited-use mansion? Maybe the wealthiest and most tax-discounted landowners can help with a piece of property.