At an Aug. 27 hearing on repairing the Sandy-damaged Penfield Pavilion, the town's consultants described what had happened and offered three options. They are: 1) restore back to the "as-was elevation" making necessary repairs to the foundation; 2) elevate to meet new FEMA elevation guidelines and build a new flood-resistant foundation; and 3) elevate and build a new foundation but move the building 80' closer to the road after first driving in the pilings to avoid the higher cost of pile-driving from under a jacked-up structure.
I vote for option 2 to retain the surrounding parking.
The public comments revealed a need to develop a plan to incorporate the building repair into a much larger solution that included area flood-control and drainage systems to handle future storms. Residents thought the final choice was dependent on solving the recurring local flooding and drainage problems and the salt-water lake that lasted five days, one to two blocks north of the Pavilion.
Other noteworthy questions were: "Do we really need a pavilion with all of the bells and whistles -- changing rooms, a food concession, a banquet hall, and such a large rear deck? How much money has already been spent and why were the design and remediation efforts so poor?
But here are the bottom lines:
1) There has been a presence of "beach-club-style buildings" for decades in the area, including the Fairfield Beach Club and the former private club which is now the Penfield Pavilion. Rightly or wrongly we built the new pavilion with changing rooms, a covered deck and a similar footprint and functionality. The pavilion is not going away and it has to be restored and hardened.
2) Town executives need to expand the engineering department capability and its budgets to establish the ability to design and maintain the needed flood control systems so we can continue to live and recreate in the flood zone. BTW, your Federal Government and FEMA and its regulations helped us save this land and continue its use.
3) The area south of Sherman School has become a luxury-home district with a walk-to-beach definition, and hundreds of homeowners have already hardened or will harden their properties to meet new FEMA V-Zone requirements. The town has to restore and harden our pavilion to compliment the neighborhood. It's a major town asset serving 58,000 people and enhances the value of 22,000 homes.
4) The town should improve the banquet facility with better sound control for bands and better food-prep and serving capabilities so it's more banquet-friendly. It's a great waterfront venue for private and public functions (for our teens) and a superb Fairfield showcase.
And 5) the Penfield Pavilion and beach and Jennings Beach are used by a wide cross-section of residents and visitors every day all year. Not every family uses these places or appreciates them, but they are an integral part of our town and an important draw for the people who come here to live for a while and ultimately move on.