2020 legislative session a second chance for Penfield Reef Lighthouse cremation storage
FAIRFIELD — Once again the soon-to-be owners of Penfield Reef Lighthouse are trying to turn the abandoned landmark into a place to store cremated remains.
Last year, America’s Castles LLC. had hopes that a bill to allow the lighthouse to be used as a columbarium — a place to store funerary urns — would be passed.
“The proposed bill allows the lighthouse to be used as a columbarium and keeps all DEEP's normal requirements in place — having a plan for relocation and specific need for DEEP Commissioner's review and approval,” said Julie Cammarata, the principal of Cammarata Government Affairs, the lobbyist tracking the bill for the company as it makes its way through the legislature.
The bill was approved in the House last year 118-26 and was on the Senate calendar but never came up for a vote.
“In the last week of any legislative session, a bill can have all the support in the world and still die — especially if there is no lobbyist watching and advocating for action,” Cammarata said.
“There is just so much activity going on,” she said. “Layer the stops and starts politics plays and many worthy pieces of legislation don't make it to action in both chambers before the clock runs out.”
Sitting just off the coast of Fairfield’s southeasternmost edge, the Penfield Reef Lighthouse is technically still in the possession of federal government, according to Paul Hughes, a regional public affairs officer for the General Services Administration.
He said the GSA will transfer the property to America’s Castles LLC, which put in the highest bid of $282,345, when they get the lease from the state.
Among the supporters of the bill last year was Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, a state representative at the time, and state Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, who represents Fairfield from the 133rd District.
Cammarata said she met with Kupchick to keep her apprised of the bill’s status in the legislature.
“There is no objection to filing the bill, which was all I asked of her,” Cammarata said.
Cammarata said the bill will be re-introduced for this legislative season.
“I am certainly optimistic,” said Cammarata. “The intent of the legislation is to bring much needed investment to the lighthouse and ultimately preserve and improve it. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection continues to maintain its place of authority in the process as well.”