Fairfield marina plan passes despite boater criticism
FAIRFIELD — The Parks and Recreation Commission voted Wednesday in favor of a redesign plan for South Benson Marina.
The plan, known as “Option 11,” would rebuild the marina to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and widen slips to increase the safety of the currently cramped space. In doing so, the total amount of slips would be reduced from 600 to 471.
The plan’s proposed cost is just over $7.9 million, which would be paid for by increasing slip fees for boaters.
Option 11 was formulated by the Marina Sub-Committee, established after town bodies instructed the Parks and Recreation Commission to prepare a long-term plan for the aging South Benson Marina.
Boaters at Wednesday’s meeting expressed opposition to this plan, objecting to raised fees and arguing that cutting slip numbers is unreasonable given that the current waitlist is 629 boats long.
In response to cost concerns, Commission Chair Scott Walker explained that town bodies are already looking to raise slip fees to the market rate, the bulk of which would go into the town’s general fund. In raising funds to go directly towards marina improvements, he said, boaters’ money would actually impact them more directly.
“We are on the boaters’ side,” Walker said. “We are advocating for the boaters.”
Regarding concerns about decreasing space in an already in-demand marina, Walker said they hope that higher fees might encourage less active boaters to vacate the marina, opening up space for others.
Many attendees at the meeting said they were opposed to any marina redesign, claiming that the marina is fine as is. Similar thoughts had been voiced at an April 23 meeting for boaters.
Walker explained that although the marina is in fact still functional now, it will need to be updated within the next few years due to aging infrastructure. Given how long it typically takes for plans to move through town bodies, he said, they need to get started now.
“If we wait five years, we’ll be five years too late,” he said.
The motion to approve Option 11 ultimately carried 6-3. It will next go to the Board of Selectmen for approval, before moving on to the Board of Finance and RTM. Walker noted that other town bodies will likely suggest modifications, and the plan is by no means final.