Fairfield’s marina remains hottest ticket in town with a waiting list to prove it
FAIRFIELD — Next to train station parking permits, slips at the town’s marina are the hottest ticket in town.
The marina on Turney Road boasts 606 slips for boats ranging in size from 14 feet to 36 feet, and fees, though raised just last year, that are less than private marinas. Only open to residents, the slips have a waiting list with wait times ranging from an average of three-plus years for a medium slip to 11 years for a large boat slip.
“Not every town is located on the coast. Not every town has the opportunity to have a marina. Not every town can offer this type of boating, sailing and fishing amenity to their residents,” First Selectman Mike Tetreau said. “We have the South Benson Marina and Southport Harbor which both add value to our town and help make our town special. We have recreational opportunities that few other communities can match.”
There are 356 small slips for boats from 14 to 22 feet, and fees totaling $601.81, if you pay by cash or check. The credit card premium ups the fee to $619.95. The fee does not include winter storage and must be paid in full before the start of the season.
“The marina is popular because of a combination of price and location,” Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese said. “Compared to private marinas, ours is a fraction of the cost.”
The difference, Calabrese said, is the South Benson Marina lacks the amenities a private marina usually offers. “We don’t have a restaurant, boat staff, or a pool to mention a few,” he said.
A slip for a medium -sized boat from 22.1 to 24 feet long, carries fees of $896.69 or $923.59. There are 62 medium slips and an average wait time of two to three years. If you’re looking for a large boat slip, to dock a boat that’s 24.1 to 36 feet, you will need to shell out $1,593.76 or $1,638.38 if you pay by credit card. The large boat slip fees include a $100 charge for electricity.
The fees were increased by 5 percent in 2017, and there are no plans, at this time, for another increase.
“A long-range plan should guide the town in what costs need to be covered and what reserves might be needed for future storm damage and other capital costs,” Tetreau said. “The Parks and Rec Commission did look at fees charged relative to other marinas in the area. Our taxpayers certainly would like the fees to be at or close to market rates like other Parks & Rec offerings.”
According to Andrew Kenny, marina manager, the applications for the waiting list have remained steady each year. A $100 deposit is required to go onto the waiting, but it is applied to the slip fee. Once you get that notification that a slip is available, you have 10 business days from the notification date to provide the required documents and fees. Each season, slips must be occupied by July 15, or face the loss of that boat slip.
He said there are currently 430 names on the large waitlist, 123 on the list for a medium slip, and 138 on the small slip list.
The Parks and Recreation Commission is currently discussing options on potentially reconfiguring the marina, according to Calabrese. “They’re in the process of developing a 10-year plan and exploring different options,” he said.
According to the commission’s marina subcommittee, the various reconfigurations would add finger docks, and either leave the same number of boat slips or decrease the number of slips. Price tags that have been discussed range from $2.5 million to $5.2 million.
Tetreau said the costs associated with capital projects like dock replacement, renovation or expansion is one of the primary reasons for developing a long-range plan for the marina.
“The infrastructure is definitely getting older,” Tetreau said, and there is a need for dredging every few years. “There may also be other amenities or services that we should be providing for our boaters,” he said. “There is a very long wait list of residents that would like to use the marina.”
Tetreau said it makes sense to look long term for expansion opportunities.
“We also have more Homeland Security responsibilities than in the past that need to be planned for,” Tetreau said.