Beach Ave. work pauses as protests continue

A town backhoe loads Beach Avenue sand into a dump truck late last week. A town backhoe loads Beach Avenue sand into a dump truck late last week.

A town backhoe loads Beach Avenue sand into a dump truck late last week.

A town backhoe loads Beach Avenue sand into a dump truck late last week.

Town clearing work at Beach Avenue has ground to a halt for the moment after a parade of state and local visitors made their way to the usually quiet area early this week.

Monday brought two representatives of theWetlands & Waterlands Division of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Liz Kouloheras and Jim Mahala spent several hours there meeting with both neighbors and town officials.

Before leaving, they were assured that Westport will prepare a new Notification of Intent describing the purpose and intent of the work and the methods to be used.

“Mass DEP did not take any actions or issue any orders,” said spokesman Ed Coletta.

He said the town agreed voluntarily to undertake the Notification of Intent. “We would think that would be a good step for the town to take,” he said, adding that the process includes holding a hearing to get public input on the road clearing work.

“We had received a number of complaints about the work by phone and email,” Mr. Coletta said, adding that Mass DEP thinks it important that the town get input from residents.

No Mass DEP action was deemed necessary, he said, because the town conservation agent “had already issued an enforcement order Friday” that effectively brings the work to a halt for the time being, Mr. Coletta said.

Highway Department Forman Chris Gonsalves said Monday afternoon that town equipment was on Beach Avenue early Monday but “We are done for right now (and) waiting to hear about the next step.” He referred questions to town Conservation Agent Tara Martin who did not return calls.

Asked if any other town road project he has been involved with has received such attention, he said. “Never.”

But he added that he expected as much going in.

“This has been going on since the 1960s.”

Neighbors at the beach Monday said they were pleased that the town will now prepare a Notification of Intent.

“That is what the Westport Harbor Neighborhood Association has been asking for all along, and has heretofore been denied,” said Constance Gee.

Tim Agnew, whose family home overlooks the barrier beach said, “The project is un-budgeted and comes at a time when the town can’t afford to pay $7,000 to paint center dividing lines on the roads of this half of the town … More puzzling,” he added, “is why the town is even doing this. There is already parking for 10-12 vehicles (in an area) which has rarely had more than three to five vehicles in it, even on beautiful summer weekends, so it doesn’t seem like public demand is driving it.”

Town Administrator John “Jack” Healey said earlier that the town is only doing what it does every year — “open that public road up so that people can access the public shoreline there. Some people don’t want anyone else to use the beach there and that’s not how it works.”

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