Bulldozers move in to clear Beach Avenue; beach purchase moves ahead


The Westport Board of Selectmen last week cleared the way to enter into talks that might lead to the purchase of a 480-foot stretch of Beach Avenue shoreline.

And this week, town equipment moved in to clear Beach Avenue of sand and other debris, a move that prompted objections from some who live nearby.

"They haven't even bought it yet and already they're taking over," said one caller who asked not to be identified.

Not so, said Town Administrator John "Jack" Healey Tuesday.

"They are doing exactly what they did last year — opening 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 the way it works. They (the Highway Department) are clearing the sand off just like they've done before."

He said the action is condoned by the Selectmen and Conservation Commission as well as the Department of Environmental Protection. The gate, he added, can remain for now to prevent after hours visits.

"They are doing it legally, carefully," he said, adding that this has nothing to do with the possible purchase of a beach lot.

Mr. Healey said he and others have received calls complaining about the road clearing, and has heard arguments that the work will draw crowds of trespassers and litter.

But "the words 'Those people' don't resonate well with me," Mr. Healey said. "We are all in this together." The shorefront there belongs to all in town, he added.

The three board members present  last week— Antone Vieira Jr., Richard Spirlet and R. Michael Sullivan — voted unanimously to move forward on the controversial project of creating a new town beach. Board members Steven Ouellette and Craig Dutra were absent.

At the same time, the three selectmen agreed to make a $175,000 starting offer for the property to its owner, listed as Black Rock LLC. The idea of a town purchase of the  1.44-acre beach property  listed on town maps as Lot 8, Map 89 (0 Beach Avenue)  was first proposed by Westport attorney and lot owner Brian Corey. No price has yet been mentioned publicly.

For the beach to enter into public use would require the town to open the now-gated stretch of Beach Avenue and allow cars to park along one side.

Advocates of the plan say the shoreline, located east of the private Elephant Rock Beach Club, would provide easier beach access, especially for seniors or those with disabilities, than the present town beaches which are a good hike over the dunes from parking areas.

Beach Avenue runs directly along the shore and some on both the Board of Selectmen and Beach Committee have argued that those living there had no business closing it off since the road is town-owned. Residents replied that they were given permission to close the road off after they made repeated complaints about littering and illegal parking.

But opponents of the transaction, many of them Beach Avenue neighbors, have voiced concerns about increased use of the beach causing trespassing, littering and added expense to the town which would presumably have to pay for patrols and lifeguards.

The Selectmen had earlier tasked the Beach Committee with providing specifics on how the beach might be run and where beach visitors would park.

The Beach Committee provided answers to some of the questions asked of it but said others questions are beyond its scope. Issues such as trespassing and traffic are enforcement matters normally handled by police, they said.

The committee proposal is that the beach would be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during  beach season and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter. A lifeguard would be assigned to open and close the gates during beach season and to pick up litter.

Some, including several members of the Beach Committee, have questioned whether the beach would be well-used since parts of it are rocky and often covered with seaweed.



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Isn't it interesting that the lot in question is assessed at $43,000. Where does the $175,000 "starting offer" come from? What is the Selectmen's and Beach Committee's relationship with the seller? What are the state and federal environmental regulations and laws which govern the changes proposed to accomodate public access? Where is the input from police and fire department leaders regarding access by pubic safety vehicles? What is the total overall cost to the town to undertake this project and what other priorities (schools/public safety) are potentially not being funded as a result?

Thursday, August 29, 2013 | Report this

I would love to upload a photo because since this became a public issue, we now have Graffiti on one of the once pristine ruins. I'm sure this was NOT an intended consequence... But a ugly reality. We should find a better solution for everyone's sake. Our plovers. Our children. Our tax payers.

Thursday, August 29, 2013 | Report this

Boy! I'm glad Westport has the money to blow on an beach property! Didn't know they were so flush with cash.

On the other hand, I've lived in Westport for 40 years and the reason they closed beach ave was because of the trash, littering, and police requirement down there, CONSTANTLY. That graffiti you mention? Couldn't have been by the public, it must be those pesky plovers with spray paint cans.

Here's a solution- Go to Horseneck where they have accessible ramps since Westport selectmen are SO concerned over the handicapped. Since Westport is so flush with cash they can sponsor a handicap program to help seniors get to a beach, where there are bathrooms and trash bins and better yet ramps to use it.

The only reason they are pushing this is because someone's pockets are about to get heavy, like some selectman like Spirlet. I'm a licensed investigator and you can be certain I'll be looking into it.

By the way Healy, the shorefront there doesn't belong to the town, just a tiny sliver. The rest is privately owned and in conservation.

Clearing it has nothing to do with a possible purchase? Yeah right. Healy, I've got swampland you can buy to.


Friday, August 30, 2013 | Report this

All of the comments come from neighbors to the project, what are you really concerned about? The piping plovers did not nest off Beach Ave according to Mass Audubon or is it the white trash that may come to your neighborhood? The piping plovers next near the Elephant Beach Rock Club, I would start there.

Derek says he is a detective, and makes the assertion that Selectmen Spirlet will gain financially. The land is owned by Brian Corey, so I am not sure how that is, but nice try.

I drove by the strip of beaches owned by the Town and the Land Trust and there were close to 70 people on them with no cars there. My guess is the local people prefer to keep the public land for themselves. Very selfish to use the environment as a front for your socioeconomic prejudices.

The Guilds, I agree any vandalism is wrong and it is a shame that there are people who would destroy property that people have worked so hard to obtain.

Mr. Duncan, I agree the valuations of harbor property are wrong and all should be reevaluated to make sure the Town is getting everything that is due. The purchase of the land would come from CPC funds, which could not be used for the schools or other items you mentioned so have no fear the children of Westport will be OK.

Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Report this

Mr Westportknows-thanks for your illuminating comments which clearly demonstrate that this town initiative really isn't about handicap/elderly access to the beach. The townspeople have close proximity to Horseneck which provides those services. The "issue" is illustrated by your comments and assumptions about "white trash" and "socioeconomic predjudices". Let's get the cards on the table in a public forum and discuss why it is you and people like you have the time and energy to pursue projects like this, not for their stated purpose, but in the interest of perturbing your fellow taxpayers in Westport Harbor.

Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Report this

If you were tuned into the situation you would realize that Horseneck is a State Beach and not Town owned and is not covered under a Town Beach parking pass. While the Town Beach at Cherry and Webb is beautiful it does not provide handicap access. Handicap access is not the only reason and was never stated to be the main reason, that is something that was brought up by the Disability Commission. While I am fortunate enough not to require special access, others do and reasonable accommodations should be made when possible.

The Town has cleared Beach Ave for the past 4 years, while there has been some interest by the local residents, there has never been anything to this level.

The question has to be asked, is the level of anger this year about the piping plover or the people you do not wish to be near your property? The elephant rock beach club was issued a permit to expand its parking lot in piping plover habitat, where was the outrage and calls to DEP and other State agencies?

With a Town beach parking pass you should have the option to go to any Town beach or conservation land that is deeded for recreational use.

The Town residents have access to land throughout the Town for recreational use, I am sure neighbors may not like it, but it is a reality as the land is owned by the Town or held in a conservation restriction with deeded rights.

This is not being done to get the harbor residents upset, but it seems the true colors of SOME residents are showing. I am glad not all Harbor residents have a myopic view of rest of the people of Westport that you seem to have. I am also glad the residents of Cherry and Webb Lane do not act like this with the traffic created by Town beach.

Only time will tell if Beach Ave will see any real use, I hope everyone can get along and have civil conversation about the project and leave the red herrings at home.

Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Report this

Thanks for the update on Horseneck. I am "tuned in" and aware that it is a state facility. Perhaps the town could reach an agreement with the state to provide access for their handicapped/disabled residents and ensure their safe passage and access to the beach. Similarly, the town could approach the private clubs and seek access for townspeople in need on a mutually beneficial basis. The current plan for Beach Avenue does not in my opinion provide proper facilities (sanitary) and resources to ensure safe access for those in need.

Many of your opinions are stated as facts, but accusing myself and others of having myopic view of our fellow townspeople is misguided. You introduced the notions of "white trash" and "socioeconomic predjudice", not me. You can't have it both ways.

The townspeople have parking and safe access to the Beach Avenue area as you desire now. So what's missing?

Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Report this

Thank you for caring, it is nice to see it still exists in this tumultuous world we live in.

See you next summer.

Sunday, September 1, 2013 | Report this

WESTPORTKNOWS aka "Committee to reelect Spirlet", wow, struck a nerve eh? who's angry? simmer down, lol. So predicatbly eager to get worked up.

You are right though, we should spend $200K on a crappy seaweed, man-of-war jellyfish beach instead of buying $35 beach passes for handicap people to a much bigger, better place with actual facilities for them. We can waste more taxpayer money that way.

I'm all for handicap getting access to a beach. In fact, if you wanted to do something real useful, put that on a ballot. Everyone would vote for free beach passes for handicapped. I would and I know the rest of this blog would too.

Where do you get this "white trash" thing from? You can't wait to turn this into a have/have not thing. Ridiculous. Live and let live. Socioeconomic prejudices! Okay there glass house, stop MSBNC'ing everyone with your buffoonery. We'll be watching for your batman light in the sky.

That said, this has been tried before. Chief Charlie Pierce closed it years back due to the amount of crime/issues there in the past, so historically speaking, not awesome. You know better apparently. After all you are WESTPORTKNOWS! Uh, NOT.

Sunday, September 1, 2013 | Report this

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