The town of Madison and Madison Beach Hotel are once again proposing a land swap deal involving property adjacent to West Wharf Beach, one of three town-owned beaches.
This deal would allow Madison Beach Hotel, through a long-term lease or other means, to obtain and use the town-owned grassy area in front of the hotel. In exchange, Madison Beach Hotel would give the town $100,000 and a triangular-shaped property adjacent to West Wharf Beach.
First Selectman Fillmore McPherson, during a meeting of the Board of Selectmen Monday night, said such a deal would accomplish several objectives and solve several problems.
Heavy run off after rain creates problems for beach, shellfish
One problem is the water that runs down West Wharf Road towards the beach in heavy rainstorms.
"This creates a big gully through the beach that dumps runoff from the road into the shellfish beds, rendering the shellfish beds unusable," McPherson said.
Another problem is that boats moored at West Wharf are tied up with a system of ropes and pulleys that clutter the beach.
"The solution involves having the Madison Beach hotel give us $100,000 to upgrade the road and parking area," McPherson said. "And they would give us this enlarged triangle of beach. In return, we will let the hotel use the grassy strip in front of the hotel, probably through a long-term lease."
Improvements to streetscape envisioned
The $100,000 would be used to improve the entire streetscape in that area, McPherson said, "including parking, and pavers so that the water will soak into the ground and not into the shellfish."
McPherson also said a private group is planning to raise private money to come up with a floating dock off the stone jetty. That would allow the town to get rid of the mooring ropes that currently cross the beach, and it would allow for more boats to be docked there, he said.
"It's a win-win-win situation for the town," McPherson said. "We improve drainage, the situation with the shellfish, the beach, and the moorings for boats and sailboats."
More desirable for young families
McPherson said the improvements would make the beach a much more desirable destination for young families that frequent that beach.
Steve Nikituk, head of the Madison Shellfish Commission, agreed the deal could solve problems with West Wharf, which he said was the premiere shellfishing area in Madison.
"Unfortunately, with the heavy rains, the water in the shellfish area gets contaminated, and we have to close it," he said. "We've had to close it this year. Preventing that run off would go a long way towards improving that."
Madison resident Steve Atkins said a group of town residents was interested in creating a 501(3)c non-profit organization that would raise money to create an improving mooring system and floating docks.
"This is nonsense"
Madison resident Walter Lippman, on the other hand, was initially angry upon hearing about the plans.
Upon hearing about the proposed deal, Lippmann objected, saying that a similar deal had already been turned down at a public hearing.
"We voted down swapping the land," Lippmann said "This is nonsense."
McPherson responded by saying that the deal being discussed Monday was significantly different than the one already considered and turned down at at public hearing.
Selectman Joe MacDougald agreed. "We'll have another meeting, a town meeting. At that town meeting, the town residents can choose to do it or not to do it," he said.
Lippmann expresses concern about West Wharf going into July 4th weekend
Prior to hearing about the new land swap proposal at the Board of Selectmen meeting Monday, Lippman had already expressed concerns about the West Wharf area. During the public comment portion of the meeting, he said he was worried that the ongoing construction was affecting the ability of town residents to use West Wharf beach.
West Wharf is traditionally one of the most popular areas in town to view fireworks, along with the Surf Club.
The construction crews often use the West Wharf lot for parking, Lippmann said, creating problems for town residents who have parking passes and are supposed to be able to park there. He said one of the municipal employees who works at the booth said a town resident was "screaming" about the construction.
"I said call your boss, call the cops," Lippmann told the selectmen during the public comment section of the meeting. "These construction people should be parking at the builder's lot. They should not be parking along West Wharf and Parker."
Construction crews not cleaning up site, Lippmann says
Lippmann also said construction crews were not cleaning up the site, and the lot, as they are supposed to do.
McPherson said police have been asked to patrol the area and to ticket cars that are not parked correctly.