Boat Launch Hearing Set for Thursday
CROMWELL - Public access would allow the town of Cromwell to reap development opportunities along the River Road riverfront, said Planning and Economic Development Director Stuart Popper.

       That was his advice to members of the River Road Subcommittee-the body tasked with examining the 2 River Road property leased by the Cromwell Outboard Association. Their agreement-extended in July-will expire on December 31.

       “When developers come here, that’s one of the first things they ask about,” Popper said during the Committee’s August 22 meeting. “How the town goes about getting it is beyond my comments, but I think it’s important.”

       Redevelopment Agency Chair Joe Fazekas had similar thoughts, and a tentative plan for accomplishing the objective. He handed Committee members a written proposal for a joint town/Outboard Association operating agreement.

       The Outboard Association performs maintenance on the boat launch infrastructure, while leasing the property for $500 per year-although the current 6-month renewal will cost the Association $1500.

       Committee Chair Ed Wenners has stated that “all options are on the table” as far as determining the property’s best use, but the Committee will likely examine the issue of launch access to residents who are not Association members.

       “They’ve [the Association] has done an outstanding job for many years, but unfortunately we do not have public access,” Fazekas said.

       So his proposal is to explore an array of options that includes hiring a private sector management entity to run the property on behalf of the town, have Cromwell run it themselves, or “remain status quo”.

       Fazeka suggests instituting a system that issues passes to 100 Cromwell residents and 25 weekend passes. Recipients pay a $250 deposit, while any resident can purchase a $25 day pass for weekend days.

       Half the proceeds would go to the Outboard Association.

       Fazeka suggested limiting the passes to town residents, to start.

       “The concept was to kind of operate within the fabric of the community,” he said. “Be respectful to the Outboard Association and sort of take this in baby steps.”

       The issue with allowing nonmembers to use the docks is that they would not be covered by the Association’s insurance plan, but anyone can join, says Association Commodore Al Waters.

       A few years ago, a different committee offered to allow nonmembers to pay a small fee to the town in exchange for access to the docks, but the Association rejected the proposal.

       Waters-who also serves on the Town Council-estimated that their maintenance of the docks saves the town “a couple hundred thousand dollars, easily”.

       The Association currently has more than 200 members-around half of which reside in Cromwell-according to Waters.

       The organization has been hoping to perform some fixes to the property, but is waiting on the status of the lease, he said.

       The Committee will meet again on September 8 with a specific aim at soliciting comments from members of the public.

       Wenners is looking ahead to that hearing, and urged boat owners-those who want to use the docks without joining the Association, as well as supporters of the organization-to come out.

       “We want to hear both sides,” Wenners said. “It’ll be interesting to hear the feelings of people in town.”

       Waters echoed this sentiment. As for the August 22 meeting, he says he’ll keep an open mind.

       “I was impressed with some of the questions that were being asked,” he said. “It didn’t pick up any negativity.”