Boat Club Lease Moves to Referendum
CROMWELL - The 2 River Road Subcommittee discussions regarding the fate of the 2 River Road property-owned by the town but leased by the Cromwell Outboard Association-will be ceasing for now.

       On November 1, the voters will decide the fate of a 20-year lease the Association has at the town-owned property.

       Last week, the Town Council discussed how to go about answering a petition filed by the Association and over a hundred of its members and supporters. The petition requested that the town decide the question as to whether or not to extend the Association’s current lease by five years by way of a town hall meeting-during which residents who turn out vote by show of hands.

       At a special meeting held the previous Friday, the Council set an October 19 date for the meeting, but met again the following Thursday after correspondence between Town Manager Tony Salvatore and town legal counsel indicated that the Council would be able to move the matter to a Cromwell-wide referendum.

       “The only fair way is by referendum,” said Mayor Enzo Faienza during a phone conversation this week. “That’s democracy. Every taxpayer should have the opportunity to vote.”

       Faienza said that a town-wide meeting limits the amount of response the question could get.

       Association Commodore Al Waters-who serves on the Town Council as well-said that petitions had been drafted both for a town-wide meeting and a referendum, but that the Association opted for the former, citing cost concerns.

       “I wanted to do it in the least expensive way possible,” Waters said over the phone.

       The reason the Association wanted to do it at all, he said, was due to the fact that the Subcommittee-chaired by Councilor Ed Wenners-could only make non-binding recommendations to the Council based on what they felt was the “best use” of the property.

       But Faienza said that the move essentially leap-frogged the deliberation process-which would have involved discussions among Subcommittee members, followed by the Council reviewing their findings.

       “We were eagerly awaiting their recommendations,” he said. “Any recommendations they wanted to propose are now suspended.”

       The petition method is not preferable because it only puts one question-whether or not to extend the current lease by five years-before the voters, as opposed to the mix of recommendations and possibilities that might have been posed by the Subcommittee, Faienza said.

       However, the town could reconvene the body if the extended lease fails to draw enough voter support, he said.

       The lease-set to expire December 31-cost the Outboard Association $500 per year, but the nonprofit organization took on the maintenance of boat launch infrastructure. Association Commodore and Town Councilor Al Waters estimates savings to the town to be in the low six figures.

       The Association is currently paying $1500 for an extended lease that was issued in July.

       The Association drew over 100 people-many of which were members-to a public hearing several weeks ago, during which attendees spoke in favor of a lease renewal and citing the group’s maintenance work on the property.

       One issue the Subcommittee had been hoping to examine was access for nonmembers. Waters says that the club’s insurance agreement and bylaws prohibit nonmembers from boating off of their launch, but that anybody can join the organization.

       At the Thursday afternoon special meeting, Wenners raised a concern regarding federal permission for changing the property’s use-a process that goes through the Army Corp. of Engineers, which can override local and state approval.

       If the Outboard Association were to vacate the property, with the town putting it to different use, it would take approvals at the local, state, and federal level to make it happen, Wenners said.

       To date, the town has not consulted the federal Army Corp of engineers, but Faienza said that that can be addressed after the referendum.

      
STORY BY MARK DIPAOLA   |  Oct 13 2016  |  COMMENTS?