Boat club lease won’t be heard until June

Erf Porter, chairman of the RTM subcommittee, addressed the selectmen last week and tried to create a compromise that was not accepted. — Ken Borsuk photo

Erf Porter, chairman of the RTM subcommittee, addressed the selectmen last week and tried to create a compromise that was not accepted.
— Ken Borsuk photo

After an attempt to find a compromise failed, advocates of a lease between the town and Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club will have to wait until June for it to be heard by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). The lease has been in limbo since January, when the RTM voted to refer it back to its Finance and Legislative and Rules committees rather than vote up or down on it. The committees then formed a special subcommittee made up of its members and Moderator Pro Tem Joan Caldwell to create a policy covering leases between the town and individuals and organizations, which they said did not exist. Since then the lease has become a surprising source of controversy as club members and the Board of Selectmen have pushed for an RTM vote and the body has resisted. All along the selectmen have insisted that a lease policy does exist and that it is to consider the leases on a case-by-case basis. Several RTM members insist, however, that this is not sufficient, even after the selectmen formally put the policy in place earlier this month, leaving the lease caught in the middle. According to the members of the lease subcommittee, their work is nearly finished and they expect to be able to report back to the Finance and Legislative and Rules committees at their April meetings. However, the call for the meeting has closed and it is not expected that the lease will be heard until June, since the May RTM meeting is entirely devoted to consideration of the municipal budget. This has frustrated both the club members and the selectmen, who have claimed that the lease is being “held hostage” by the RTM while the subcommittee works. The subcommittee has insisted all along that this is not meant to be a reflection on the merits of the club’s lease, and the selectmen, at their March 14 meeting, urged its chairman Erf Porter to prove that by releasing the lease to be voted on while the subcommittee continues its work. Mr. Porter did attempt to make that work through several suggestions made at the subcommittee’s March 14 and 18 meetings, but the members ultimately felt it was not necessary and it could wait until June. Ms. Caldwell said introducing the lease before the subcommittee was finished, particularly with the complicated procedure that would be needed to do it, could lead to “tremendous confusion” and floor fights, an allusion to the angry dispute at the March meeting between RTM member Christopher von Keyserling, a strong proponent of the lease, and RTM Moderator Tom Byrne, who opposed a measure from Selectman Drew Marzullo to have the lease brought to the floor. At Mr. Porter’s suggestion, which he said he was making because of the strong feelings of the selectmen, a revised lease of four years would have been introduced by First Selectman Peter Tesei. The lease in its current form is for 10 years with an automatic 10-year renewal if conditions are met, a clause some RTM members have objected to. Having it be four years, Mr. Porter said, would bring it up for renewal at the same time as the Greenwich Boat and Yacht Club and also give the subcommittee plenty of time to finish its work. “This would be a graceful out for some of the selectmen in an election year,” Mr. Porter said. “It would give the boat cub certainty it might not have had before.” Subcommittee member John Dolan added that it would be way to “get this off the front page and get it behind us.” However, the idea never advanced to the point where Mr. Tesei was even asked if he was willing. Subcommittee members expressed doubts about the plan, and Frank Mazza, a member of the club, objected, saying it was insufficient, given all the club members have invested in the property. “Basically we want the 10-year lease,” Mr. Mazza said. “We’re not interested in four years.” Subcommittee member Kip Burgweger said the subcommittee was “very close to finalizing the policy” at the March 18 meeting and speculated that it would take only a week or two more. Mr. Porter agreed, meaning that the policy could be discussed at the April committee meetings and theoretically freeing the lease to be voted upon in June.   [email protected]

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