Lease subcommittee needs more time

Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club Commodore Bill Ingraham said his members are hoping for more information as their lease with the town remains in flux while the Representative Town Meeting considers policy. — Ken Borsuk photo

Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club Commodore Bill Ingraham said his members are hoping for more information as their lease with the town remains in flux while the Representative Town Meeting considers policy.
— Ken Borsuk photo

A special Representative Town Meeting (RTM) subcommittee tasked with developing a lease policy is going to need a little more time to finish its work.

The subcommittee was expected to deliver an approved policy at a special joint meeting Monday night of the RTM’s Legislative and Rules and Finance committees for them to consider and then bring to the full body for the June meeting. However, saying the work is “95% plus done,” the subcommittee’s leaders instead asked for more time, saying they will need two meetings in April to finalize the policy guidelines. This puts the June date a little bit in doubt, but it could still be reached.

“To make this happen is going to require further efforts on all our parts,” said RTM member Erf Porter, chairman of the subcommittee. “All I can say is stay tuned. We understand the public’s interest in this and we’re not going to blindside anybody.”

This policy has been in the works since January, when the RTM deferred a vote on the town’s lease with the Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club, saying it had not received an adequate universal policy on leases from the Board of Selectmen. The body referred the lease back to the Finance and Legislative and Rules committees and the subcommittee was formed from their members to develop a policy with regard to the several leases of town property to individuals and non-governmental agencies.

However, the selectmen insisted they have a policy in place to address leases between the town and individuals and not-for-profit groups. That policy, which was recently formalized on paper, is to not have a universal approach and instead do things on a case-by-case basis. This action has left the boat club’s lease in a state of flux since January as policy is debated and dozens of the club’s members attended Monday’s meeting hoping for a resolution.

The next big deadline for this is May 17, which is when the call closes for the June meeting. The item cannot be heard at the RTM’s May meeting because that meeting is devoted entirely to discussion and a vote on the municipal budget.

One question that was left a little unclear was when members of the public would be able to speak on the matter before the committees. They were invited to attend the committee meetings in early June, and Finance Committee Chairman Gordon Ennis and Legislative and Rules Committee Chairman Doug Wells both said people could email them directly and they would pass emails along to the members. Contact information is available online at rtm.greenwich.org.

Bill Ingraham, commodore for the boat club, spoke Monday night and expressed the concerns of the members about the future of their lease.

“I don’t think anyone in our club or any other organization are against having a good and fair and equitable policy,” Mr. Ingraham said. “What I do have a problem with is how our lease was held up and held hostage by the policy. … One of my biggest fears is that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there that we would like to get cleared up with the public. I don’t even think the members of the subcommittees understand how a boat club works, what we do and how we’ve given back to this town. We are very appreciative of our dollar-a-year lease and we think we do a great job with it and probably have improved a lot of other things for the town. I’m fearful, once this thing gets back to the RTM, to have the opportunity to explain ourselves without having to do a 50-yard dash at the end.”

Mr. Wells said he understood the concerns and again urged people to email him or Mr. Ennis.

“I understand your frustrations, but no one has ever indicated that I have ever heard in any kind of public forum that you aren’t going to remain there,” Mr. Wells said. “We’re just going to have to ask you to be patient and send us any information you want.”

First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman David Theis were both in attendance as well on Monday but did not speak. Both men, along with Selectman Drew Marzullo, have been advocates of the selectmen’s current policy and letting the boat club’s lease proceed with an up or down vote. There has been criticism of the RTM and the subcommittee from the selectmen, but Mr. Porter said Monday night that “though some may have labeled us as bad guys or bad cops or however you want to phrase it, we maintained communications with the office of the first selectman and the town administrator.”

Mr. Porter noted the “considerable pressure to move forward” to allow the boat club’s lease to proceed. An attempt late last month to allow the lease to be voted on at April’s meeting never advanced beyond the discussion phase due to reluctance from the subcommittee membership and the stated desire of the boat club to not accept a proposed reduced four-year lease instead of the 10-year lease that the selectmen have already approved.

RTM member Bob Tuthill urged his colleagues to work together with the selectmen to bring the two policies together so that there are no further “bad feelings” left at the end.

Mr. Porter and subcommittee member Kip Burgweger did not get into all of the specifics of the policy since it has not yet been approved by the subcommittee, but did provide a framework Monday night. Mr. Burgweger said the policy guidelines will address several areas, including needs and benefits, transparency, fairness in access for residents, and the terms and language of leases. He added there will be a lot of similarities with regard to the approach to different town properties but said the guidelines would not attempt to treat everything the same either, and noted the “unique characteristics” of specific leases.

“These leases should provide benefits to the town’s residents and deal with their needs,” Mr. Burgweger said. “This means access to health and safety services, accommodations for people with special needs, low and moderate income housing, and utilization of town real property by residents whose needs cannot be met by other town or private properties. We also looked at benefits like cultural, educational and recreational opportunities.”

Mr. Burgweger stressed that “this is still a work in process. We’re not there, and until everything is final, it’s not final.”

No subcommittee meetings have been officially scheduled for April, but they are expected to be soon.

“I’m proud to be a part of a group that’s come together to develop a document we really feel will provide a basis for any group desiring a lease to know what the basis will be for RTM approval,” Mr. Porter said. “The guidelines will be very clear about what the criteria will be.”

 

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