Boat club lease looks headed for a September vote

The status of the lease for the Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club remains in flux. —Ken Borsuk photo

The status of the lease for the Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club remains in flux.
—Ken Borsuk photo

Another delay is in store for the Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club as now it appears its lease with the town won’t be considered by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) until September.

However, this time the delay appears to be just fine with the club’s leadership.

At the April 22 meeting of the RTM’s Finance and Legislative and Rules Committees’ Joint Subcommittee on Leases, an actual policy draft was finally voted on, but any discussion of the specific boat club lease was deferred at the request of club members. Both club Commodore Bill Ingraham and club member Frank Mazza agreed that it made more sense to wait for the actual guidelines to be heard and approved by the full RTM so everything that was currently unknown could be settled first.

That means more waiting for the club, which saw a renewal of its lease with the town recommended back to the RTM’s Finance and Legislative and Rules Committee instead of getting an up or down vote from the body at its January meeting. Since May’s RTM meeting is devoted entirely to consideration of the 2013-14 municipal budget and the body does not meet in July and August, if the subcommittee’s work is considered by the committees in June, then it would be September at the earliest before the lease gets full RTM consideration.

But this delay came with the reluctant blessing of the club’s representatives, several of whom attended the April 22 meeting. Mr. Mazza has been a vocal critic of the subcommittee for not letting the club see the proposed guidelines. He said he felt it was better to wait instead of having the lease considered and then have the new guidelines go into effect.

“It’s impossible for us to understand what everything is when you’re working up there and changing a word here and a word there,” Mr. Mazza said. “Now you’re saying you want to apply guidelines that haven’t been approved by anyone to a lease. Something is wrong here.”

“Suddenly it’s not as important to me to get this lease done in two months as is getting the right plan and guidelines done and letting everyone who has leases know this is how it’s going to be and it’s going to be fair and equitable to everyone,” Mr. Ingraham said.

Subcommittee members, led by RTM moderator pro tempore Joan Caldwell, said they had no issue with waiting and that the only reason they were considering working on the boat club lease was to satisfy unhappy members. Subcommittee Chairman Erf Porter noted his commitment to the Board of Selectmen to push for a resolution on the lease, but said if the members were willing to wait he would let things proceed without discussion about the lease.

“Waiting doesn’t kill us, but we ought to know what are in the guidelines for the future,” Mr. Mazza said.

“That’s fine, that takes the pressure off,” Ms. Caldwell replied.

Mr. Ingraham ultimately stated, “I don’t think we have a problem with September. I think this plan is equally as important to us as our lease is.”

Mr. Porter warned the club members that if they did wait until September for the lease to be considered there was a risk that it would lose the momentum it had now for approval. He didn’t speculate, however, on what its chances would be on the floor for a full RTM vote.

Mr. Mazza and Mr. Ingraham both voiced concerns about the possibility of the property being put out to bid after the next 10-year lease, but Mr. Porter assured him he was “jumping to conclusions” and that there was no discussion of putting the property up for open bid.

“You talk about transparency but everyone here is in the dark,” Mr. Mazza said.

“You’re drawing that conclusion,” Mr. Porter insisted in response. “We didn’t draw that conclusion. How the town administers that is the town’s responsibility.”

What was formally decided in the meeting was to send the draft of the subcommittee’s lease guidelines to the Finance and Legislative and Rules Committees for review. Since the draft, which was recommended to be submitted to the committees by a unanimous vote, was declared “work product” and not a formal resolution it was not released publicly in written form. But it is expected to become widely distributed as RTM members view it in anticipation of a special May 2 joint meeting of the committees to discuss the proposed guidelines.

This was all triggered by the belief of some RTM members that there was not a sufficient policy in place with regard to the leasing of town property, such as the yacht club, to town organizations and individuals. All along, First Selectman Peter Tesei and his colleagues on the board have insisted a policy to consider the leases on a case-by-case basis was in place, but the majority of RTM members, in deferring the club’s lease in January, agreed that it wanted something more formalized.

One issue that could come up again during the RTM discussion was how resources, like the boat club slips, were allocated. The club, like others in town, has a waiting list for slips that moves very slowly. This has led some RTM members to question whether this is a “fair” arrangement or if there are ways to make the lists move more quickly to allow more people to use slips by limiting how long a person was able to have a slip. However, Mr. Ingraham noted a flaw in that argument by comparing it to other town leases.

“What about the long list of people waiting for housing at ABILIS?” Mr. Ingraham said. “Maybe they should only stay there for four years and then let other people move in. What about McKinney Terrace? Should people there move out for new old people to move in?”

 

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