Another plan to equalize beach access faces stiff opposition in General Assembly

A General Assembly proposal to limit how much municipalities could charge non-residents to access their beaches and parks is facing the same level of opposition as another plan to equalize access to the beach, which would remove state funding for local road repairs to municipalities that have not done so. t comply.

Officials from Greenwich to Guilford are no longer in favor of the plan debated at a public hearing Monday of the Legislative Planning and Development Committee. Municipalities would be prohibited from excluding only nonresidents from their beaches and parks adjacent to state waters, and fees for nonresidents could not be 50% higher than those charged to residents.

Another proposal before the Transportation Committee, put forward by Rep. Co-Chair Roland Lemar, to ban municipalities from restricting access to parking near public beaches and recreational and scenic areas, is also facing stiff opposition. from the suburban authorities.

Local officials argue that their fees, which in many cases are much higher for non-residents, are fair given that residents pay taxes, which are used to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the beaches.

If the state forced municipalities to reduce nonresident fees, the price for residents to access these facilities would increase, Rick Maynard, director of Guilford’s parks and recreation department, said in his testimony.

“Residents would actually pay more because some of the costs associated with operating and maintaining beaches are included in their taxes,” Maynard said.

Brenda Kupchick, Fairfield’s first woman pick, said not all municipalities charge exorbitant fees to nonresidents. Fairfield, for example, charges $25 for residents and $250 for non-residents, for a season pass. That price is in line with neighboring towns, she said, such as Stratford, which offers free access to residents and charges $250 for non-residents, Bridgeport, which charges $15 for residents and $130 for non-residents. -residents.

Kupchick said these prices are “reasonable” and “help fund needed local projects and maintenance.”

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that residents’ beach ordinances were unconstitutional, but “left open the issue of differential parking and access fees,” the Department of Health Commissioner said. Energy and Environmental Protection, Katie Dykes, who supports the proposal. Cities have routinely charged non-residents more for parking or for beach passes.

During the pandemic, a few municipalities restricted access to beaches and parks to residents only as authorities struggled to enforce capacity limits amid a surge in visitors. Dykes said the bill would ensure capacity limits are applied consistently and not just based on residence.

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