The town wants to begin regulating docks on the Mianus Pond, drawing fire from residents unhappy with the plan.
Officials want 56 property owners who have docks on the Mianus Pond to apply for a wetlands permit and sign a licensing agreement with the town. Officials said the docks lack the necessary wetlands permit and the structures need licenses from the town because they sit or float on municipal land. Residents counter they are being made to pay for a problem the town should have addressed years ago.
"This is about as retroactive an act as I can possibly imagine," David Burleson, of 179 Valley Road, said at a public hearing held at Town Hall Wednesday night. "The only thing worse that I can think of right now is that as the only redhead in the room, you might charge me a special tax for living on the Mianus River."
As part of a 1989 deal that included the acquisition of the former Cos Cob Power Plant site, Greenwich purchased Mianus Pond from the state, including 53 acres of land underneath the Mianus River between the bridge at Palmer Hill Road and the dam by East Putnam Avenue.
At the time, there were about 28 privately owned docks on the pond and none of them had permits normally required by the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency, officials said. When the town acquired the pond, officials didn't require dock owners to apply for those permits or any other licenses. The state also hadn't required dock owners to do anything different.
About two years ago, the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency decided it wanted to address the situation. The agency is charged with making sure structures built on or near wetlands, streams, ponds and other waterbodies pose no environmental threat.
Though property owners who build docks in other freshwater ponds have been required to apply for a wetlands permit since 1974 -- or when the state enacted environmental protection regulations giving the agency that regulatory power -- owners of docks on the Mianus Pond had been allowed to skirt those rules, wetlands officials said.
Wanting to correct that situation, officials commissioned a survey of the docks and found there were now 56 structures, none of which possessed the required wetlands permits. They brought up the issue with the Board of Selectmen and upon further review, officials said they believed those docks also required permission from the town for the owners to use the docks on municipally owned land.
That led officials to form a policy requiring the 56 dock owners and others who may want to build docks in the future to apply for a wetlands permit and sign a licensing agreement with the town. Several residents who attended Wednesday's meeting said they didn't see a need for regulation. Others said they view regulations as a positive way to help protect the pond, but that signing the licensing agreement might not be in their best interests, especially because the situation has existed unregulated for so many years.
"The license agreement is a surrender of rights we may already have as property owners," said Vin Defina, of 24 Lakeview Drive.
Another contentious point was the requirement that property owners pay the wetlands agency $250 to apply for a permit, in addition to any legal and other costs they incur along the way. Wetlands officials said the fee is normally $1,000 but they reduced it in this case.
"If this is a movement or a fad or a politically correct thing to do at this point, take a second look at this, give it reconsideration," Travers Ward, of 14 Cary Road, told officials. Ward said yesterday he is concerned that town officials will seek additional money from them in the future and enact additional regulations limiting their use of the pond.
"It identifies a class of citizens who are going to be the ones who are going to pay for it," he said.
Yesterday, First Selectman Jim Lash said the town is still formulating its policy and wants to work with residents, but there is a possibility officials may also charge a licensing fee in addition to the cost of applying for a wetlands permit.
"I would suspect that it would be nominal," he said.